Themes

The Centre seeks to contribute to the theory and practice of labour contestation across three distinct but interlinked themes:

Labour in the Global South

Pratima Sambajee and Francis Portes Virginio, University of Strathclyde; Jane Ragoo, Confederation of Private and Public Sector Workers in Mauritius (CTSP); Fedo Bacourt, Social Union of Haitian Immigrants (USIH), Brazil

Despite the organic connection between less developed/developing countries (South) and developed countries (North) driven by colonialism and imperialism, the uneven development of capitalism between the two regions has led to dynamics in the South that forces us to rethink our common understanding of 'labour'. The condition and experience of southern workers is defined not only by the subordination of their nation states to developed countries also to the scale of within country social inequality. Diverse forms of paid and unpaid work, both gendered and racialized hierarchies sit aside a large informal sector, a growing underpaid female workforce, compromised health and wellbeing at work, a lack of state protection and often limited opportunities for collective action.

Persistent colonial legacies, visible in elitist notions of development and knowledge production, have reproduced rather than challenged deleterious forms of labour exploitation and the pauperisation of communities linked to ongoing extraction of natural resources and environmental degradation. The emerging South-South movement of labour and subsequent regional inequalities poses new questions of the working conditions of migrants, their transnational patterns of social reproduction and the limits of current development projects in the Global South.

The resulting working lives and lived experiences of workers in the Global South demands a redirection of intellectual focus and the broadening of empirical and theoretical boundaries of how work and labour is researched. It requires us to trace and question inherent unequal power relations in dominant economic models and make visible alternative, socially committed forms of knowledge and economic production. In this theme, we bring together labour scholars, researchers and practitioners who share similar perspectives to explore the challenges faced, and responses taken, by labour in the Global South. We seek to resist and numb the dominance of the Global North in the literature on labour by bringing to the forefront work that speaks about and with labour at the grassroots level allowing for vibrant, cultural and societal dimensions to emerge in our discourse and practices in the Global South.

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Sustainable Work and Employment in an Age of Technological Disruption

Dora Scholarios and Phil Taylor, University of Strathclyde; Johnson Minz, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Automation, robotisation, AI and big data are having a transformative effect on the world of work. All considerations have focused on the consequences of the developed world of the Global North. The UN Conference of Trade & Development (UNCTAD) report of 2017 explicitly spelled the threats for previously offshored and relocated IT and ITES work to the less developed/developing countries, notably India and the Philippines, because the locational drivers over lower labour costs would be undermined by automation. Thus, job displacement consequences and the transformation of existing jobs have become urgent research questions, raising a dominant challenge to contested notions of sustainability.

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New enclosures, conflict and labour

Brian Garvey and Kendra Briken, University of Strathclyde; Pedro Fuentes, Chile SCDA, Sheffield, UK; Dercy Teles, former president, Trade union for the Rural Workers of Xapuri, Brazil

There is mounting evidence that monocultural food and ‘bio’energy technologies promising lower carbon futures are deepening inequalities in natural resource access and in power relations between corporate interests and (rural) workers. Localised conflicts in the North and the South are emerging in relation to ‘public’ goods (sun, air, water) and their transnational commodification for the ‘green economy’ at the expense of communities excluded from decision making yet often most vulnerable to the consequent economic and environmental changes. In this theme we investigate the emerging primary commodity trades through the prism of the workers engaged in nodes of production, and of the communities effected by and resisting dispossession and intoxication from the spatial and technological advances in monocultures and mega projects. In doing so we seek to make visible socially and environmentally committed alternatives –much further advanced in the southern hemisphere- to harmful modes of production, and facilitate the collective and horizontal effective sharing of struggle and experiences across North and South.

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