The purpose of the paper is to compare employment relations in the hotel industry in Australia and the UK. Australian industry employment is regulated by the state and union recognition is enshrined. A substantial proportion of Australian hotel employers engage directly in firm‐level bargaining with trade unions, with unionisation rates across the industry far higher than in the UK. The analysis focuses on employment strategies emphasising numerical/temporal and functional flexibility since efforts to enhance workplace flexibility underpin employment regulation in Australia.
The paper draws on interviews conducted in 13 exclusive, luxury hotels in Australia. Interviewees consisted of HR and departmental managers, employees across all hotel departments and relevant union officials.
Labour utilisation practices in Australian luxury hotels reflect relatively sophisticated and systematic endeavours on the part of employers. The specific content and effect of these strategies varies in accordance with hotels' bargaining arrangements. Whilst employee relations outcomes were not entirely without problems in Australian luxury hotels, they do signify that regulation and trade union recognition can produce substantial benefits for employers and employees.
Recognition of potentially positive employment relations outcomes in Australia points to the need for further research in the UK to reassess employers' attitudes to trade unions in a changing employment relations landscape.
The paper offers a comparison between Australia and the UK in an area that is still relatively under‐researched.
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