Work and Citizenship
articles and reviews
|Kingsley Laffer Memorial Lecture:
Industrial Citizenship and the Corporatisation of Australian Labour Law:
Distinguished University of Sydney academic and labour lawyer Ron McCallum argues that the Howard Government's proposed workplace relations reforms will lead to the corporatisation of Australian labour law to the detriment of Australian 'industrial citizens'. Read
Mark Hearn and Russell Lansbury argue that employees should have a right to equitable conditions of work and meaningful opportunities to participate in civic life. Read
A major new study of Citizenship in Australia. Article
People & Globalisation:Back to the Future?
Citizens - strong communities are still good for business
Cares? Work and Family Policy in Australia
Fit For Citizens:
Lloyd Ross and Workplace Democracy
An employer Response to Workplace Democracy
Early views of Industrial Democracy
stories and reviews on Work and Citizenship
to Live, or Living for Work?
Addressing the Dilemma of Work, Citizenship
By Mark Hearn*
What should we expect from work? Should the conditions of work recognize
our ability to participate in community and family life, in political
parties, unions or other voluntary organizations?
For most the answer may seem an obvious yes', but in reality
many workers simply lack the time or energy, after long hours at work,
for even basic forms of family and community interaction.
Labor Council Secretary John Robertson believes that over the last
twenty-five years, our sense of community has been restructured
and demolished' by economic deregulation, a process that has
accelerated under the Howard Government.
US academic Tom
Kochan, New South Wales Labor Council Secretary John Robertson and leading
Australian industrial relations researcher Barbara Pocock have all addressed
the work dilemma and urged a fundamental rethink of public policy.
Kochan, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston,
believes we have to question our assumptions about the nature of work.
What moral values underlie work?' We have become so enarmoured
of the idea of efficiency and productivity, he argues, that we have
lost sight of other key moral values.'
Work should embody ideals of dignity, equity and giving workers a voice
some say in how the workplace is organized. The relationship between
work and family life must be recognized. People also see work as a chance
to use their skills, and as a social experience, Kochan stressed, aspirations
that implicitly express a strong idea of citizenship being recognized
as a valued member of the workplace community.
Barbara Pocock's has addressed the impact of long hours of work on family life, and the ability
of workers to participate in the community. Pocock, a senior research
fellow at the University of Adelaide and the author of the recent The
Work/Life Collision, pointed to the insidious loss of schoomze
- time for social contact with neighbours and family. Boys and teenagers
strongly notice the absence of a father whose long working hours keep
him from the family home.
Pocock believes that part of the problem is that public policy is made
by the careless' literally by those who do not have
to care politicians whose meals are provided, who do not have to
drive themselves, and do not have to care for dependents. Australia's
industrial relations system reflects this carelessness: a focus on masculinised'
conceptions of work that lead to resistance to reforms such as parental
leave. Yet everday, 40 per cent of workers have someone children
or other family members - who quite literally depends on them for their
Given the current weakness of the union movement, Pocock urges that a
new coalition' of sympathetic interests groups come together
political organizations, community and welfare groups, unions and
employers to push an agenda that restores the balance of work and
NSW Labor Council Secretary John Robertson believes
that over the last twenty-five years, our sense of community has
been restructured and demolished' by economic deregulation, a process
that has accelerated under the Howard Government. Health care and education
have become increasingly expensive, compelling workers to work harder
and longer to manage the bills.
Robertson notes that all forms of voluntary organizations, including unions,
have witnessed declining participation in recent decades. Unions can rebuild
membership by getting in touch with people and their needs. Robertson
is urging the development of a social action' plan that propels
the union movement into the middle of the community', and its
needs, and to engage with issues that coalesce community support
the refugee issue, opposition to the war in Iraq, security of entitlements.
There is a need for a new language
of citizenship one that recognizes the workplace and community
rights of working Australians and their families.
* Mark Hearn is a research associate in Work and Organisational
Studies, University of Sydney.