Some Observations on the Growth and Nature of ADR in Australian Workplaces

Van Gramberg, Bernadine (2002) Some Observations on the Growth and Nature of ADR in Australian Workplaces. Working Paper. Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.


Formal Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes (ADR) in tribunals and courts in Australia are now well established. The use of private ADR practitioners in industrial relations, however, is still very much in its infancy. This paper presents the findings of the author's survey of Australian ADR practitioners and draws on 3 case studies of ADR conducted in the workplace. It would appear, from the evidence presented, that Australia is witnessing the 'thin edge of the wedge' of a growing movement rather than the short-lived emergence of a management 'fad'. The growth of consultants in Australia, has meant that most employers are aware of a range of consultancy services available to them. Whilst, the survey showed the uptake to date of these services has been slow, it has demonstrated that most ADR practitioners rated the uptake of their services as growing steadily. Further, it can be surmised from this growth in workplace ADR that employers are satisfied that mediation and other ADR processes have a place in the workplace for a range of disputes. However, the case studies point to serious issues concerning process, ethics, justice and power. The first case study illustrates a dispute in which the employees believed that the ADR process used was facilitation, and the management team understood the process to be fact-finding, but the actual role played by the third party appeared to be neither. The second case detailed a facilitator's passivity during enterprise negotiations which contributed to the employees accepting a dubious outcome. Finally, in the third case, a mediator's self imposed time limits were used to put pressure on the parties to settle. The cases raise questions regarding training and standards for workplace ADR practitioners. Cases such as these have the potential to malign the practice of ADR before it is able to gain a foothold in emerging fields such as the workplace.

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Item type Monograph (Working Paper)
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 350000 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Historical > FOR Classification > 1801 Law
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Management and Information Systems
Keywords growth; ADR; Australian workplaces; consultants; consultancy services
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