contributions drawn together in this dedicated section all address aspects of the vital debate on Work and Citizenship – a debate which has suffered from considerable neglect until recent years. Increased uncertainties at work, changing employment patterns and the erosion of basic entitlements have led to a renewed focus by researchers and unions on the need to more directly draw the links between rights in the workplace and citizenship rights.

Work and Citizen
ship 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

Australian Citizenship:
A major new study of Citizenship in Australia. Article


Work, People & Globalisation:Back to the Future?

The Work/Life Collision

Good Citizens - strong communities are still good for business

Who Cares? Work and Family Policy in Australia

Workplaces Fit For Citizens:
Defining Workplace Democracy

Lloyd Ross and Workplace Democracy

An employer Response to Workplace Democracy

Early views of Industrial Democracy

Coming Soon

New stories and reviews on Work and Citizenship

Working to Live, or Living for Work?
Addressing the Dilemma of Work, Citizenship and Community

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.

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.

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 basic needs.

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 family life.

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.

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