Fear and loathing in Australia

gauging employee responses to the WorkChoices Act 2005

Angela Knox

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution


The Workplace Relations Amendment (WorkChoices) Act 2005 received Royal Assent on 14 December 2005 and most of the provisions came into effect on 27 March 2006. Both the government and large industry groups, such as the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry argue that the legislation is underpinned by a unitaristic philosophy. Accordingly, the Prime Minister, John Howard, highlights that Australia’s enterprising workers believe in the fairness that is inherent in workplaces where initiative, performance and reward are interlinked, in line with the legislation’s goals. In contrast, critics such as the Labor party, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and numerous academics argue that the legislation will undermine workers’ democratic rights, disadvantage marginalised individuals and fail to enhance productivity or employment. This research seeks to extend and deepen this debate by empirically analysing employees’ preliminary responses to the WorkChoices legislation. The data are drawn from the ‘Your Rights at Work’ public campaign website. A sample of 133 written submissions in response to the Act allows us to gauge workers’ reactions using content analysis. Their ‘voices’ reflect fear, uncertainty and cynicism as they envision moving towards a transformed landscape, thought to embody the characteristics of corporate America, third world poverty or a Dickensian masterservant class-based system. These findings are among the first to empirically gauge workers’ responses to the Act and they challenge its ‘unitaristic’ foundations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAIRAANZ conference 2007
Subtitle of host publicationdiverging employment relations patterns in Australia and New Zealand? : 7-9th February 2007, the University of Auckland, New Zealand : conference programme
Place of PublicationNew Zealand
PublisherUniversity of Auckland
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)0868691119
Publication statusPublished - 2007
EventAssociation of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand Conference - Auckland
Duration: 7 Feb 20079 Feb 2007


ConferenceAssociation of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand Conference

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