Lisa Dorigatti

University of Milan

Passion and interests

Industrial relations in the videogame industry in Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands The role of private regulation and non-state actors in the enforcement of collective labour agreements. An example from the Netherlands

Lisa Dorigatti, University of Milan
Wike M. Been, University of Amsterdam
Luigi Burroni, University of Florence
Maarten Keune, University of Amsterdam
Trine P. Larsen, FAOS, University of Copenhagen
Mikkel Mailand, FAOS, University of Copenhagen

The literature on creative labour and its characteristics has been booming over the last two decades, starting from pioneering work in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These works widely acknowledged a number of common characteristics shared by creative labour in different creative industries and marked by the trait of ambiguity. The videogame industry was until recently largely overlooked by this literature, but recent contributions have started to explore this sector. Still, while the characteristics of work in videogame production have started being analyzed, much less work has been done concerning the role of industrial relations institutions and actors in shaping employment and representing the interests of the sector's workforce. IR in creative industries, project-based work helps explaining the lack of IR in creative industries.

This paper addresses this research gap by looking at interest representation in the videogame industry in three different national contexts, Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands. Based on more than 50 in-depth interviews with trade unionists, officials of business and employer associations and of professional organizations, and individual workers and managers within different kind of companies active in the industry, it explores the role of traditional industrial relations actors (trade unions and employer associations) and of new forms of interest representation in articulating the collective voice of different workers and companies in the videogame sector. In particular, we will highlight two key elements. First, traditional IR actors and traditional IR practices, such as collective bargaining, play a rather marginal role in representing workers and companies, and in regulating employment in the sector. Second, the dominant interest representation actors in the sector are business or professional organisations, and informal networks, which often cut across the employer-employee divide and represent the interest of the industry as a whole, focusing in particular on services and lobbying activities for its growth and success. Even if some differences are visible, this situation is present in all three analyzed countries, despite the strong variation in their IR models.

We argue that this situation can be largely explained by the characteristics of employment in the vide-ogame sector. In particular, the high mobility which characterize the industry, with people frequently moving across different employment statuses (employee, employer, self-employed), the strong im-portance of intrinsic motivations, and the differentiated degrees of vulnerability of different groups of workers in the industry, all contribute to distance the industry from the collective identities of tradi-tional social partners and to strengthen the appeals to occupational identities which accomunate the whole industries developed by professional and business organizations.

These findings contribute both to the industrial relations literature and the literature on creative labor. First, this paper provides new empirical material on employment relations and collective action in a new segment of the economy, highlighting the tensions and challenges traditional IR institutions face in changing economic environments. Second, our analysis corroborates recent calls for questioning the “methodological nationalism” of traditional comparative industrial relations literature, highlighting the importance of sectoral characteristics and dynamics in shaping employment relations processes. Lastly, this paper provides an important contribution to the literature on creative labour, by exploring the rather unexplored issue of interest representation in creative sectors and how they relate to sector-specific characteristics. In so doing, it takes up recent calls in the literature for more detailed empirical studies which go beyond a homogenizing view of creative labour and places strong attention to sectoral specificities.

World class involvement

Workers’ participation in a 4.0 lean production system

Lisa Dorigatti, University of Milan
Matteo Rinaldini, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia

Similarly to the former debate on Lean Production (LP) and High Performance Work Practices (HPWP), the current discussion on Industry 4.0 is characterized by two contrasting stances. On the one hand, some scholars tend to assume that, notwithstanding the possibly negative effects on the number of jobs (see, for example, Frey and Osborne 2013), the introduction of new technologies and the new organizational models connected with them might produce opportunities for job enrichment, the diffusion of participatory systems, the increase of the cognitive contribution of workers and the reduction of hierarchical levels (Agolla, 2018, Buer et al. 2018, Sony, 2018) On the other hand, some literature identifies the risk that the new organizational processes enabled by these new technologies might generate greater standardization, intensification of work and more pervasive mechanisms of control by the management (Butollo et al. 2018, Degryse 2016).

Based on the analysis of over 160 semi-structured interviews with workers employed in FCA, CNH and Magneti Marelli Italian plants, this contribution wants to contribute to this debate by focusing on the mechanisms of workers’ involvement adopted within the framework of the World Class Manufacturing system adopted since the late 2000s and the changes in the hierarchical structures at shop floor level this system foresees. Despite the corporate rhetoric on workers’ involvement and their cognitive contribution, workers’ interviews brings to light a critical picture in terms of worker’s participation, considered as ritualistic, and work intensification, and a tendency to consider recent technological and organizational transformations more as a source of stress, than of enrichment. Finally, the interviews show how the new organizational articulations based on the centrality of the figure of the Team Leader do not seem to correspond to a process of de-hierarchization, but rather to a reorganization of the hierarchical structure and a change of the corporate system of coordination and control.

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