Employee participation and labour representation: ICI works councils in Australia, 1942-75

Raymond Markey, Greg Patmore*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


There are union concerns that non-union forms of employee representation such as work councils may open up a second channel of communication between employees and management that would weaken union workplace representation. During World War II and the immediate post-war period, Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in Australia followed its British parent firm's practice of introducing works councils. It established its first works council at its Yarraville Factory in Melbourne in 1942. By 1959 there were works councils at 12 Australian factories, each with an equal number of management nominees, and representatives elected by employees. Although they could not deal with matters covered by agreements with unions, they could deal with issues such as accident prevention, factory efficiency and timekeeping. This article analyses the impact of these works councils on labour relations, particularly trade union representation, and the demise of the works councils.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-74
Number of pages22
JournalLabour History
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


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