Recasting industrial relations: productivity, place and the Queensland coal industry, 2001-2013
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The link between industrial relations and productivity is contentious. It is often argued that particular industrial relations models are more or less conducive to greater productivity. However, this article, in exploring this issue through an examination of the Queensland coal industry since 2001, finds no evidence of such a link. Instead, it finds that the more employer-friendly industrial relations system that has prevailed in Queensland coal mining since 1996 has been associated with both rising (1996-2000 and 2011-2013) and falling (2001-2011) productivity. Instead, the only correlation that seems to hold true is that between the productivity and the state of the labour market. Since 1996, on every occasion that productivity rose (1996-2000 and 2011-2013), employment was falling. Conversely, when employment rose (2001-2011), productivity fell. Suggestively, rising employment was always associated with rising coal prices, while falling employment was always correlated with declining price. If there is no evidence of a link between industrial relations settings and productivity, this study nevertheless finds that a profound recasting of industrial relations has occurred in this sector. This has involved systematic attempts to circumvent not only the unionized workforce, but also, more recently, the Central Queensland coal communities themselves.
The Journal of Industrial Relations
© 2015 Industrial Relations Society of Australia. This is the author-manuscript version of the paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.