In 2015, one university student in KC – a small town in regional Australia – unknowingly launched a resistance movement and national debate on modern wage theft. We apply labour process theory to analyse accounting's role in this case.
We study multiple instances of wage theft in one Australian town. This case site reveals how wage theft can emerge in a developed economy with well-established legal and institutional constraints. We use Thompson's “core” labour process theory to analyse accounting's role via two interrelated dialectics: (1) structure and agency and, (2) control and resistance.
Accounting was “weaponised” by both sides of the controversy: as a tool of employer control and as a vehicle for student resistance. Digital technologies enabled employee resistance to form unconsciously and organically. Proponents mobilised informally, with information and accounting the ammunition.
Wage theft affects industrialised as well as developing economies, especially “precarious” workers. We show how accounting can conceal exploitation, but also how – with the right support – accounting can help vulnerable workers enforce their rights and entitlements.
The paper uncovers novel dynamics of exploitation and resistance at work under contemporary economic and technological conditions. Labour process theory can provide a more dialectical perspective on accounting's role in these dynamics, including the emancipatory potential of informal and opportunistic counter-accounts.
Yang, D., Dumay, J. and Tweedie, D. (2020), "Accounting's role in resisting wage theft: a labour process theory analysis", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 85-110. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-11-2019-4268Download as .RIS
Emerald Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited