HR and communications management

HR and communications management

A case of negotiation with Unions and/ or external stakeholders.

Outline and Background of Case Study

You are a site manager for a small commercial development Company, Harris Constructions. The site is valued at $1.2 million, located in Carlton, Melbourne, Vic. It is a small 2 storey warehouse built behind a semi demolished shop front. The shop front housed a chemist store and chemicals were stored on the premises.

There are three direct workers on the site, a carpenter, and two labourers. You have worked with them before and the carpenter also doubles as the leading hand when needed. There are six other workers on the site: sub- contractor concrete and form workers, along with steel fixers. You are project managing all of the sub- contractor packages. It is Tuesday morning at 9am.

The steel fixers have called a CFMEU organiser to the site (9.30am) as they claim there is excessive dust and the left-over demolition soil is contaminated and contains hazardous waste, including asbestos and other hazardous latent materials. They refuse to continue work on the site until the CFMEU arrives. The steel fixers have convinced the direct labourer to join and down tools in the lunch room. The leading hand has no work to do.

Purpose – aims and objectives

The purpose of this case study is to highlight essential qualities within construction management personnel and communication management. Regardless of the external stakeholder the principles will remain largely the same.

The aim is to identify an individual's sphere of control.

The objective is to help students understand where their responsibilities and accountabilities lie.

Antecedents (precursor)

For graduates, handling IR issues and OHS issues is fraught with emotions and perceptions. They are stressful situations and destroy confidence. Building resilience to cope is often difficult. Explain that emotions and perceptions contribute to stress and that problems and solutions are often not accessible/available to them at graduate level. The following will help.

Protective Factors

  • Protective factors detailed above, with great emphasis upon role plays and then analysis of the role players efforts and attitudes to solutions forming on-going discussion: eg: why did you answer like that? What was your body language during that discussion etc.
  • In class have every student make a word cloud ( or list) of the 5 words they think of when they hear CFMEU; sub-contractor; direct/indirect labour; hazards. Discuss the answers, have students identify which words are “personal feelings, which are facts and which are just hunches/perceptions”
  • Have students identify their roles in OHS/IR matters.... their responsibilities, the company’s responsibilities and then have them articulate that role to other students in non-threatening manner. Identify when emotions become apparent.
  • Make class lists of issues that have plagued the industry for many years and encourage students to see the problems as not of anyone’s making/ownership.

Risk Factors

  • Insufficient competency or a lack of basic skills in negotiation or problem-solving may increase the possibility of risk associated with the case study.
  • Lack of information/knowledge about OHS/IR responsibilities which can lead to greater stress/lack of resilience
  • Poor case study outcomes can contribute to ongoing perceptions of not coping, which creates lack of resilience.
  • Entrenching of perceptions previously held, which causes ongoing tension

Resilience or coping

This case study is typical of day to day issues on site. Students should be able to identify that these problems are always happening and that they need to “pace” themselves to build resilience to these types of issues.

  • Discussions on role plays and potential responses
  • Class discussions on the word clouds created/identification of pre-held perceptions.


  • Personal growth
  • Opportunities to challenge previously held beliefs and perceptions

Contribution by

Professor Peter Davis, University of Newcastle

Tricia McLaughlin, RMIT

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