Brave New Workplace: How Individual Contracts Are Changing Our Jobs

Brave New Workplace: How Individual Contracts Are Changing Our Jobs

Brave New Workplace: How Individual Contracts Are Changing Our Jobs

Brave New Workplace: How Individual Contracts Are Changing Our Jobs


Once employees knew they'd be paid properly for working nights and overtime and couldn't be dismissed on a whim. Unions made sure of this. Now employees are being asked to do their own bargaining, one on one. Employers and government claim that this will lead to higher productivity, while unions and church groups cry foul. What is really going on? The push for individual contracts for employees overturns a century of collective efforts to create basic rights and a fair go' in Australian workplaces. David Peetz peels away the layers of corporate and government doublespeak that surround this most heated issue to uncover what is really happening in relations between employers and employees. He explains who benefits from individual contracts and who doesn't, and how this will change the way we work. He locates individual workplace contracts in a wider debate about whether we are moving away from collective ideals towards individualistic values. From offices to shops, schools, hospitals and mines, individual contracting affects every single employee in Australia. Brave New Workplace is compelling reading for anyone who wants to understand the brave new world of work. This is a timely and important book. The Australian Government is promoting individual contracts as the way forward for all Australian workplaces. David Peetz's research demonstrates clearly that individual contracts are the antithesis of modern, productive employment relationships.' Greg Combet, ACTU Secretary David Peetz dissects the workplace world of dog eat dog with forensic skill. This book is essential, accessible reading for those who want to understand what individualism in the workplace means for workers and for Australian society.' Associate Professor Barbara Pocock, author of The Work/Life Collision


On 1 September 2000, with enterprise agreement negotiations stalled, the Commonwealth Bank began to make offers to most of its workforce to sign Australian Workplace Agreements, individual contracts available under federal legislation. On 28 September, the Finance Sector Union obtained an injunction preventing the Bank from offering further contracts, on the grounds that it represented a potential breach of principles of freedom of association also expressed in federal legislation. a date for the full trial was scheduled and I was asked to be an expert witness. So began this project.

Since then various conference papers, academic articles and presentations have emerged, some written solo but many prepared jointly with other researchers. Ironically, the case that started it was settled the morning that hearings were due to commence, but by then enough momentum had developed to give the project a life of its own, one that became much broader than the original set of issues. Most of the papers were prepared with an academic audience in mind, but I wanted to put something together for a more general readership, and was spurred to do this by Margaret Lee, a colleague at Griffith University, who suggested this book. and so, here it is.

Along the way financial assistance for projects that have contributed towards various chapters has come from the Queensland Department of Industrial Relations, the Australian Research Council, the Finance Sector Union and the Centre for Work, Leisure and Community Research at Griffith University. My thanks to all those bodies.

There are of course many individuals to thank. Sigmund Grønmo and Ole Johnny Olsen in the Sociology Department at the University of Bergen, Norway, offered a desk and room in one of the most beautifully located cities in Europe, a setting that was perfect for preparing much of the manuscript in 2005. Gregor Murray at the Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la mondialisation et le travail at the University of Montreal, was similarly helpful at earlier times.

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