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ONLY A CASUAL…’

How Casual Work Affects Employees, Households and Communities in Australia.
BARBARA POCOCK

ROSSLYN PROSSER

KEN BRIDGE
AUGUST 2004


Labour Studies,

School of Social Sciences,

University of Adelaide,

Adelaide 5005




Generally, a lot of [the permanents] had the same attitude, ‘well you’re just casuals’. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I had said to me, ‘you’re just a casual’.

(Rachel, 40s, cashier govt/labour hire)

Well I think you are used and abused … I was always under the impression that casual workers were there for overload situations, emergencies, or whatever but I’ve been casual for five years now … ‘We’ll look at that next year’ is the general reply to any request for permanency … So, yeah, I think used and abused is the best description I can come up with.

(Alice, 41, word processor operator, engineering industry)

July 2004

Labour Studies,

School of Social Sciences,

University of Adelaide,

Adelaide,

South Australia, AUSTRALIA,

5005


email: barbara.pocock@adelaide.edu.au

Phone: 08 83033736


http://www.arts.adelaide.edu.au/socialsciences/people/gls/bpocock.html

Table of Contents

Summary of Report 6

MAIN FINDINGS 6

1. Introduction 18

1.1. Goals of the Study 18

1.2. Funding 19

1.3. Past Research About Casual Workers 19

1.4. Key Policy Questions Arising From the Literature 21

1.5. Methodology 22

2. Do Casual Workers Like Being Casual? 25

2.1 Three Views 25

2.2 What Positive Casuals Say 26

2.3 What Ambivalent Casual Workers Say 30

2.4 What Reluctant Casuals Say 31

2.5 The Difference between Permanent and Casual Employment 35

2.6 Is Casual Work Employee’s Choice? 36

2.7 Being ‘used and abused’ 40

2.8 Love the Job, Don’t love the Terms 45

2.9 Conclusion: Overall Assessments of Casual Work 46

3. Whose Flexibility? 48

3.1 Not All Casuals Want Flexibility: Some Want Steady, Predictable Work 49

3.2 Do Casual Workers Have the Flexibility They Seek? 49

3.3 The Dimensions of Flexibility 59

3.4 Key Characteristics of Flexibility from the Perspective of Employees 68

3.5 The Importance of Predictability: Flexibility for Some, Powerlessness for Others 70

4. The Preference for Permanence 74

4.1 Permanency: The Ideal 77

4.2 The Preference for Permanence Amongst Young People 79

4.3 Requesting Permanency: ‘I begged them’ 79

4.4 ‘There are better ways to work’ 80

4.5 Conclusion: The Strong Preference for Permanence 80

5. Is Casual Work a Pathway to Permanency? 82

5.1 Short term Casual Work as a Pathway to Longer Term Casual Work 82

5.2 For Most, Reliable Ongoing Work is Elusive 83

5.3 A Legal Right To Become Permanent 86

5.4 No Prospect for Permanency: ‘You wait for someone to die for those jobs’ 86

5.5 Locked in the Casual Ghetto? It Doesn’t pay to be Skilled, Experienced and Available 90

5.6 It Doesn’t Pay to Grow Older 92

5.7 It Doesn’t Pay to Speak Up 92

5.8 Conclusion: A Reservoir, Not a Pathway 93

6. Working life: Respect, Performance, Surveillance, Voice 94

6.1 Respect 94

6.2 Work Performance: Do Casuals Work harder? 111

6.3 Surveillance 116

6.4 Voice at Work 117

6.5 The Casual Working Life: Watched, Worked Hard and Out of the Loop 123

7. Working Life: Pay and Conditions 125

7.1 The Down-Side: Low, Unpredictable and Unfair Pay for Casuals 126

7.2 Seven Negative Aspects of Pay for Casual Workers 126

7.3 Paying for Work Expenses 136

7.4 Youth Wages 136

7.5 Financial Planning: Money and Life 137

8. Working Life: Training and Promotion 142

8.1 Training 142

8.2 Promotion: ‘Once you’re a cleaner you’re a cleaner for the rest of your life’ 145

9. Power, Collective Organisation and Unionism 148

9.1 ‘Don’t Rock the Boat’ 152

10. What Happens When You are Sick? 153

10.1 ‘How sick, how injured, how poor?’ 154

10.2 ‘It really puts you in a spin’ 155

10.3 Accommodating Sickness: Working Intensively to Catch Up 156

10.4 Accommodating Sickness: Finding Your Own Replacement 156

11. Having a Holiday: ‘That’d be nice!’ 159

11.1 The Positive Side: Some Can Take a Break When They Want 159

11.2 The Negative Side 160

12. How Does Being Casual Affect Your Health? 165

12.1 ‘I worry: Have I Got Enough Money to Tide Me Over. You Become Withdrawn’ 165

12.2 Health checks 167

12.3 Depression 168

12.4 Work injury 169

12.5 Conclusion: Worry, Rest, and Mental and Physical Health 171

13. Relationships, Social Life and Community 173

13.1 Effects on Individuals: Feeling Demoralised and Disposable 173

13.2 Family: The Effects of Casual Work Transmit to Households 176

13.3 Relationships 181

13.4 Relationship Formation 182

13.5 Living ‘Minute to Minute’: Work before Relationships 183

13.6 Social Life: ‘I’m on the edge of society’ 184

13.7 The Effects On Community Participation 186

13.8 School 186

13.9 Sport 186

14. Welfare, Tax, Superannuation 188

14.1 Unemployment and Casual Work: The Paper Chase 188

15. The Past, The Future and The True Price of Casual Work 195

15.1 The Hidden Productivity Costs of Casual Work 196

15.2 Commitment to the Job 197

15.3 Why do employers use casuals? ‘We are cheap, disposable and convenient’ 197

15.4 Ways in Which Casual Work Could be Managed Better 200

15.5 Casual Work: An Acceptable Price for Being a Mother? 204

15.6 How Casual Work is Remaking Work 204

References 207

Appendix 1: Text of invitation to participate in study: 208

Appendix 2: Interview Instrument 209



Appendix 3 Interviewee Portraits 213



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