There is now widespread agreement within business, trade union, academic and political circles that the key to future economic prosperity for Australia lies in the enhancement of workplace performance. Despite this, very little is known about the factors impacting on productivity in the workplace, largely reflecting the lack of attention given to industrial relations at the workplace level. "Productive relations?" seeks to redress this deficiency by bringing together the results from an ambitious program of research undertaken by the National Institute of Labour Studies (with the support of the Business Council of Australia) between 1987 and 1989. Case studies of 20 workplaces in Australia and overseas, and surveys of well over 1000 employees, more than 300 workplace managers and more than 50 chief executives form the basis of the research. The authors have analysed this research, with an emphasis on the role played by Australia's unique industrial relations system in shaping workplace relations and consequently workplace performance.
While previous studies of workplace industrial relations abound, invariably they focus on single worksites or companies and, moreover, generally ignore the performance aspect of workplace relations. This study therefore represents the first to be undertaken in Australia which can in any sense be seen as representative of many Australian workplaces. The multi-disciplinary and multi-method approach adopted make it unique in its field worldwide. The major message to emerge from the research is one of widespread agreement that current arrangements circumscribing labour relations within the workplace are far from ideal, producing poor outcomes both for employees and employers, and that the conclusion of the 1985 Hancock report -- that the status quo is satisfactory -- can and should be rejected. These findings will be of immense interest to anyone involved in industrial relations including workplace and human resource managers, trade union leaders and delegates, students and academics.