This book presents a range of perspectives on the future prospects and possibilities of works councils in Australia. It is argued by many that lower trade union presence in recent years has led to the development of a 'representation gap' in many organisations and that recent corporate failures have reinstated the debate for greater employer accountability and more effective corporate governance at the workplace. The authors in this book argue that these developments highlight an important issue for policy makers, namely whether in this climate Australia should seek to encourage collective representation structures such as works councils reinforced by supportive laws and policies. Drawing on current Australian and overseas research, the authors in this book address these issues be presenting a number of questions. Why do we need works councils in Australia? What is the current state of play regarding workplace employee representation? Can works councils be accommodated under the current legislative framework? What is the likelihood of success? What are the opportunities and the threats for employers and unions in introducing works councils in Australia?The book is divided into four sections. The first serves as an introduction to additional forms of employee representation in the Australian context. The next section presents an Australian perspective on the past, present and the possibilities for works councils in Australia. The following section examines relevant international developments and the potential lessons for Australia. Finally, the last section draws the threads of the debate together with an assessment of the future development of works councils in Australia. This book seeks to demonstrate that only by establishing mechanisms that allow employees to have legitimate voice and that allow differences to emerge will managers be able to channel such differences into more productive outcomes for employers and employees. The fact remains that even new co-operative tendencies do not eliminate the adversarial element in organisations. Both management and employees could well rediscover that there is an important and enduring role for collective representation at the workplace. It could be argued that increased support for institutions such as works councils is recognition that value creation is an essentially social process and that organisational sustainability depends on legitimate social governance. Perhaps we should recognise that the time has come for new institutions to create a new type of workplace.
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