Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN17_02c_H: Global Challenges in the for Work and Society
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Agnes Akkerman, Radboud University
Location: HA.2.6
HAROKOPIO University 70 El. Venizelou Street 17671 Athens, Greece Building: A, Level: 2.

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Basic Income as Transformation?

Hanna Ketterer

Kolleg Postwachstumsgesellschaften, Jena University, Germany

Basic income or universal basic income (UBI) is widely debated. Renewed interest in UBI spans from Silicon valley actors and big businesses, national governments e.g. in Finland to (post-Capitalist, e.g. Paul Mason) social movements. UBI is considered a response to myriads of contemporary societal challenges: unemployment, poverty and heteronomy inherent to Capitalism (Claus Offe), the prolonged crisis of the welfare state and assumed technological unemployment due to new potentials within robotics and AI (Osborne and Frey 2014). There is a wide range of hypotheses on how a UBI would transform contemporary Western society ranging from pragmatic to utopian. On the basis of both foundational and latest basic income studies, this paper compares competing justifications (Forst 2015) for UBI and hypothesized transformations of contemporary work society in each line of justification. The analysis shows five principal justifications for UBI: a moral, ethical, functional, anti-growth and feminist justification. Each justification is distinct in its outlook on and degree of the envisioned transformation defined as change in a) modern society’s self-understanding as employment and work-centred social formation and in b) the division of necessary paid and unpaid labour beyond the present status quo. Moreover, the paper scrutinises the social conditions under which transformation is delineated within each justification. I argue that the study of the UBI as a real-utopian project should be subject to a contemporary sociology of work aimed not only at analysing present faultlines integral to contemporary work society, but also at prefiguring alternatives.


Cécile Cuny, David Gaborieau, Clément Barbier

University Paris Est, France

The following contribution presents the preliminary results of a collective Franco-German research project, which deals with retail logistics workers, who occupy an intermediate position between industry and services and represent 13 % of total worker's employment in France, 17% in Germany. Their work consists in getting the goods into cities, which is a core function for urban lifestyle. Having identified this group, the aim of our project is to understand what its social practices outside warehouses are. The research is based on an ethnographic survey conducted in logistics parks located at the peripheries of four cities: Paris and Orleans (France), Frankfurt/Main and Kassel (Germany).

Our contribution will focus on the processes of labour market fragmentation in Paris and Frankfurt/Main, in order to analyse them in a transnational perspective. Indeed, observing a labour market at this scale and in the context of “world cities” enlightens the internal divisions of the working class and the ways these divisions differ from one context to another. Depending on the types of goods, the urban contexts and the ways industrial relations are regulated at different levels (from the local to the European one), the difficulty of working conditions in the warehouses, the salaries and the social recognition of these positions are quite different. Permanent employment on positions that aren't seen as “true occupations” is considered in the light of what it can offer: relative wage increases in Frankfurt and an access to mortgage loan in Paris.

Youth Revolts and New Union Movement in the Public Sector in Taiwan

Yubin Chiu

National Pingtung University, Taiwan

Under the legacy of authoritarian industrial relations, the unionism in public sector only exists in state-owned enterprises while the Trade Union Law prohibits the public servants from unionization. Shortly after the democratic transition in the mid-1980s, SOE unions used to play a leading role in national labour movement. On the other side, despite the fact that civil servants can only organise “association” which has no bargaining rights to represent themselves, the better working conditions and stable employment have largely kept civil servants quiescent. Recent development related to neo-liberal managerial strategies and pension reform, however, has been building up new momentum of unionism among young employees in the two sectors. In SOE sector, several new unions have been built by young employees since 2012. They have criticized the old unions and launched several strikes and protests which won strong public support. In government sector, the ongoing pension reform agitates the docile Civil Servant Association which mostly represents seniors and retirees who have been entitled the generous pension. A bunch of young civil servants, who are forming an alliance, have openly challenge the leaders of the Civil Servant Association and ask for a new pension scheme more fitting in generation justice.

This research aims to explore the momentum of new organising trend and its impact on the public sector unionism. Three cases of new organising efforts will be reviewed and followed by the discussion on the possible change in the industrial relations in the public sector.

Examining management technologies as a site of conflict: political interests and class composition in distribution warehouses.

Craig Gent

University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Distribution warehouses - or ‘fulfilment centres’ - and their labour conditions have been a regular fixture in media investigations over the last few years, causing widespread concern (especially in the UK) about ‘zero-hours’ contracts and the physical pressures put onto workers. What remains underexamined is the technological infrastructure used to manage these employees and undermine the likelihood of them organising. Although we are witnessing a resurgence of debates around the dangers/possibilities of the labour-saving devices deployed in some high-end warehouses (e.g. robots such as Kiva), less is being said about the development and use of technologies which exist for the sole purpose of ensuring the effective - and sometimes relentless - actualisation of labour power from workers, to the detriment of the understanding required to develop new struggles on the terrain of work and technology.

This paper will present empirical findings from interviews I have conducted with workers in the British distribution sector, using Italian autonomism’s conceptual framing of ‘class composition’ to develop an understanding of how management technologies such as dashboards, wearables and tracking devices exist within workplaces as sites of class conflict and contestation. In doing so I will explain how these technological innovations come to represent the collective interests of management while variously responding to, subverting and/or stimulating the political forms and expressions available for furthering workers’ individual and collective interests.

The change of working time regime and the role of the trade union: some evidences from China’s manufacture industry

Wei Zhao

Beijing Normal University, China, People's Republic of

As a concept of sociology, time sociology is an important dimension and method of contemporary social science research. The time’s sociality or the social time is a kind of expression of social relations and rights. The arrangement and convention of time are different in the different social field and life, as well as in specific social relationships and social organizations. They embody the different nature and condition of social rights and social welfare. The analyses and critical thinking of the social arrangement and regulation will result in the deeply understanding of social system and institutions from the perspective of sociology. Work and time have always been conflated and their relationship always socially constructed.

The research on time and also working time has not been paid much attention by China’s academy, especially in sociology field. Refer to the issue of working time, a few researches could be found in industrial relations and labour economy, and few studies investigate the dimensions of working time flexibility in recent years.

It is reported that Chinese workers have to work longest hours in the world. This article reviews the forming of the work time regime since the 1950s, especially after the 1990s. It analyses that although the perfect labor legislations about the work time, certain number of Chinese workers in manufacture industry have to work longer, harder and according to the management demand. Drawing the fieldwork in 4 manufacture sectors, it is argued that there is evidence of a move towards a ‘temporality’ model of working time, the limited role of the union and also the traditional and “new” culture of work time worse the “employer/management-led” the work time regime.

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