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Can Voluntary Workplace Partnership Deliver Sustainable Mutual Gains?


  • Anthony Dobbins
  • Patrick Gunnigle


This article draws on two Irish case studies to examine the nature and outcomes of voluntary workplace partnership (WP), and the conditions affecting its durability. We found that WP delivered mutual gains for all stakeholders at Aughinish Alumina (AAL), which were quite equally divided. While WP delivered most gains for management at Waterford Crystal (WC), and some for the union, worker gains were less. The WC partnership broke down after 10 years, but the AAL partnership continues. Voluntarist mutual gains partnership is feasible, but success and durability depends on specific clusters of contextual conditions, notably management support, a quality-focused competitive strategy, insulation from market pressures, union postures, vertically aligned bundles of mutual gains practices, institutional supports, emphasis on fairness, all party commitment to performance enhancement and capital-intensive technology. Conditions supporting WP were stronger at AAL than WC. More generally, as supports for WP in Ireland are weaker than retardants, we conclude that few mutual gains partnerships will take root, and even fewer will endure. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2009.

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  • Anthony Dobbins & Patrick Gunnigle, 2009. "Can Voluntary Workplace Partnership Deliver Sustainable Mutual Gains?," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 47(3), pages 546-570, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:brjirl:v:47:y:2009:i:3:p:546-570

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Metcalf, David, 1999. "The Low Pay Commission and the National Minimum Wage," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(453), pages 46-66, February.
    2. William Brown, 2000. "Putting Partnership into Practice in Britain," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, pages 299-316.
    3. Brown, W., 2002. "The Operation of the Low Pay Commission," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0223, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
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    Cited by:

    1. McGovern, Patrick, 2014. "Contradictions at work: a critical review," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 45188, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Anthony Dobbins & Tony Dundon, 2015. "Irish workplace partnership: unbridgeable tensions between an 'Irish third way' of voluntary mutuality and neo-liberal forces," Working Papers 15011, Bangor Business School, Prifysgol Bangor University (Cymru / Wales).

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