Southey, Kim (2007) Work choices and the negotiation challenge confronting employees. In: Abbott, K. and Hearn MacKinnon, B. and Morris, L. and Saville, K. and Waddell, D., (eds.) Work choices: evolution or revolution. Heidelberg Press, Victoria, Australia. ISBN 978-1-920889-22-7
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Under collective agreements, employees have the psychological benefit of feeling ‘safety in numbers’ by knowing that they are getting no less or no more than their co-workers. With the advent of the WorkChoices legislation, employers are now free to directly approach employees to negotiate individualised conditions and entitlements and formulate an Australian workplace agreement (AWA). This industrial freedom gives rise to the need for employees to engage in a negotiation process beyond what most have previously experienced. This paper examines the difficulties of negotiation from the employee perspective using theories of formal and personal power, as well as emotional dissonance associated with challenging the employer during negotiations. It also identifies the types of resources employees draw upon during their negotiations. An auto-ethnographic methodology is used in this paper. Auto-ethnographies sit within an interpretative research philosophy and involve the researcher in evaluating their own experience to develop a further understanding of a research problem. Whilst it is an atypical methodology, one of the values of such a method is that it documents tactic knowledge and corporate memory, which otherwise tends to be lost as people move from job to job (Hannabus 2000). In this paper, the author, who has a human resource practitioner background, gives an account of her experience in negotiating the terms of her employment for a lecturing position at an Australian university. This experience saw her negotiating from the employee’s perspective instead of the usual management position that had formed part of her previous HR positions. It provides the reader with a personal account of the challenges and emotional unrest involved in contract negotiations with her employer when the terms of the contract were disputed. This paper highlights that if an industrial relations savvy employee experienced difficulty in negotiating an employment contract, we can anticipate that people without the benefit of such knowledge may well be stressed by their AWA negotiations.
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