It is commonly argued that the drive towards flexible working hours is an important arena in which the interests of employers and workers can be reconciled to mutual benefit through workplace bargaining. Against this, others suggest that the potential for mutual gain is illusory, that the needs of workers and employers are conflictual, and that this conflict occurs as much in the field of working hours as it does over wages. In this article we set up the broad argument and then provide a case study that analyses the debate over working time reorganisation in the Australian hospitality industry in the late 1990s. We focus particularly on the hospitality award simplification decision of 1997 and the penalty rates decision of 1998. The arguments in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, the various responses to the decision, and subsequent developments in the industry all illustrate conflicting interests between employers and employees on the question of working time. Current preoccupations with working time include the capacity of flexible working hours to reconcile the needs and desires of workers and employers. Counterposed to this view are arguments that highlight the disparity between the rhetoric of hours flexibility and the reality as experienced by Australian workers, particularly women.