At the Bottom of a Global Commodity Chain: How Different Really are Hourly Wage Rates and Piece Rates?

TitleAt the Bottom of a Global Commodity Chain: How Different Really are Hourly Wage Rates and Piece Rates?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsChand, Anand
JournalIndustrial Relations Journal
Pagination171 - 191
Keywordsgarment industry, garment workers, Marxism, piece rates, piece wage, wages

Employers have a number of different ways in which they can pay their employees. Discussions of the forms of wage payment were once very fashionable and they still remain important in terms of practice, but in theoretical terms, they have disappeared from the radar and been less central to recent analysis of work. On the surface, without any theoretical analysis and primarily empirical evidence, it appears that there is a major difference between ‘time wage’ rate and ‘piece wage’ rate. This article via Marxist theoretical analysis and primarily empirical evidence from Australian, New Zealand, Chinese and Fiji garment firms argued that there is a high level of similarity between time rate and piece rate. The empirical research findings of the Fiji garment industry shows that a time rate is not really much different from a piece rate, and in fact, a time rate is a disguised form of piece rate because workers are required to meet their targets per hour via very close monitoring of output and performance. The article further argued that there exist greater work intensification and exploitation via strict management control systems such as close supervision and punitive factory rules. The article also highlighted some of the limitations of existing social science theories because they can not account for what is going on garment firms in Fiji (especially Chinese firms). The article argues that we must either expand the earlier social science theories or move beyond and developed new theories to fully capture the new emerging trends of contemporary capitalist global production system.