Towards a Tripartite Model of the Employment Relationship: Employers, Employees and Customers in Marketised Varieties of Universities
There is a need to reframe the underlying theoretical assumptions of the employment relationship. In current models it is assumed that there is a bipartite relationship between the employer and employees. Through a study of Australian higher education, we identify the role of customer power in the employment relationship, with student-customers influencing conditions of employment and the organisation of academic work. We conclude that as universities adopt the 'win-win' paradigm of customer-focused strategies, student-customers are no longer merely the focus of the output of the employment relationship, but rather are actors in it. This warrants the development of a corollary to current models that will identify and explain the phenomenon of the customer acting as a partialemployer in a tripartite relationship between employer, employee and customer. To make sense of employment relations in contemporary service-sector enterprises such as universities, it is necessary to incorporate consumption into theory building. The concept of the student-customer as 'partialemployer' provides an example of how this can be done.
Varieties of Capitalism: Organisational, Management and Human Resource Implications