Old or New Human resource Management? the management of convict labour in NSW 1788-1830

William Murray Robbins

    Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review

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    This paper challenges the notion that the development of systematic and sophisticated HR policies and strategies for the management of labour is solely a phenomenon of late nineteenth and twentieth century management theory. Using industrial relations and human resource management analysis this paper argues there is considerable evidence of the development of elaborate labour management techniques in the employment of convict labour in the colony of New South Wales, Australia. In the early years of settlement colonial authorities developed the use of a system of work allocation which allowed convicts to labour for part of a day for the government and for the private labour market in the remainder of the day. This division became so wide spread and entrenched the government came to regulate convict earnings; ostensibly the beginning of thepublic regulation of wages in Australia. Other labour management techniques included the systematic improvement in supervision, the narrowing of the span of control, the development of a wide range of positive work incentives, the use of job descriptions and the creation of a bureaucratic system of written work reportsfor all convict labour gangs. There is also evidence that some administrative initiatives were in response to convict resistance, both covert and overt. It is argued in this paper that innovations in convict labour management flourished until 1822 because the productivity of the convict labour force was critical to economic development. After this date changes in government policies and the growth infree settlement reduced the need for the labour of convicts and ushered in an era of labour management brutality. By using a HR and IR focused analysis this paper rewrites the history of the management of convict labour in Australia; a history which has been ignored by social historians and simplified by economic historians.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationWorking Lives, Working Choices
    Subtitle of host publication15th Annual Conference (IERA 2007)
    EditorsJanet Drucker
    Place of PublicationUK
    PublisherCanterbury Christ Church University
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - 2007
    EventInternational Employment Relations Association - Canterbury, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    Duration: 09 Jul 200712 Jul 2007


    ConferenceInternational Employment Relations Association
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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