Informal Skill Formation and the Division of Labour: The Case of Korean Tiling Workers in Sydney

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Journal Article
Journal of Industrial Relations, 2013, 55 (1), pp. 80 - 99
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To improve our understanding of skill requirements and skill formation, this article tracks long-term skill changes in the tiling sector of the Sydney construction industry from the 1950s to 2009. It examines how and why management changed the labour process and upgraded or degraded the skills and autonomy of employees. The late 1980s marked a dividing point in the circumstances and terms of employment for skilled tile-layers in this sector. Since then, a new component in the contractual chain has been established, that of 'middlepersons'. Middlepersons have become the employers of tiling workers and, in contrast to prior comprehensive skilling of tiling workers, have implemented a subdivided and lower-skilled system of employment. This article reveals that management adjusts skill requirements and skill formation to the prevailing employment relations system, in this case, deploying new migrant workers to enhance profits. © Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association (ALERA), SAGE Publications Ltd, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC.
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