NER in a leading Australian medical manufacturer
This chapter examines the case of Cochlear, a medical manufacturer in Sydney, Australia, and its non-union voice arrangements. It draws on interviews conducted in 2009 and 2012 with management and employees to argue the following points. First, representative non-union employee representation (NER) arrangements can be used in periods of organisational change in a problem-solving capacity (Butler 2009) and as means to address short-term communication needs. However, when the change at hand is embedded in the organisation and the circumstances that gave rise to representative NER dissipate, the centrality and role of a collective non-union representation body wanes. In other words, we concur with much literature that finds that NER arrangements diminish in importance in the long term. Second, direct-voice arrangements can substitute for collective NER and in fact be more effective in capturing employee concerns over production and/or other matters. Third, embedding employee voice mechanisms within a broader human resources (HR) framework is crucial and preferred to a "narrow, one-dimensional employee participation initiatives" (Wilkinson et al. 2010: 9). In other words, the existence of voice mechanisms per se is not enough; what is needed is a high-involvement strategy that emphasises competitive advantage through people (Kaufman and Taras 2010).