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Does the regulatory system matter? A comparison of workplace industrial relations in Australia and Britain

By W. Brown, P. Marginson and K. Whitfield


The focus of the paper is upon the extent to which the different national regulatory systems give rise to different institutions and outcomes at the workplace. It uses data from the Australian Workplace Industrial Relations Survey (AWIRS) and the third British Workplace Employee Relations Survey (WIRS3) to examine a number of hypotheses which suggest that the different regulatory systems of these countries have produced distinct patterns of industrial relations at the workplace. Three types of hypothesis concerning these differences are outlined. The first suggests that IR arrangements and outcomes will be more uniform in Australia; the second posits that a range of variables will be of a larger magnitude, all other things being equal, in Australia than Britain; the third hypothesises that regression equations estimated on the AWIRS data-sets will have a lower level of determination than those using the WIRS3 data-sets. Four elements of IR outcome and arrangements are examined - unionisation, the prevalence of specialist IR managers, the incidence of industrial action and voluntary labour turnover. The results of these examinations are deemed to be richly paradoxical. Those for the distribution of specialist managers and the hypothesis of determination are generally supported. Others, for example, those for unionisation and uniformity are much less strongly supported than previous research has suggested. It is concluded that, while there is substantial evidence that the countries'' different regulatory systems have distinct effects on IR outcomes, these are far from straightforward. Further analysis of the data will seek to develop the comparison by introducing additional variables and by exploring more searchingly the complex relationship between state regulation and workplace industrial relations

Topics: HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Publisher: Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics and Political Science
Year: 1993
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Provided by: LSE Research Online
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