Manning the Checkout: an Australian case

Price, Robin A. (2006) Manning the Checkout: an Australian case. In Lind, Jens (Ed.) 13th Annual International Employment Relations Association Conference, 26-29 June 2005, Aalborg, Denmark.

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Retail is a major employing industry across all nations. In the case of Australia, the retail industry employs almost fifteen per cent of the workforce (ABS 6291.0.55.001). Retail is an industry that has been slow to attract research attention. Within the last decade though, a growing body of literature that examines the nature of labour usage within the retail industry, and within supermarkets, or superstores, has evolved. By far the most prolific researchers in the field of retail employment are the academics based at the Institute for Retail Studies at the University of Stirling, Scotland. The Stirling research focuses on the structure of the retail industry and how changes to the structure of the industry affected both the location of, and types of, retail employment (Sparks 1991: 304).

This paper narrows the investigation by examining how labour usage is structured in a department within a store. In this instance, the process and outcomes of the staffing decisions made within the Checkout or Front End of an Australian supermarket are explored. While it is accepted that the findings in relation to employment structure within an Australian supermarket are not generalisable to all retailers, or even supermarket retailers in particular, the case shows how staff scheduling software is capable of dividing up working hours and arranging them in such a way as to deliver the lowest cost labour force. The result is a pattern of numerous short hours’ employees working three or four hours per shift. The paper argues that industrial relations legislation that permits the use of hourly casual employment, an extensive division of labour within the store and a sophisticated rostering software package results in a situation where many short hours jobs are created. These jobs, and the workers who fill them, reflect the flexibility demanded by the employer. This paper, by exploring the minutiae of the employment decision at department level, shows precisely how this flexibility is achieved.

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ID Code: 9576
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: The contents of this conference can be freely accessed online via the conference’s web page (see hypertext link).
Additional URLs:
Keywords: non, standard employment, retail, supermarkets
ISBN: 8790384199
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Industrial Relations (150306)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2006 (please consult author)
Deposited On: 18 Sep 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 13:20

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