Special streams

Whilst most of the papers for the conference are submitted to the General Stream, ILPC also runs special streams. These streams are intended to expand our community of scholars and stimulate debate in new areas relevant to analysis of labour processes, labour markets, labour organising and labour reproduction. The 2021 conference will run the following special streams:


 Mediating migrant labour
Proposed by Hannah Schling (University of Glasgow, UK), Dimitra Kofti (Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Greece) and Raia Apostolova (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Bulgaria)

The uneven integration of various European regions into global production and distribution sectors is transforming both local labour regimes and the systems of labour migration that interconnect them. This stream focuses on the intermediaries and infrastructures (e.g., temporary work agencies, recruiters and labour brokers, worker dormitories, transportation services, visa centres) through which 'labour supply chains' connect such regions, operationalize and enable labour mobility.

Scholars have turned their attention to the 'black box' of labour migration (Lindquist et al 2012): the infrastructures, brokers and work agencies through which mobility, employment, and workers' social reproduction is mediated (Fudge and Strauss 2014). Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in particular has been noted as a site of rapid growth of temporary work agencies (Coe et al 2008), including their role in the formation of cross-border labour markets servicing the region's global production sites (Andrijasevic and Sacchetto 2016). This stream encourages submissions exploring the differentiated practices, positions and development of labour migration intermediaries across the EU and beyond. We are particularly interested in submissions exploring CEE, as a site of 'innovation' rather than simply a site of 'reception' or a periphery of labour practices developed elsewhere.

Centring labour intermediaries opens questions around both (i) new forms of mediated and subcontracted labour relations in the EU and beyond, and the particular risks they carry for migrant workers; and (ii) workers' social reproduction and the broader reproduction of systems of labour and production. We approach these questions as related and seek analyses that connect workers' everyday life and uneven relations of social reproduction with the changing regimes of work and production. We hope the stream will contribute to scholarly efforts centring social reproduction within analysis of labour migration, labour intermediaries (Strauss and Fudge 2014), and new labour regimes approaches (Baglioni and Mezzadri 2020, Schling in press).

The question of uneven development is also key, including how such economic geographies are articulated through various border regimes. The practices of temporary work agencies and other labour intermediaries are formed in tight relation to border regimes; but the question of transnational workers' rights remains rather blurry and uncertain (Meszmann and Fedyuk 2019). For many people social mobility is increasingly connected to imperatives of geographical movement – with "better paid" jobs, or employment in general, only accessible through migration. This opens questions of both 'self-exploitation' and the ways that uneven development is itself reproduced within these arrangements of mobile work and social reproduction, including through dormitory regimes.

We also welcome papers with a historical component, including mediated labour migration and dormitory regimes (Alamgir and Schwenkel 2020). Magnifying the labour history of intermediaries, we hope to better understand what "new" and "old" regimes of mediated labour mean for the quality of work, vulnerability and solidarity for workers today.

We seek to bring together a network of scholars working on and around the following topics:

  • Mediated, subcontracted and brokered employment of migrant workers in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in particular and worldwide (e.g., work and recruitment agencies, labour intermediaries, patrons and migrants' networks);
  • Intermediaries/infrastructures of migrant labour supply chains as institutions of social reproduction (e.g., temporary work agencies and other labour intermediaries, employer contracted transport services, housing/dormitories for workers, translation offices);
  • Social reproduction of particular labour regimes and systems of migrant labour including through dormitory accommodation, rhythms of un/employment, spatial and gendered arrangements of family life, care and earning;
  • Labour intermediaries in relation to transnational workers' rights, safety and solidarity networks.

Abstracts should be between 350 and 500 words. Key words should be given that indicate the focus of research and the methods used. The abstract should contain clear information about theoretical orientation, findings, methodology, and what contribution is being made to knowledge. Abstracts of papers that are concerned solely with theoretical or conceptual matters will need to provide clear information on how they address and advance relevant debates. We encourage contributions especially from the Global South



 Labour conflict, forms of organisation and class

Proposed by Maurizio Atzeni (Centre for Labour Relations, CEIL/CONICET, Argentina), Jenny Chan (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong), Devi Sacchetto (University of Padua, Italy)

This stream has two main purposes. The first one, building on ILPC Buenos Aires conference theme on class and the labour process and on previous ILPC streams and publications focused particularly on the Global South, is to contribute to a reformulation of studies on labour conflict and forms of organization, exploring the connections existing between labour process based expressions of resistance and broader class analysis explanations.

Conflict, collective action, and organization have been central themes in the field of labour studies, given their role in shaping the outcomes of capital labour regulations in the workplaces and at the social level. Recent research has opened the field empirically by looking at forms of worker self-organization based on networks of solidarity that have emerged parallel to or beyond the union form. Such research has looked at changes emerging in the platform economy (Tassinari and Maccarrone, 2020), in extremely precarious contexts in the south of the world (Anner, 2018; Marinaro, 2018; Rizzo, 2017), and among migrants (Alberti and Per , 2018; Perrotta and Sacchetto, 2014; Chan, 2021). Parallel to these empirical studies, other publications have addressed more theoretical issues, inviting others to abandon the eurocentrism of industrial relations (Nowak, 2021); to rethink the forms of organization, going beyond the fetishism of the trade union form (Atzeni, 2021); and to reflect on the need to more explicitly set class domination as the normative dimension, henceforth orienting labour scholars who are aiming to produce knowledge 'on the side of workers' (Gallas, 2021).

We aim to broaden a field originally structured around the capital-labour antagonism in the confines of factories to new forms of conflict and organization that could be better understood in the wider framework of class analysis. Variously defined as 'the multitude,' 'the precariat,' 'the subaltern,' 'the urban outcasts,' or 'the plebeians' (who are composed in a variety of ways), class as a theoretical perspective has increasingly drawn the attention of critical social scientists.

The COVID-19 emergency has made evident that there are deep-seated class, race/ethnic, and gender divides in terms of access to work and quality of jobs among working people. It unveiled the conditions of insecurity, inequality, and precariousness suffered by many workers employed in activities essential to the functioning of urban and rural systems as a whole. Is the pandemic and the economic crisis unfolding worldwide as a result creating conditions for the production of new forms of collective identification and organisation among the most unprotected and yet the most essential workers? Or, on the contrary, are we seeing further segmentation in job markets and workplaces as well as fragmentation of collective identities?

The second purpose of the stream is to establish an international community of scholars engaged in a class-oriented analysis of labour conflict and organization. In order to build this the stream will be associated to a coordinated international themed collection to publish in four journals representing different regions, languages, and scholarly traditions (RELET, Partecipazione e Conflitto, Global Labor Journal, Economic and Labour Relations Review). We see the stream at ILPC as a moment of constructive discussion and feedback of working papers to be considered for the internationally coordinated collection at a later stage and as the first building block, followed by a similar stream at ALAST (Latinamerican Association of Labour studies scholars) in bringing together a committed class oriented international community of scholars. The association with scholars belonging to different academic environments and with the editorial project would open ILPC to people who do not normally participate, guaranteeing a mutual cross fertilization.

Abstracts should be between 350 and 500 words. Key words should be given that indicate the focus of research and the methods used. The abstract should contain clear information about theoretical orientation, findings, methodology, and what contribution is being made to knowledge. Abstracts of papers that are concerned solely with theoretical or conceptual matters will need to provide clear information on how they address and advance relevant debates. We encourage contributions especially from the Global South.


   

The digitalisation of work, the gig economy and migrant labour

Proposed by Francesco Della Puppa (University of Venice, Ca' Foscari Italy), Nicola Montagna (Middlesex University, UK), Phoebe Moore (University of Leicester School of Business, UK), Jamie Woodcock (Open University, UK)

In the last forty years, since the end of organisation of production by the so-called Taylorist-Fordist criteria and the beginning of the neo-liberal revolution, work in the advanced economies has undergone profound transformations. These have been driven by key changes in production and its organisation, such as the increasing externalisation of production phases, along with the consequent – enormous – growth of the service economy, and the rapid development of digital technologies.

More recently, a key role has been played by the development of platform capitalism and the gig economy as a way of organising work and providing services. Some of the most important global companies, such as Uber, Amazon, DoorDash, Care.com, etc. operate in this booming sector, which received a further boost during the Covid-19 pandemic. These companies supply a variety of key services such as ride-hailing, domestic and care work, food delivery, and many others, which are provided by a diverse workforce in terms of gender, nationality, and age, and in very different working conditions. One of the main effects of the expansion of the gig economy has been a further reduction of workplace rights and the growth of precarious labour. While reduced security for workers was already happening because of the financialization of the economy, which counterposed shareholders' and workers' interests, the intrinsic complexity of the service economy and the impact of information technology, the gig economy has accelerated this process.

There are no comprehensive data on the precise number of people employed across this sector and even less on migrant and foreign workers. However, even in countries with high unemployment or with a huge supply of unskilled labour, it is widely documented that migrant workers provide a large share of the labour power behind a range of gig economy services. They constitute a vital infrastructure for these platforms, which can rely on a perpetual influx of migrant workers in sectors such as logistics, deliveries, care, and cleaning, etc. On the one hand, occupations in the gig economy are often degraded, as they imply longer working hours at lower salaries, and therefore find in migrant workers who can fill them. On the other hand, they also offer migrants much-needed income opportunities, particularly for those who lack skills and are not easily employable or those whose legal status is less secure.

While there is growing academic interest in the platform economy, its technological aspects, its business model and working conditions, very little research has focused on the role of migrant labour and its governance at the intersection of labour market regulation, social welfare, international migration and migration policies. Some research has recently focused on struggles in the logistics sector in Italy – mostly engaged in by migrant workers. However, there are still huge gaps in research on how platformmediated gig work impacts the structural vulnerability of migrant workers and how this can be addressed by welfare policies. The aim of this stream is to address some of these issues.

More precisely, we welcome empirical and theoretical papers on themes such as:

  • Migrant workers and digitalised work: quantitative and qualitative aspects
  • Artificial Intelligence and work
  • Digitalisation and work-related policy
  • Digital surveillance
  • Labour struggles in the digitalised service sector
  • Unionism and self-organisation in the gig economy
  • The law of value, production and/or conservation of surplus value in digitalised service work
  • Surplus value, Artificial Intelligence and work: ambivalences and contradictions
  • Social reproduction and the digitalisation of work in the service sector
  • Everyday life of workers in the digitalised service sector

Abstracts should be between 350 and 500 words. Key words should be given that indicate the focus of research and the methods used. The abstract should contain clear information about theoretical orientation, findings, methodology, and what contribution is being made to knowledge. Abstracts of papers that are concerned solely with theoretical or conceptual matters will need to provide clear information on how they address and advance relevant debates. We encourage contributions especially from the Global South.


Last modified: Tuesday, 8 February 2022, 10:26 AM