Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2008), 94, (1), 194–196.


194 Labour History Number 94 May 2008 and sources of cartoons in the labour journal, the Maoriland Worker for 1911-12. David Hood concludes with a useful essay on the technical issues associated with electronic processing of large datasets. The book presents key findings of two major projects in an accessible style, and demonstrates a nice balance between the general and the particular. Its main inspiration has been US quantitative historiographical methodology. Nothing quite like this has been done on a major scale in Australia yet. Auckland University of Technology RAYMOND MARKEY David Peetz, Brave New Workplace: How Individual Contracts are Changing Our Jobs, Allen & Unwin 2006. pp. x + 262. $29.95 paper. It's not often that an author can write a book that appears to have been so emphatically and promptly endorsed by the turn of events. David Peetz's condemnation of individual workplace contracts, particularly those implemented as Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) by the Howard Government, has apparently been embraced by the Australian people. The Howard government has gone; and in late February 2008 (this review was written perilously close to the deadline), Howard's unlikely and crestfallen successor, Dr Brendan Nelson, was reduced to an abject confession that the Coalition 'got it wrong' with AWAs. Allowing AWAs to cut workers' pay and conditions had been a terrible mistake, Dr Nelson conceded, and the government had paid the political price. WorkChoices has been pronounced dead. So at first glance a belated review of Brave New Workplace may seem as redundant as John Howard's political career. However the election of the Rudd Labor Government provides an opportunity to assess the claims made by Peetz, although it may be a little too soon to decide if his denunciation really has been vindicated by history. Peetz's analysis of AWAs is underwritten by a hostility to what he characterises as 'individualism'. Early in the book Peetz does acknowledge the possibility that individualism and collectivism, the latter reflecting his ideal type of social and employment relation, are not necessarily opposed, but may coexist, as 'points on a continuum of possibilities', but this thought, hinting at ambiguities and complexities, is not allowed to intrude on the subsequent analysis. Individual employment contracts in general and AWAs in particular are Peetz's targets. AWAs, Peetz argues, do not promote individual bargaining so much as individual contracting, imposing a contractual template on the employee regardless of individual need, and without involving a genuine bargaining process. AWAs are indeed a crude mechanism: recent figures confirm that AWAs removed at least one protected award condition, and most made significant cuts in other basic entitlements. Peetz also asserts that: Those who promote the individualisation of employment relations do not actually seek to remove collectivism. They simply seek to reshape it, to suit particular interests, by altering the identities of workers - towards identifying not with a collective of fellow workers but with the collective of capital referred to as the 'corporation' ... reshaping

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Author details

Hearn, Mark

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