Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Mapping the Industrial Relations System of Samoa: An Assessment of Industrial Democracy and Employee Participation in Employment Relations Decisions in a Pacific Island Nation.

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posted on 2023-03-14, 23:27 authored by Ah Chong-Fruean, Patricia

This thesis maps out the industrial relations system of Samoa with specific emphasis on industrial democracy and employee participation in the making of rules and decisions affecting worker's employment. The thesis outlines the impacts of the environmental contexts, social, political, legal and economic, of Samoan society on the scope and nature of industrial relations in Samoa. Using data collected through face-to-face interviews, workshop observation and the analysis of various secondary documents that include for example, the study of industrial relations in the South Pacific nations by Prasad, Hince, & Snell (2003) and several country reports and national policies on employment relations, the thesis utilises Dunlop's (1958) systems model of industrial relations to describe the employer, employee and state relationship within the system and their varying roles in the determination of workplace rules.  Dunlop's systems model enables the researcher to identify a strong link between the industrial relations system and the social institutions of Samoan society that are structured around the fa'asamoa (Samoan customs and traditions) and the fa'amatai (chiefly) systems of social justice and traditional rule making. Dunlop's model (which suggests that the 'rule' is the fundamental goal of an industrial relations system) enables identification of the prevailing processes that employer, employee, state and their representing agencies use to determine the rules in the Samoan workplace. It suggests that while the worker (union) is considered to be one of the key actors' in the establishment of workplace rules, the nature and scope of union participation and influence on industrial relations decisions in Samoa do not reflect this: in the sense that unions play virtually no role in Samoa's industrial relations system. The thesis also attempts to uncover the 'shared ideology' that prescribes and defines the actors' roles, prestige, power and influence on the process of rule making in Samoa's IR system.  In doing so it finds that Samoan government is the dominant player in industrial relations in the sense that the government can unilaterally make decisions and rules regarding employment relations both at the organisational and national level, without the involvement of employers and workers. While employee participation in employment decisions is clearly affected by economic, technological and market constraints, other factors relating to the culturally nuanced concepts of 'respect', 'loyalty' and 'trust' toward those who hold significant power and authority appear to be predominant influences in the determination of rules in all facets of Samoan society. This particular condition of the Samoan system of industrial relations is explained with reference to Dunlop's notion of 'shared ideology' and the 'locus and distribution of power' within wider society.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Commerce and Administration

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Victoria Management School


Blumenfeld, Stephen