Critical incidents of partnership : five years' experience at NatBank

Johnstone, Stewart and Wilkinson, Adrian and Ackers, Peter (2010) Critical incidents of partnership : five years' experience at NatBank. Industrial Relations Journal, 41 (4). pp. 382-398. ISSN 0019-8692 (

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Despite a rich partnership literature in the UK, relatively little is known about the processes of decision making under partnership regimes. This study examines the first five years of a high-profile agreement in a British retail bank. Inspired by critical incident technique, this article explores the way key issues such as globalisation, offshoring, and work organisation were handled and decisions were made. It is argued that one cannot fully understand the outcomes without exploring both the context and process in detail. Benefits for management, unions and employees are also explored, and some of the main challenges to partnership are considered. The article suggests that partnership requires a clear understanding of the purpose and the rules of engagement, and highlights a possible gulf between academic and actor expectations. It also highlights the importance of exploring the partnership processes and reveals evidence of the dialogue exerting a moderating effect over decision making, with management, union, and employee actors all in favour of the collaborative partnership approach.