Working with dignity

Australia is lagging behind international best practice when it comes to dignity in workplaces, according to two Griffith University industrial relations professors.

Griffith Business School professors Greg Bamber and Bob Russell are publishing their research as part of an important book being launched this week.

Professor Bamber said he endorsed international calls for an emphasis on ‘decent work’.

“In an enlightened democratic society, employment should afford people opportunities to work with dignity,” Professor Bamber said.

“This is crucial to a satisfying work life, yet workplaces often pose challenging obstacles to the experience of dignity.

“Abuse, bullying, harassment, mismanagement, low-trust, surveillance or the unchecked operation of labour markets may all get in the way of job satisfaction and the capacity to lead a rewarding life.”

Professor Russell said defending dignity and realising self-respect through work were keys to well-being.

“Workers and employers should have the right to be accorded dignity at work and to experience the dignity of their work. This includes being treated respectfully, recognised and valued for their work and given opportunities for skill enhancement and career progression.

“Involving all members of a company in job design consultation, providing social protection from arbitrary treatment and the promotion of dialogue and conflict settlement would go beyond improving human rights, and create more productive workplaces.

“This has already been recognised by Canada and several European countries, which have developed innovative policies that facilitate more dignified work.”



Professor Russell said their research would contribute to a new Australian Charter of Employment Rights, which sought to promote innovative policies in Australia.

“There is also an important role for public policy in inducing companies – through education rather than punishment – to foster dignified work,” Professor Russell said.

“Employing organisations and their workers should adopt the Charter. It would help ensure employers and workers are treated with respect and valued for their contributions.

“This voluntary approach is likely to lead to more productive and cooperative companies than adopting adversarial approaches, such as the WorkChoices laws.”

Professor Bamber and Professor Russell will speak at the launch of the book, A Charter of Employment Rights, at the Industrial Relations Society of Queensland Conference at the Gold Coast International Hotel, Surfers Paradise on Friday, August 31 from 1pm.

The book is published by Hardie Grant and the Australian Institute of Employment Rights. It is likely to become a blueprint of ideas for a future industrial relations system, and a valued resource for employers, unions and universities.