13 September 2019

Godfrey Moase develops a series of quantum physics analogies to understand the nature of Australian working life; for example, Schrödinger’s worker: “Subatomic particles are capable of existing in multiple states at once. Likewise, people now find themselves simultaneously in multiple states, and they experience daily life as the sum of these states. … On more than one occasion in my union work, I have listened to what it is like to work in labour hire. These arrangements mean being an employee of the host employer when it suits them, and not their employee when it does not. A labour-hire worker might be regarded as an employee for the purposes of taking direction and getting the job done, but not an employee when it comes to what pay and workplace rights go with the job. The daily reality is commonly getting paid less — between $5 to $10 per hour — for the same work in the same workplace as directly engaged workers. Even a direct casual worker exists simultaneously as employee/non-employee: at work today when required, and gone tomorrow when not. The same pattern repeats through other forms of insecure work, from individual contracting to the gig economy. Insecure work, therefore, can be viewed as any engagement in which a worker experiences the sum total of being both an employee and a non-employee at the same time — it is the superposition principle extended to the employment relationship itself.”