Australian Left Review


Romaine Rutnam


In 1978 the relationship between technological change and employment under capitalism became the centre of a major industrial dispute when technicians working for Telecom Australia took industrial action to try to stop the installation of a new telephone exchange system. The issues raised during that dispute included: the elimination of jobs; the deskilling of the majority of jobs that remain; the increase in managerial control in the workplace; and the import of foreign technology and the neglect of research and development of Australian technologies. One of the consequences of the public interest raised by this dispute was the establishment in 1979 of a Committee of Inquiry into Technological Change in Australia. Perhaps predictably, the committee (on which the federal secretary of the Telecommunications Employees' Association was "balanced" by the Vice- Chancellor of a major university for science & and technology, and the manager of a local affiliate of a Swiss-based aluminium company) produced a report in 1980 which glossed over the concerns publicised by the Telecom technicians, and settled on a position that the process of technological change was inevitable and, in the long run, would be beneficial to all.



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