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Post print of: Ryan, N, Furneaux, CW, Pink, A & Brown, KA 2005 , 'Public sector contracting: an Australian study of changing work conditions', Management Review, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 438-457.


Throughout the 1990s, government reports such as the Competitive Tendering and Contracting Report (Industry Commission1996) and the Report of the Independent Commission to Review Public Sector Finances (McCarrey 1993), suggested that the contracting-out of government services would improve the delivery of public goods in Australia. This article reports on the findings of a case study of contracting-out of building maintenance services in the state of Western Australia in Australia. The study focuses on evaluating the impact of the contracting-out of these services on the wages and conditions of employees affected by moving from public sector to private sector employment. The study found differences in the employment conditions of white collar and blue collar workers. In general, the conditions of white collar workers improved but there was a marginal decline in the conditions of blue collar workers. The article concludes that while contracting-out created budgetary savings for government, these resulted partly from a reduction in wages and benefits of former blue collar staff, despite the best efforts of the Western Australian government to protect staff wages and benefits. The research makes an important theoretical contribution by arguing that the impact of contracting-out on staff wages, benefits and conditions is conditional upon the level of competition in the labor market for worker’s expertise. In “thick markets”, wages, benefits and conditions are likely to reduce, due to strong competition for expertise. However in “thin markets”, wages, benefits and conditions are likely to increase, due to weak competition for expertise (Borland, 1994).

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