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Abstract

Using interview data collected between 1992 and 2009, the authors explore how deregulation of the Australian telecommunications sector and re-regulation of the labor market affected employment relations (ER) strategies at Telstra, Australia’s for­mer telecommunications monopoly. Labor market re-regulation reversed much of the previous institutional support for union activity, and unions struggled to adjust to this changed institutional context. Telstra’s ER strategies included large-scale downsizing and outsourcing. It moved dramatically toward unitarist (anti-union) ER approaches, with a shift away from collective bargaining toward individual employment contracts. This history raises a more general question of the extent to which employers make strategic ER choices autonomously and the extent to which such choices reflect the influence of the national institutional context. The authors conclude that while the changing institutional context—in this case, primarily government regulation—facili­tated Telstra’s strategic choices, management ideology was an important intervening variable in determining such choices.

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