Degree Name

Master of Commerce (Hons.)


Department of Economics


In these times of economic volatility, much emphasis is placed on "good industrial relations" and increased productivity. These require a more rigorous understanding of work organisation, work processes, and industrial relations at the u/orkplace. In this thesis tu/o different steelmaking work areas at Port Kembla Steelworks are examined over the years 1967-87. The older open hearth steelmaking process ceased in 1982. The newer BOS process was begun in 1972. The focus of the thesis is the question: "To what extent, and in what ways do the specific characteristics of the workplace influence industrial relations processes?" A modified job regulation theoretical approach is used to argue that the structure of work organisation can be determined by the nature and historical traditions of the technology. These factors reflect and affect the nature of industrial relations at the workplace. Contextual factors such as the product market, the national economy and influences on management styles are also linked to the nature of the workplace, but this effect is diffused at the workplace. In the postwar years open hearth workplace relations were characterised by stability, and a reliance on traditional work organisation and work practices. By contrast for most of its first decade of production, workplace relations at the BOS were characterised by changing work organisation, and so unsettled industrial relations. One conclusion of the thesis is that when planning for stable output and industrial relations, greater account should be taken of workplace variations. Unions must continue to b'e involved in consultation over change, nationally and at the workplace.