06 August 2012
Promoting the voice of workers
International researchers attend the “Voices at Work” Australasian Meeting.
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More than 45 international researchers attended the “Voices at Work” Australasian Meeting at RMIT University recently.
The meeting was hosted by the Graduate School of Business and Law and organised by Associate Professor Anthony Forsyth, Director, Juris Doctor Programs, and Professor Breen Creighton.
The Voices at Work project seeks to engage in comparative research into current legal strategies and proposals for change around issues of worker voice in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA.
The project aims to facilitate international collaboration and dialogue between academics, labour lawyers, industrial relations specialists, and policy-makers interested in exploring the ways in which law can and should promote voice in the workplace.
This may include including union recognition and collective bargaining; employee rights to information and consultation; and worker participation in business decision-making.
The Voices at Work international network consists of a number of leading academic institutions including RMIT, the University of Bristol, UK, Oxford University, UK, and York University, Canada.
Professor Gill Palmer, RMIT’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic and Vice-President, opened the meeting by briefly outlining the historical Australasian approach to maximising employee voice (including conciliation and arbitration of industrial disputes).
Professor Palmer explained how this approach changed in Australia in the 1980s with the introduction of enterprise bargaining and, more recently, the WorkChoices and Fair Work reforms.
Dr Forsyth, Professor Tonia Novitz, University of Bristol, and Dr Alan Bogg, University of Oxford, provided an overview of the Voices at Work project and Australasian perspectives.
In addition to the presentation of academic papers, there was a practitioner panel session involving representatives from the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, and the New Zealand Post Primary Teachers Association.
“Research into worker voice in Australia and New Zealand has mostly focused on the formalised processes for collective bargaining and workplace dispute resolution,” Dr Forsyth said.
“This meeting was an opportunity for researchers in these two countries to compare recent experience and consider areas where employee voice is weaker but equally important – for example, workplace health and safety and equal opportunity issues.
“The Voices at Work Project will then draw comparisons with the UK, USA and Canada.
“The outcomes will include three journal special issues, and an edited collection, which will provide new evidence about the forms of employee voice in these five nations.”