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Call for Abstracts: Reflections on the Change the Rules Campaign

The Australian Sociological Association’s Annual Conference, 2019

To celebrate the launch of the new thematic group Work, Labour & Economy, the thematic group convenors would like to extend a call for abstracts for a special panel at this year’s Australian Sociological Association (TASA) conference reflecting on the Australian Council of Trade Union’s Change the Rules campaign. We extend a particular invitation for contributions from those working outside the academy.

The ACTU and unions from across Australia have found a common rhetoric in the call to reduce insecure work conditions and wage stagnation. The movement has sparked mass rallies, election campaigning and the use of the campaign symbols in protected industrial action and calls to unionise. Melbourne recently saw 100,000 workers march alongside Labor Premier Daniel Andrews, as part of a mass rally in 14 cities and towns across Australia. Speakers at the event celebrated the recent victory of Chemist Warehouse workers in their strike action directed at improved working conditions and pay, including the conversion of casual staff to ongoing after 6 months of service and a pay increase of between 18.75% and 22.5% over the next 4 years. The campaign has raised important questions about the future of trade unionism in Australia and reinvigorated discussion surrounding the relationship between trade unions and the Labor Party in Australia. We invite scholars and activists to add their voices to our discussion of the possibilities that this campaign has opened up for trade unionism, as well as more critical accounts of trade unionism in Australia and the role of popular union movements in shaping work and economy.

We anticipate that this panel might reflect on a range of questions linked to the Change the Rules campaign and circumstances that give rise to it, including why labour market rules need changing; which rules need changing; and the impact of the campaign.

Contributions to this panel may address, but are not limited to, the following themes/issues:

  • Histories of industrial relations and labourism in Australia
  • Precarity and contingency in the contemporary labour market
  • Analysis of trade union campaigns and/or strategy
  • Comparative analysis of workplace relations or union strategy in Australia and elsewhere
  • Relationships between economic restructuring, labour market conditions and possibilities for political action
  • The scope for regulatory fixes to address problems like gig employment, unpaid work, chronic low wage growth
  • The future of unionism, either in particular industries or across the contemporary political economy
  • Confrontations between labour and trade unionism
  • The cultural politics of unionism in Australia

If you would like to submit an abstract, please forward your proposal (150 words) to both panel convenors by 5pm, Monday 20th May:

Claire Parfitt


Fabian Cannizzo


For more information about the 2019 TASA conference, visit: