This study was designed to examine industrial democracy and the extent to which de facto workers' participation may exist and be supported within Australian industry. Concomitant with this is an examination of the effect which workers' participation may have on the operations of the firm and its overall performance.
The research has been directed to an evaluation of the orthodox theory of the labour-market, and the effects which may be noted as the assumptions, upon which this is based, are relaxed. Particular attention is devoted to the theoreticians Vanek and Leibenstein and the conclusions which may be drawn from the hypotheses which they develop. In extending these views, an analysis of both social and organizational behaviour in the labour-market has been outlined as a framework within which the theoretical postulates presented may be assessed. The relevance of these views is exposed against the Australian socio-economic framework in order to identify the degree to which these concepts are either pertinent to that framework or have been applied within it.
The findings indicate that the orthodox theory is not sufficiently predictive of outcomes which may be achieved in a modern industrialized society. For instance, its assumptions of the nature of Man are untenable, while effective organizational management is dependent on the development of operational techniques by means of which conflict may be abated and the polar dimensions of industrial objectives may be made more congruent.
The survey of the Australian environment indicates that there is a strong authoritarian style adopted by management, and this is accepted by the workers' representatives. Similarly, internal communications within the firm are directed to production activities. Shop-stewards are an ineffective medium for the promotion of worker's ideals and it may be that they are redundant in this role. Australian workers have a very low level of access to decision processes and this status quo seems to be accepted by them. The legitimacy of a managerial prerogative, which is manifested in the acceptance of establishment views, seems to prevail.