How to take care of your mental health after the Christchurch attacks

The world was saddened and distressed to learn of the shocking Christchurch mosque attacks on Friday, which claimed the lives of 50 people and injured nearly as many. Since then we’ve heard hear...

Richard Bryant, Professor & Director of Traumatic Stress Clinic, UNSW - avatar Richard Bryant, Professor & Director of Traumatic Stress Clinic, UNSW

Christchurch attacks provide a new ethics lesson for professional media

The difference in the Christchurch attacks is that propaganda supplied by the perpetrator was available to the professional media, even as the story was breaking.Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-N...

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne - avatar Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

Autonomous transport will shape our cities' future – best get on the right path early

Cities have a choice of autonomous vehicle futures: cars or mass transit vehicles. Which one we adopt is likely to determine how people-friendly our cities are.SueBeDoo888/ShutterstockA unique opport...

Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability, Curtin University - avatar Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability, Curtin University

What parents need to know about the signs of child sexual abuse

Significant changes in your child's behaviour could signal they are being sexually abused.from shutterstock.comRecent events, including the conviction and sentencing of George Pell for sexually abusin...

Larissa Christensen, Lecturer in Criminology & Justice  |  Co-leader of the Sexual Violence and Research Prevention Unit (SVRPU), University of the Sunshine Coast - avatar Larissa Christensen, Lecturer in Criminology & Justice | Co-leader of the Sexual Violence and Research Prevention Unit (SVRPU), University of the Sunshine Coast

Curious Kids: what makes an echo?

Do you think you could make an echo at Echo Point in Katoomba?Flickr/Amanda Slater, CC BYCurious Kids is a series for children. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to ...

Noel Hanna, Leading Education Professional (Physics), UNSW - avatar Noel Hanna, Leading Education Professional (Physics), UNSW

Super power: why the future of Australian capitalism is now in Greg Combet's hands

Greg Combet wants to use his super power to free business from being hostage to short-term share-price and profit measures.ShutterstockRight now Greg Combet is arguably the most powerful man in Austra...

Danny Davis, Executive Director, Australian Institute of Performance Sciences, and researcher at, La Trobe University - avatar Danny Davis, Executive Director, Australian Institute of Performance Sciences, and researcher at, La Trobe University

Slimmed-down migration program has regional focus

The government has announced a reduced annual cap on migration of 160,000 for each of the next four years, as well as measures to stream a greater proportion of migrants to regional areas and boost th...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Anxieties over livestreams can help us design better Facebook and YouTube content moderation

Livestream on Facebook isn't just a tool for sharing violence – it has many popular social and political uses. glen carrie / unsplash, CC BYAs families in Christchurch bury their loved ones foll...

Andrew Quodling, PhD candidate researching governance of social media platforms, Queensland University of Technology - avatar Andrew Quodling, PhD candidate researching governance of social media platforms, Queensland University of Technology

We did a breakthrough 'speed test' in quantum tunnelling, and here's why that's exciting

Future technologies will exploit today's advances in our understanding of the quantum world.Shutterstock/PopTika When you deal with things at the quantum scale, where things are very small, the world ...

U. Satya Sainadh, Postdoctoral researcher, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology - avatar U. Satya Sainadh, Postdoctoral researcher, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

Politicians suing for defamation is usually a bad idea: here's why

There are better ways for politicians to address defamation concerns than through the courts.AAP/Ellen SmithWhen The Project host Waleed Aly began his editorial in the wake of the Christchurch massacr...

Michael Douglas, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Western Australia - avatar Michael Douglas, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Western Australia

Births, deaths and rituals: a revamped Ten Days on the Island explores Tasmania's past and present

Youth dance troupe Stompin performed their thought-provoking work Nowhere as part of this year's Ten Days on the Island.Jacob Collings, Lusy ProductionsThis year marks the tenth biennial Tasmanian Art...

Asher Warren, Lecturer, University of Tasmania - avatar Asher Warren, Lecturer, University of Tasmania

A guide for parents and teachers: what to do if your teenager watches violent footage

The world is reeling in the aftermath of the horrific shootings in Christchurch. The attack has also raised a number of side issues, including the ethics of broadcasting the live stream of the attack...

Rachael Sharman, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of the Sunshine Coast - avatar Rachael Sharman, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of the Sunshine Coast

As home care packages become big business, older people are not getting the personalised support they need

Many older Australians prefer to stay at home than enter residential aged care – but the process of securing home care is riddled with complexities.From shutterstock.comThe Royal Commission into...

Lyn Phillipson, NHMRC-ARC Dementia Development Fellow, University of Wollongong - avatar Lyn Phillipson, NHMRC-ARC Dementia Development Fellow, University of Wollongong

Two ways to fund NSW election promises as property prices crash

Previous NSW election promises were easily funded. Not so this time.ShutterstockState elections are always about spending promises, but this time not much is being said about how they will be funded.L...

Gareth Bryant, Lecturer in Political Economy, University of Sydney - avatar Gareth Bryant, Lecturer in Political Economy, University of Sydney

‘Rape Day’: A new video game glorifying sexual assault raises questions about regulation

nhungboon/ShutterstockA graphic new video game called Rape Day, set to launch in April, triggered a swift and widespread public outcry.Created by an independent developer, Rape Day is a set in a zombi...

Dr Marika Guggisberg, Research and Teaching Academic in Domestic and Family Violence, CQUniversity Australia - avatar Dr Marika Guggisberg, Research and Teaching Academic in Domestic and Family Violence, CQUniversity Australia

Curious Kids: why do we have two kidneys when we can live with only one?

Right now, your kidneys are getting rid of all things your body does not need. They do this by 'cleaning' your blood. ShutterstockCurious Kids is a series for children. If you have a question you&rsqu...

Brooke Huuskes, Lecturer in Human Anatomy, Physiology Anatomy & Microbiology, La Trobe University - avatar Brooke Huuskes, Lecturer in Human Anatomy, Physiology Anatomy & Microbiology, La Trobe University

Would you like to grow old at home? Why we’re struggling to meet demand for subsidised home care

In December, more than 127,000 Australians were waiting for a home care package.From shutterstock.comThe Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is this week turning its focus to aged care ...

Michael Woods, Professor of Health Economics, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Michael Woods, Professor of Health Economics, University of Technology Sydney

We need a legally binding treaty to make plastic pollution history

The world urgently needs to move past plastic. Veronika MedunaA powerful marriage between the fossil fuel and plastic industries threatens to exacerbate the global plastic pollution crisis. The Center...

Trisia Farrelly, Senior Lecturer, Massey University - avatar Trisia Farrelly, Senior Lecturer, Massey University

White nationalism, born in the USA, is now a global terror threat

The recent massacre of 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand is the latest confirmation that white supremacy is a danger to democratic societies across the globe.Despite Pr...

Art Jipson, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Dayton - avatar Art Jipson, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Dayton

Super power: why the future of Australian capitalism is now in Greg Combet's hands

Greg Combet wants to use his super power to free business from being hostage to short-term share-price and profit measures.ShutterstockRight now Greg Combet is arguably the most powerful man in Austra...

The Conversation - avatar The Conversation

Does most of your paycheck go to rent? That may be hurting your health

Families that spend more on housing may have less to spend on their health.Tero Vesalainen/shutterstock.comNew data on health across the U.S. shows that high housing costs are harming Americans’...

Jessica Owens-Young, Assistant Professor of Health Studies, American University - avatar Jessica Owens-Young, Assistant Professor of Health Studies, American University

The politics of fear: How it manipulates us to tribalism

The cruel murder of 50 people in New Zealand was another tragic reminder of how humans are capable of heartlessly killing their own kind just based on what they believe, how they worship, and what rac...

Arash Javanbakht, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University - avatar Arash Javanbakht, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University

What is the significance of Friday prayers in Islam?

Muslims praying in a Chicago mosque following the shooting in New Zealand, on Friday, March 15.AP Photo/Noreen NasirFollowing the terror attack on two New Zealand mosques last week, many Muslim commun...

Rose S. Aslan, Assistant Professor of Religion, California Lutheran University - avatar Rose S. Aslan, Assistant Professor of Religion, California Lutheran University

This is part of a major series called Advancing Australia, in which leading academics examine the key issues facing Australia in the lead-up to the 2019 federal election and beyond. Read the other pieces in the series here.

With all the hype around the future of work, you could be forgiven for thinking the biggest issue in the future of employment is the impending takeover of your job by a robot or an algorithm.

Talk about the workplace of the future has become fixated on technological displacement almost to the point of hysteria. There is little doubt that technological development will change the way we work, as it has in the past.

But for most Australians the reality will be much less dramatic. The biggest changes in the working lives of Australians over the past 20 years have arguably not been technological – few of us are sending our avatars to meetings or writing code.

Many of us are, however, lamenting the paradox of feeling overworked yet, at the same time, insecure in our employment. A significant proportion contend with record low wages growth. Others remain less than fully employed.

Read more: Our culture of overtime is costing us dearly

Some will say that the rate of insecure or non-permanent work has remained fairly constant over the past two decades. This belies the lived experience of workers. They have repeatedly been found to perceive their connections to the workplace and labour market as precarious and laden with personal risk.

Power has been shifting

The changes have often involved the fragmentation or fissuring of work through outsourcing, global supply chains, independent contracting, labour hire and digital labour platforms.

But there has been more to it than the tweaking of business practices. The relationship between business and the state has been subject to a fundamental realignment.

Since the industrial relations changes in the early 1990s, which moved the setting of wages and conditions away from centralised institutions towards the workplace, the locus of power in the labour market has undergone substantial recalibration.

Collective representation of workers has declined sharply. This is recognised as contributing to the wage stagnation being felt in Australia and other rich nations.

A 2018 article in The Economist acknowledged this, noting that while politicians were scrambling for scapegoats and solutions, addressing stagnant wages required “a better understanding of the relationship between pay, productivity and power”.

A crucial aspect of understanding this relationship is recognising the impact that business consolidation has had. It has not only changed the experience of work, but also altered the balance of power between businesses and workers and between some businesses and other businesses.

Read more: This is what policymakers can and can't do about low wage growth

The ascendance of global monoliths − such as Walmart, Amazon, Apple and Uber (and the big retailers and e-tailers in Australia) – has resulted in organisations that wield enormous economic and cultural power. This has led not only to a reduction in worker power but also to the creation of a crushingly competitive environment for the businesses that have to contend with contract terms dictated by the corporate giants.

What has been the result of the combination of changing business models, reconfigured institutions and the onslaught of business consolidation?

We have seen hyper-competition based on low labour costs, management approaches that skirt worker protection laws, and weaker regulatory oversight.

It has manifested in almost weekly scandals regarding sham contracting, exploitation of workers and what appears to be an epidemic of underpayment in a roll call of some of Australia’s most “successful” companies, among them 7-Eleven, Caltex and Domino’s) .

We can shift it back

The policy prescription to remedy the scourge of work insecurity and exploitation is decidedly unsexy. It goes against the zeitgeist that seems to suggest that any change that disrupts an existing system, rule or institution should be hailed as “innovative” and be uncontested.

It requires some reflection and the rebirth of aspects of our industrial relations system that have been lost but have redeeming features.

Key among these old-fashioned remedies is the encouragement of workers and employers to organise and recentralise bargaining.

A stated aim of the federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 was “to facilitate and encourage the organisation of representative bodies of employers and of employees”.

Granted, back then the act was also about keeping industrial peace by preventing lockouts and strikes. This is no longer much of an issue in our era of record low industrial action. But, in the current context of fragmented work, it is unrealistic to expect individual employers and employees to engage in endless rounds of labour-intensive productivity bargaining, with little to show for it.

The economies of scale that were part of a centralised system were lost when workplace-based bargaining system took over. These could be regained, to the advantage of both employees and employers.

Read more: Bargaining the Qantas way: how not to run an industrial dispute

While that policy prescription looks similar to the original Conciliation and Arbitration system, the rationale behind it differs markedly.

No longer would it be simply about addressing the power dynamics between employers and employees. It would also be about addressing the inequitable power dynamics between mega-corporations and businesses subjected to their might.

A challenge for left and right

Arguments relating to the need for flexibility and regulatory reform, which were the basis of the 1990s decentralisation, were not without merit. Global competition was accelerating and there was a real concern that the Australian economy would not be able to keep pace. So greater agency was given to businesses so they could adjust and lift productivity.

But we are now living in very different times. Neither excessive industrial action nor the spectre of poor productivity looms. It is neither intellectually or politically honest to use these as a basis for opposing proposals to recentralising bargaining.

Also, we need to acknowledge that the biggest beneficiaries of the disaggregation introduced in the early 1990s were the biggest businesses.

A more centralised system could allow employers and employees to combine their power to counter competitive pressures from mega-corporations that want to reduce labour standards. They have facilitated toxic workplace practices, including intensive surveillance, unrealistic performance expectations, avoidance of entitlements and exploitation of workers further down supply chains.

Constructing an industrial relations framework that tackles the insecurity that is being experienced now and the further insecurity that may be wrought by technological change is potentially confronting for both sides of the ideological divide.

Elements on the left may be reluctant to acknowledge that not all businesses are the same, that some are being squashed by the structure of the market. Some on the right might not be prepared to concede that the bright idea of the 1990s – reducing union influence and worker voices – has succeeded so well as to create perverse and economically unhelpful outcomes.

Both sides need to lift their gaze above the workplace. They need to recognise that earlier reforms are no longer the right ones now, admit that individual business might not be the best level at which to manage the technological change, and acknowledge where the new power lies, then act accordingly.

Read more: Why are unions so unhappy? An economic explanation of the Change the Rules campaign

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/the-workplace-challenge-facing-australia-spoiler-alert-its-not-technology-111492