• Workers’ rights and solidarities in cross-border labour markets in Central and Eastern Europe: conversation with practitioners, trade unions and activists

Marek Čaněk 1, Iaryna Khomtsii 2, Marta Romankiv 3, Jasmina Krunić 4, Olena Fedyuk 5
1 Central European Organising Center, C.O.Z.Z. - Trade Union (Czechia)
2 Damo Radu Agency - NGO - providing support with obtaining pensions for returned migrant domestic workers (Ukraine - Italy)
3 You Can Count on Me - migrant initiative and support group (Poland)
4 ASTRA - Organization combating human trafficking and labour exploitation (Serbia)
5 FISPPA, UNIPD (Italy). MSCA fellow in the project RightsLab

CEE has become a region which is both a place of exodus of workers for better paid jobs within and outside the EU, and also a place that increasingly and with a staggering speed absorbs workers from non-EU countries into its national labour markets. Being simultaneously on both ends of sending and receiving states’ dichotomy, CEE can stand as a regional focus of analysis, where new employment practices are tested, adjusted and reinvented in a way that facilitates formation of new gendered labouring subjects adjusting to hyper mobility, fragmented employment relations, mediated recruitment, seasonal demand and sectoral fluctuations of capital and investments. As such it’s a region of fluid and adaptive labour and mobility management regimes, rather than a periphery of labour practices developed elsewhere. The questions of workers’ social reproduction, social risks and security, safety networks and solidarities get equally reinvented as they face a new and dynamic realities of labour processes and motilities.

This symposium will bring together a round table of practitioners, trade union members and civil society activists from CEE who, in their daily activities, deal with fragmentations and volatility of transnational working lives. New forms of mediated and subcontracted labour relations in the EU carry particular risks and costs for mobile workers and often reveal mismatch in the realm of practical provisions of social security, pensions, health care, employment security, solidarity and support networks.
The aim of this round table is to provide a space for mapping out various issues of social reproductions, transnational workers’ rights, social protection and solidarity, through the lens of the practical work of selected organizations and collectives. It is an opportunity for the ILPC participants to meet with practitioners, see a close up of the questions and challenges they face in practice, connect theoretical and larger structural discussions with their daily manifestations. We hope to provoke critical discussions that will link larger theoretical perspectives with practices, explore overlaps and manifestations of insecurities in employment, recruitment, changing regimes of work and production in CEE, find examples of solidarity networks and actions.
Keywords : Social reproduction of work, mediated and subcontracted employment, social security in cross-border labour markets, migrant workers’ self-organization, trade unions and migrant workers, labour migration in CEE, non-EU migrant workers in the EU

Format: Round table and Q&A

  • New conceptions of labour and land grabs, finance and fraud
Brian Garvey 1, Maria Luisa Mendonca 2, Mauricio Torres 3, Ana Laide Barbosa 4, Maria Leusa Muduruku 5
1 University of Strathclyde
2 City University New York
3 Federal University of Para
4 University of Brasilia
5 Munduruku Wakoburun Women's Association

There is a poorly understood complexity in the social and power relations that underpin the discrete and differentiated processes of land invasion, appropriation, expropriation, commodification and financialization on extractive and agroindustrial frontiers.  Furthermore, contemporary resistance to these, forged by workers refusing the capital-wage relation, invites our revisiting the processes and values attached to divergent labour-nature relations.
Several research questions emerge from those investigating these issues in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes of Brazil, and these form the basis of the symposium that is conducted through four moments.
In the first there is an unveiling of the complex issues of land grabbing in the Amazon with a focus on Para state, that boasts the highest number of land related conflicts in the country.  Closer scrutiny of the dynamics considers differentiated processes, including: (a) undocumented, unregistered and hence ‘slave like’ labour alongside a ‘non’ ownership of land as two necessary factors for illegal extraction from protected territories; (b) accumulation by legislation, whereby fraudulent land grabs are subsequently legitimised by authorities, thus making common land newly available to the private interests.
The second moment investigates the latter aspect above in the Matopiba region of the Cerrado, Brazil’s agroindustrial frontier. Through processes that are often different to the land grabs of Para, territorial expansion is accompanied by massive scale speculation by companies linked to international trust funds. These utilise complex subsidiary systems to circumvent inconvenient laws, force up land price rises and avert risk and volatility via the futures market.
The symposium contends that there are important links to be made between these processes across geographies and scales and that these can advance how we theorise current and future processes of accumulation and circulation. These, however, require careful consideration based on empirical evidence that is often lost to inadequate or over-reaching conceptualisations of accumulation, commodification and capital-labour antagonisms.
The third moment thus opens a dialogue across disciplines and geographies. Explaining how territorial transgressions continue in the Amazon despite extensive international attention and monitoring remains an important task. Secondly, the relationship between land that is variably occupied, invaded, grabbed or purchased as a ‘real’ asset on one hand and fictitious capital (finance) on the other requires further theoretical innovation. This is not least due to the radically enhanced transnational speculation in land since the 2007-8 crisis, and the utilisation of commodity indices and the futures markets to overcome challenges of capital immobility in land, seasonality and market volatility of primary commodity trades.
The fourth moment turns to labour and the forest, indigenous, riverine and agrarian communities resisting the above phenomena.  A discussion on the roots of, motivations for, and strategies of successful struggles is viewed through the prism of the local processes of labour and work organisation. Their distinctive, collectively created and defended values and activities hinge on labour-nature relations that not only refute the objectification of these relations through capital's labour process, but provide pathways for liberation from capital's inherent destructiveness, so starkly manifested on the increasingly violent frontiers of resource extraction and cultivation.

Keywords: Land grabs, labour, finance, fraud, Amazon, Cerrado, Brazil, resistance

  • The Future of Work and Workers
Tobias Schulze-Cleven 1, Todd Vachon 1, Donna Baines 2, Kendra Briken 3, Matt Vidal 4, Paul Thompson 5
1 Rutgers University, USA
2 University of British Columbia, Canada
3 University of Strathclyde, UK
4 Loughborough University London, UK
5 University of Stirling, UK

How can we build a future of work that meets pressing challenges and delivers for workers? What conceptual innovations are needed to lead this process?
We propose a symposium on these pressing questions, anchored in the recently published volume Revaluing Work(ers): Toward a Democratic and Sustainable Future that Tobias Schulze-Cleven and Todd E. Vachon put together for the US-based Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) as the organization’s 2021 research volume. In the spirit of bringing together the insights of neighboring academic fields and encouraging a conversation across the boundaries of different professional organizations, the symposium features labor process specialists with complementary expertise to critique the edited volume and build on it from the vantage points of these experts’ varied research programs.
Contemporary societies are beset by interrelated ecological, political, and economic crises, from climate change to democratic erosion and economic instability. Uncertainty abounds about the sustainability of democratic capitalism. Yet mainstream debates on the evolution of work tend to remain narrowly circumscribed, exhibiting both technological and market determinism.
The volume by Schulze-Cleven and Vachon presents a labor studies perspective on the future of work and workers, emphasizing three tenets for a productive analytical lens: workers’ struggles as an empirical entry point, an appreciation of interdisciplinarity, and a commitment to workers’ rights. On that basis, the volume argues that revaluing work—the efforts and contributions of workers—is crucial to realizing the promises of democracy and improving sustainability. Second, it emphasizes that collective political action, and the collective agency of workers in particular, is central to driving this agenda forward. Third, it maintains that reproductive work—labor efforts from care to education that sustain the reproduction of society—can function as a crucible of innovation for the valuation and governance of work more broadly.

Participants in the symposium will relate their own work to the arguments made in the book, focusing on such issues as (and the implications of) care work, race and gender, gig work, technological change, and Marxist political economy.
Keywords: Future, work, workers, democracy, sustainability, labor studies, labor process, interdisciplinarity

Last modified: Saturday, 5 February 2022, 10:48 AM