Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Management and Marketing - Faculty of Commerce


Employee participation refers to a wide variety of policies, mechanisms, and practices that enable employees to take part in decision-making, frequently at the level of the enterprise or workplace. The subject of employee participation (EP) in the organisation has attracted a great deal of international interest as attested by the considerable amount of research in the issue. However, whereas the issues have been fairly well researched in OECD countries, especially those in Europe, EP has been rather less emphasised in Asia. The few studies that have been conducted on EP in this Malaysia have been from the organisational behaviour perspective with a narrow set of variables under consideration. The present study makes significant contributions across all areas of EP for scholarly researchers as well as practitioners and policy-makers in Malaysia. The primary objective of this study has been to provide an insight in to why private companies (Steelco, Autoco and Posco) in Malaysia have developed direct and indirect forms, and what have been the major determinants and influences on the choice of forms of EP. The next objective of the study is to understand whether or not unions and non-managerial employees have any capacity to influence management final decision-making process at the firm level. To achieve these research objectives, a qualitative case research strategy was selected, which was appropriate given the paucity of information on EP in the Malaysian private sector. An extensive empirical research was undertaken through interviews with national union leaders, employers, managers, union representatives, and non-managerial employees. In addition to the interview technique, direct participation, memos, and reflective journal data were also utilised in this study. The results of the interview, direct observation, memos and reflective journal were triangulated for validity of study. These methods were also discussed in terms of their academic contributions to understanding why EP was implemented at company and workplace level, and concomitantly to study the capacity of the unions and non-managerial employees to influence management final decisions.

The findings form the case study research of Steelco, Autoco and Posco found new factors, only rarely discussed in the international EP literature, to be important. These included mergers and acquisitions, privatisation policy, Malaysia’s Look East Policy, cross-cultural management styles and the influence of British colonial system. Other major research findings are related to the second objective of this study. The research results from studying Steelco, Autoco and Posco demonstrated that unions and nonmanagerial employees have very limited capacity to influence the management final decisions at company level. This is due to the Industrial Relations Act (managerial prerogative clause) 1967, the management attitudes towards union and workers, cultural orientation and values among Malaysia employees, and ineffectiveness of the Code of Conduct for Industrial Harmony 1975. The findings of present research have some implication for analytical models of EP, particularly the Favourable Conjunctures Model. As a consequence, a new model of EP which incorporates these findings from the Malaysian private sector is proposed in this research. The study concludes that this research not only contributes to the academic literature on EP but it should be of value of practitioners in industrial relations and human resource management, unions, the government agencies (Ministry of Human Resources Malaysia). In future research, similar studies can be applied more widely in Malaysia.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.