Industrial environment

Industrial environment

Outline and Background of Case Study

The direct employees on your small commercial site have decided that they want additional time to "clean up" at the end of the shift. This follows on from a visit by a worksafe inspector, who noted that the type of metal sheeting being used on the site for the façade was creating many small offcuts, which were dangerous when left lying around.

You had encouraged the direct employees to clean up as they worked, but the nature of the work made that difficult and no-one seemed to be doing a progressive clean-up. The subbies were disinterested and did not clean at all.

The additional clean-up time would eat into the project schedule, which was already very behind.

You tell the shop steward, that additional time will not be allowed or paid for. The workers meet and decide to demand the time or overtime to cover the clean-up.

They say that they will call the CFMEU organizer if you refuse.

You refuse and the union organizer arrives the next day and says there are "bans" on all metal work and clean- ups, until some agreement re additional overtime is reached.

  • How will you handle this?
  • How will you get the workers back to work and the bans lifted?
  • How can you stop this happening again?

Purpose – aims and objectives

The purpose of setting out this example is to show how easily a difference of opinion can become an argument in the construction industry. This is not an unusual circumstance. It may happen at various times through the life of a construction project, regardless of procurement method.

The aim is to help students understand that obtaining a clear grasp of the coursework in this unit will put them in a good position to manage circumstances similar to those outlined. They will have a good grasp of the XYZ Standard form of contract and be able to explain its proper use.

The objective is to provide students with several examples of protective factors to help them build resilience aligned to a circumstance of this nature.

Antecedents (precursor)

For young cadet contracts administrators, the situation may appear to be somewhat traumatic from a psychological perspective. There may have been little preparation for the confrontation that ensued. Many graduates feel they have to “solve” onsite problems quickly and without help, or they may be seen as weak/indecisive. The following protective factors may help.

Protective Factors

  • Generally, the protective factors identified above would place the young cadet contract administrator in a good position to deal with the circumstance.
  • Particular protective factors in this instance would include peer group work and role-play. Discuss the responses of different players in the role play. Highlight emotive words and tensions. Discuss how they “add or detract” from confidence and resilience.
  • Get students in class to brainstorm a list of possible solutions. In groups discuss which of these they feel competent to handle and why/why not. Understand that not every solution will be the same.
  • Have students draw relationship trees in class for this case study and ask them to talk about the relationship between each branch, and how such relationships develop. This contributes to greater understanding of “where I fit in as a graduate” and less stress to cope in all situations.
  • Discuss escalation of the issues and make a drawing of an “UP” staircase of things that escalate the conflicts. Then in class make a drawing of a “DOWN’ staircase of things that can be done to reduce tension and thus lack of control which leads to feelings of helplessness/not coping.
  • In class it would be worthwhile to explain that whilst a circumstance of this nature is confronting, positive antecedents and use of the aforementioned protective factors should reduce the risk factors. Explanations by industry guests of other similar situations they have been in, reduces stress upon graduates to “find solutions alone” and to “just cope”.

Risk Factors

  • The balance between risk and protective factors is said to be a dynamic process. Accordingly, a lack of protective factors would increase the possibility of risk associated with a student’s resilience when considering the case study.
  • Insufficient competency, knowledge of industrial issues or a lack of basic skills in negotiation or problem-solving may increase the possibility of risk associated with the case study.
  • Support - it may be noted that the builder and cadet contracts administrator may take the opportunity to prepare prior to the meeting. This would be regardless of the confrontation identified.
  • Entrenching of basic perceptions and feelings needs to be addressed. Pre-held beliefs about subbies, unions etc. contributes to poor actions, which contribute to stress and not coping feelings in young grads.

Resilience or coping

  • Some discussion around possible outcomes associated with the case study with a particular focus on the positive is useful. Note emotions in role play situations and discuss these as a group.
  • A capability to defuse a situation of the kind identified is positive.
  • Providing solutions and a way forward, both immediately and in the short term are helpful. Graduates need to realize that there may not be an immediate solution and they do not always have to “solve” all industrial issues.


A particular consequence arising from the case study is confidence building & personal growth. Students should be led to understand that experience in the industry is in fact a growth in relationship skills, not a defined set of “dos and don’ts” that can be learnt.

Contribution by

Professor Peter Davis, University of Newcastle

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