Thomas Haipeter

Institute for Work, Skills and Training, University of Duisburg-Essen

Gig work and crowdwork

New initiatives to regulate a new field of employment in a comparative perspective

Thomas Haipeter, Institute for Work, Skills and Training, University of Duisburg-Essen
Feliciano Iudicone, Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini

The development of gig work in the sense of physical services and crowdwork in the sense of digital – or ‘logged’ – labour, both organized and intermediated by platforms, seems to be one of the most disruptive effects of digitalisiation on the forms and structures of the employment relationship in developed capitalist economies. There are at least three reasons to be given in this respect. First, platform work is going along with a transformation of employment by changing the employment status into a status of self- or bogus self-employment. Second, it is contributing to a decomposition of cooperative relationships between workers in plants or factories and in this way to the decomposition of the plant as a legal entity, which in many countries is relevant for participation rights of employees and interest representatives. Third, finally, platform work is a factor of dismantling of national or industry based labour standards as platform workers usually are not covered by regulations of wages or working times or other working conditions.

In our presentation, we will try to describe the development of gig work and crowdwork and its effects on employment and the employment relationship by comparing the four country cases of France, Germany, Italy and Poland. The presentation will focus on the question if in these countries any initiatives have been developed to regulate gig and platform work or at least to support, mobilise or organise platform workers, either by the state or by unions or other forms of interest representation. The analysis is based on the findings of a comparative EU-project.

Workshop: Workers‘ participation at plant level – a European and global perspective

Organiser: Ludger Pries, Ruhr University Bochum

General theme

Most people in the world spend the greater part of their life at their workplace. Globalization brings employees and workers from all over the world closer together—through direct value chains or indirect competition. Considering the very different regions of the world of labor, there are great varieties of labor regulation and labor conditions. Therefore, it becomes increas-ingly important to develop an overview of the extent and mechanisms of workers’ participation at plant level. It is crucial to understand and analyze the conditions under which people around the world are able to participate in the day-to-day working process and strategic decision mak-ing of the companies that employ them. This is still a neglected topic in the area of industrial and labor relations that requires further research, especially from a global perspective. The ses-sion will be based on a comprehensive recent publication on the topic.

The session will focus on the analysis of the mechanisms and practice of workers’ participation in the definition, control and enforcement of their working and employment conditions as well as their participation in work-related and company-strategic decisions. It aims at comparing different formal regulations and practices of workers’ participation at the workplace level in a carefully chosen selection of country case studies, first at the European level and second at the international level. Some guiding questions are: Does workers’ participation hinder manage-ment flexibility and introduce rigidity in times of increasing needs of companies to cope with more volatile and changing economic environments? Or is workers’ participation not only an indispensable precondition for democracy in society but also a way of facilitating workers’ inte-gration, motivation and participation in production? Is legally regulated workers’ participation as standing in stark opposition to any direct, individual and practical participation in work pro-cesses? Or should strategies and mechanisms like ‘Innovative Human Resource Management Strategies’ not be seen as contradictory to formal ways of workers’ participation and collective representation at plant level? Is workers’ participation and collective representation by unions a contradiction to direct democracy and participation of individuals at the workplace? Or are mechanisms of collective representation by unions and by alternative mechanisms of direct and indirect participation at the workplace, plant and company levels not mutually exclusive but reinforcing? Are the specific cultural contexts and institutional traditions of workers’ participa-tion in the EU converging or diverging? What are the main functions of workers’ participation at plant level (e.g. channelling inter- and intra-group conflicts in the working area; giving workers a voice and especially protect weaker groups in a given plant; stabilizing the development of es-tablishments and companies, triggering long-term perspectives; increasing motivation and commitment of workers at the workplace level; harmonizing the conditions of competition by controlling the compliance of legal, legitimate, collective bargaining and tacit norms; controlling and delimiting economic power; combining economic efficiency with democracy in economic life).

Papers to be presented

Workers’ participation: Concepts and evidence for Europe

Thomas Haipeter, Institute for Work, Skills and Training, University of Duisburg-Essen

Mondragon: Cooperatives in global capitalism

Joseba Azkarraga, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)
George Cheney, University of Colorado

Workers’ participation in Czechia and Slovakia

Jan Drahokoupil, European Trade Union Institute (ETUI)
Marta Kahancová, Central European Labour Studies Institute (CELSI)

Workers‘ participation at plant level: France

Udo Rehfeldt, IRES

Workers’ participation at plant level: The case of Italy

Volker Telljohann, IRES Emilia-Romagna

Workers’ participation in Spain

Holm-Detlev Köhler, University of Oviedo

Workers’ participation at plant level in a global comparative perspective

Ludger Pries, Ruhr University Bochum

Transnational representation of workers’ interests in MNC and the problem of articulation

Thomas Haipeter, Institute for Work, Skills and Training, University of Duisburg-Essen

Transnational information and consultation has become an integral part of labour regulation in a number of multinational companies (MNC), driven by the EU directive on European Works Councils (EWC). Empirical studies have offered valuable and manifold insights into structures and practices of EWCs. However, many of these studies focused to a large extent on EWCs as a singular institution or as an independent (collective) actor or organization, while the complex interplay of different actors and institutional levels within MNCs – the way interests are articulated – was not systematically taken into account. The perspective on EWC as single actors, however, does not seem to be sufficient to understand the way interests and identities are constructed and shaped – if at all – on the transnational level. Especially it does not explain how information, definitions and resources flow between the different levels and institutions of interest representation, for instance works councils, comités d’établissement, délégués du personnel or shop stewards at the local level, comités central d’entreprise/comités de groupe, central or group works councils and board-level employee representation at the national company level. The picture is even getting more complex if the trade unions, local unions, national unions as well as European and Global Union Federations are taken into account as well.

Against this backdrop, we will try to widen the perspective and to analyse the processes of articulation that are developing between these different institutions and levels of interest representation in processes of restructuring and whipsawing within MNC. Our analysis is based on case studies in ten MNC we made in the context of a research project funded by the German Research Foundation. The case studies are based on semi-structured interviews with EWC members, employee and union representatives at the national and local level in at least three countries within each of the MNC. We will develop a typology of patterns of articulation of interest representation and show why and in what respect the cases differ, what the conditions for higher levels of articulation are, why actors from local and national levels get involved in transnational collective action and if and in how far they benefit from transnational interest representation on the local and national levels.      


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