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New Forms and Expressions of Conflict at Work

Also by Gregor Gall
THE MEANING OF MILITANCY? Postal Workers and Industrial Relations
Rights and Representation
Telecommunications Union and its Principal Predecessors
AN AGENCY OF THEIR OWN: Sex Worker Union Organising
UNION ORGANISING: Campaigning for Trade Union Recognition
UNION RECOGNITION: Organising and Bargaining Outcomes
Contribution of ‘Union Organising’

New Forms and Expressions
of Conflict at Work
Edited by

Gregor Gall
University of Bradford, UK

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Concepts and Propositions 1 Gregor Gall 2 Conflict and Contestation in the Contemporary World of Work: Theory and Perspectives 7 Jacques Bélanger and Paul Edwards 3 A Theory of Workplace Conflict Development: From Grievances to Strikes 26 Robert Hebdon and Sung Chul Noh 4 A Working Death? Contesting Life Itself in the Bio-Political Organization 48 Peter Fleming 5 The Re-Emergence of Workplace-Based Organization as the New Expression of Conflict in Argentina 66 Maurizio Atzeni and Pablo Ghigliani 6 The Collective Expression of Workplace Grievances in Britain 86 Gregor Gall and Sheila Cohen 7 New Dynamics of Industrial Conflicts in China: Causes. Expressions and Resolution Alternatives 108 Fang Lee Cooke 8 Egyptian Workers Rediscover the Strike 130 Anne Alexander 9 Direct Action in France: A New Phase in Labour–Capital Conflict 152 Sylvie Contrepois 10 Violent Industrial Protest in Indonesia: Cultural Phenomenon or Legacy of an Authoritarian Past? 171 Michele Ford vii .Contents List of Figures and Tables ix Notes on Contributors xi 1 Introduction – Themes.

viii Contents 11 Conflicts at Work in Poland’s New Capitalism: Worker Resistance in a Flexible Work Regime 191 Adam Mrozowicki and Małgorzata Maciejewska 12 Minjung Tactics in a Post-Minjung Era? The Survival of Self-Immolation and Traumatic Forms of Labour Protest in South Korea 212 Jamie Doucette 13 Striking Out in America: Is There an Alternative to the Strike? 233 Kim Moody Index 253 .

5 Incidences of industrial action short of a strike.4 Incidences of industrial action short of a strike.8 Balloting incidences and outcomes 99 6.1 Strike activity.7 Trade Union Trends surveys – industrial action by status 97 6.2 Industrial action activity. 2002–10 101 6.6 Overall relationship among three forms of workplace conflict 42 3.10 Balloting and threat of balloting. 1980–2004 92 6.1 Labour disputes and resolutions.1 Strikes and all forms of workers’ collective action. 1981–2010 90 6.2 Forms of conflict expressions adopted by workers 113 ix . 2004–8 144 Tables 6. 2000–10 93 6.List of Figures and Tables Figures 3. 1995–2000 92 6.1 Two dimensions of workplace conflict 31 3.2 A process model of conflict development 38 3.7 Union and non-union job actions 43 3.3 Relationship between grievance and quit rate 41 3.8 Slowdowns – union and non-union 43 8.4 Relationship between grievance/quit rate and job action 41 3.5 Relationship between job action and strike 42 3. 2007–9 110 7. 1994–2004 93 6.3 Incidence of overtime bans.6 Unofficial strikes in Britain 1990–2010 96 6. 1996–2004 101 6.9 Ballots for strikes and industrial action.11 Collective disputes received by ACAS 103 7.

2 Strike threats.x List of Figures and Tables 8. 1990–2003 173 11. 2004–11 145 10.1 Numbers of episodes of workers’ collective action. 1996. density. strikes.1 Collective violence in fourteen Indonesian provinces. threats of replacements.1 Strikes in Poland. use of replacements in collective bargaining. and duration 235 13. and 2003 (union answers) 239 . 1990–2011 194 12. 1999.1 Monetary amounts of pending damage claims and provisional seizure of assets 226 13. strikes.1 Average annual private sector union membership.

Her main publications are Ramparts of Resistance: Why Workers Lost Their Power and How to Get It Back (2006) and The Everlasting Staircase: A History of the Prison Officers’ Association (co-author. University of Hertfordshire. 2009). She is currently working on a history of the main trade union branch at Ford’s Dagenham and a theoretical overview of trade unionism titled ‘A Minority Movement…?’ She has also published in Labor History and Capital and Class and contributed to a number of edited collections on xi . have appeared in industrial relations and sociological journals. His research has focused on workplace relations and. He has published widely on the issues of labour unionism in Argentina. Jacques Bélanger is a Professor in the Département des Relations Indus- trielles at Université Laval. including the British Journal of Industrial Relations. He is currently involved in an EU-sponsored project on workers’ organization and collective action among informal workers in Buenos Aires. on the evolution of employment relations. Her current research focuses on the role of the workers’ movement in the Arab revolutions and the use of digital media by activists in move- ments for social and political change. in Quebec City. The results of his field studies. His current research focuses on service work and its implications on the theoretical foundations of the field of study of employment relations. on mobilization theory and collective action and on workers’ self-management. Revue Française de Sociologie and Sociologie du Travail. more generally. Maurizio Atzeni is Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Loughborough and at the Conicet’s Centro de Investigaciones Laborales (CEIL) based in Buenos Aires. where she has taught on related topics. often within multinational firms.Notes on Contributors Anne Alexander is Buckley Fellow at the Centre for Research in the Arts. Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Cambridge. Her recent publications include a number of chapters in anthologies and articles in Work. Sheila Cohen is a Senior Research Fellow at the Work and Research Unit (WERU). Employment and Society and the Journal of North African Studies. He is co-director of the Centre de Recherche Interuniversitaire sur la Mondialisation et le Travail (CRIMT).

Sylvie Contrepois is a Reader at London Metropolitan University’s Working Lives Research Institute. Monash University. she published her PhD on the practices and strategies of French unions. She is the author of HRM. Chinese outward FDI and employment of Chinese migrants. University of Birmingham. with a specific focus on labour and financial markets. Journal of Contem- porary Asia. He has been a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo and a visiting researcher at the Democracy and Social Movements Institute at Sungkonghoe University. Enquête au Coeur d’un Bassin Industriel’. she was a Full Professor at the University of Manchester. She is also the author of numerous pamphlets and magazine articles on labour unionism. Her research interests are in the area of employment relations. Competition. Previously. She is a specialist in French industrial relations. Faculty of Business and Economics. Her research is based in France. He is the editor of Industrial Relations: Theory and Practice (1995. titled ‘Syndicats. diversity management. outsourcing. In 2003.xii Notes on Contributors unions. Paul Edwards is Professor of Employment Relations in the Business School. The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus and in the book Missing Links in Labour Geography amongst others. Fang Lee Cooke is Professor of Human Resource Management and Chinese Studies at the Department of Management. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Human Relations. . Jamie Doucette holds a PhD in Human Geography and was a researcher in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia before taking up a lectureship at the University of Manchester. 2003) and co-author of The Politics of Working Life (2005). Strategy and Management in China (2008) and Human Resource Management in China: New Trends and Practices (2012). His primary research interests are concerned with understanding how Korean social movements have contested the economic institutions associated with export-oriented East Asian economic development. knowledge management and innovation. Seoul. where she is a member of the CRESPPA-GTM CNRS Institute in Paris. Fang has published over one hundred book chapters and refereed journal articles. She recently co-edited Globalizing Employment Relations: Multinational Firms and Central and Eastern Europe Transitions (2010) and Changing Work and Community Identities (2012). Current research interests include employment relations in migrant and ethnic minority businesses. la Nouvelle Donne. His work has appeared in the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. Work and Employment in China (2005). strategic HRM. gender studies.

Pablo Ghigliani is a full-time Researcher at the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET). The End of Corporate Social Responsibility (2012) and Dead Man Working (2012). His latest books are Tommy Sheridan – from hero to zero? A political biography (Welsh Academic Press. member of the Instituto de Investigaciones en Humanidades y Ciencias Sociales (IdIHCS) and Professor of Social History at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata. He also researches corporate cor- ruption and the social dynamics that characterize it. He is the author of The Politics of Privatisation and Trade Union Mobilisation: The Electricity Industry in the UK and Argentina (2010). He is author a number of books. challenges and possibilities (Palgrave). He was previously Research Professor of Industrial Relations and Director of the Work and Employment Research Unit at the University of Hertfordshire. Men and Masculinities in Southeast Asia (2012) and Labour Migration and Trafficking in Southeast Asia: Critical Perspectives (2012). Another area of interest is the cultural politics of work organizations. and co-editor of Women and Work in Indonesia (2008). Notes on Contributors xiii Peter Fleming is Professor of Work and Society at Queen Mary College. including Contesting the Corporation (2007). dynamics. Women and Labour Organizing in Asia: Diversity. Her research focuses on the Indonesian labour movement and organized labour’s responses to temporary labour migration in East and Southeast Asia. Autonomy and Activism (2008). Michele Ford is Director of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre and Associate Professor in the Department of Indonesian Studies at the University of Sydney. 2013) and the author of the forthcoming Sex worker unionisation: global developments. . Along with Tony Dundon. Gregor Gall is Professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Bradford. editor of Social Activism in Southeast Asia (2012). Indonesia Beyond the Water’s Edge: Managing an Archipelagic State (2009). unions and the social history of the Argentinean working class. trajectories and outcomes (Palgrave. Argentina. he is editor of Global Anti-unionism: nature. 2012). His research focuses on the political economy of corporations and the relations of power that underlie them. University of London. His main areas of research are labour relations. 2012) and An Agency of their Own: sex worker union organising (Zero. Trade Unions and the Indonesian Labour Movement (2009). and the modes of ideological control that operate to enlist the participation of labour. She is the author of Workers and Intellectuals: NGOs. One line of investigation explores the way in which conflict and resistance constitutes the formal corporate form currently dominating Western economies.

the Institute of Public Affairs (ISP. He is author of US Labor in Trouble and Transition (2007). Work. American Economic Review. Poland. From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City. Poland). European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO) and the Central European Labour Studies Institute (CELSI. McGill University. University of Wrocław. He has published in the European Journal of Industrial Relations. Adam Mrozowicki is an Assistant Professor (adiunkt) at the Institute of Sociology. Employment and Society. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. He defended his PhD thesis at the Centre for Sociological Research at the Catholic University of Leuven in 2009. Małgorzata Maciejewska is a PhD student at the Institute of Sociology. He is also Chair of the Faculty Program in Industrial Relations in the Faculty of Arts. Slovakia). He was awarded a scholarship by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education for 2011–13. Industrial Relations. His current research interest is in the relationship of technological change and work reorganization to trade union growth. Advances in Industrial and Labor Relations. Wroclaw University. Poland. She has published in the Feminist Think Tank On-line Library.xiv Notes on Contributors Robert Hebdon is a Professor in the Desautels Faculty of Management. 1974 to the Present (2007) and of recent articles published in the British Journal of Industrial Relations and Capital & Class. His main research interests include comparative labour relations and trade union revitalization in Eastern Europe. Faculty of Social Sciences. His current research interest is in exploring grievance procedures in non-union contexts and their conse- quences in workplace conflict. He has published widely in these fields in Industrial and Labor Relations Review. Her research interests include gendered labour regimes. He collaborates with the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI). McGill University. Relations Industrielles. His most recent book is Coping with Social Change: Life Strategies of Workers in Poland’s New Capitalism (2011). His main research interests are in the areas of workplace conflict and privatization. Journal of Environment and Planning C – Local Government and Policy and Local Government Studies. Sung Chul Noh is a doctoral candidate at the Desautels Faculty of Management. University of Hertfordshire. the care economy and wel- fare state restructuring and foreign direct investment in Poland. EMECON and Economic and Industrial Democracy. Kim Moody is Senior Research Fellow at the Work and Employment Research Unit. .

it also seemed paradoxically that workers in the developed economies of the global north were not engaging in the kind of innovations in (other) forms of tactics and weapons of collective conflict expression that might have been expected given the decline in strikes. services and information. there seems to be a gap in the qualitative dimension. distribution and exchange of goods. there continues to be a manifest quantitative dimension to the expression of conflict. The importance of emotional and aesthetic labour may be regarded as having provided a new foundation upon which worker resistance could rest – such as the smile strike. Similarly. These notions 1 . and given the decline of the old ways. whereby new ways of organising work and employment under capitalism do not appear to be bringing forth new ways of workers making conflict.1 Introduction – Themes. In this sense. many of the old ways of making conflict by workers persist. Concepts and Propositions Gregor Gall This collection of chapters on new forms and expressions of conflict at work came about as a result of an intermittent series of thoughts about. on the other hand. where the use of information technology is now central to the production. The most obvious sectors this pertained to were those of private services where emotional and aesthetic labour have become paramount and. Yet at the same time. Continually. the cen- trality of information technology may be considered as provided a basis for the acting out of cyber-wars against employers. if not a return to old- fashioned forms of sabotage. And so it seems. reflections upon and responses to reports in the popular and specialist media and discussions during teaching transnational employ- ment relations. it seemed – if only on an anecdotal and sporadic basis – that forms of conflict about work and employment in and around the workplace were recurring and re-occurring. on the one hand. But. and most obviously with regard to the strike and its appar- ently declining usage. more generally.

Various implicit propositions underlie many of the chapters. continuity of difference and diver- gence are also possible and probable. This should not come as particu- larly surprising or shocking for the reason that not only is capitalism not a new system of organising economy and society. The second is that as capitalism is now a more globalised system of organising society than ever before. while a tendency towards convergence of forms of labour conflict may be apparent. different countries and regions may retain something of their own particularities. In this sense. The first is that in examining ‘new’ forms of conflict at work within and under capitalism. Collectively then. specificities and idiosyncrasies by virtue of varying political and legal cultures and structures. This is premised on the desire . Consequently. we may view forms of conflict as new in that they have been a) used by particular groups of workers for the first time in one particular part of the world. the forms are re-occurring phenomena but now on a global scale. then it is likely – with the fundamental source of antagonism in work remain- ing under capitalism – that the organising locus moves to outside the workplace and into areas of public space. The fourth is that. Consequently. method adaptation and method innovation permeated the aforementioned thoughts and discussions. The third is that some minor innovation within existing forms should be anticipated for the way in which capital has globalised itself.2 Introduction of method displacement. because capitalism has not – for a number of reasons – become truly standardised and uniform in the way it operates on this ever more global scale. This would be to anticipate new spatial and temporal dimensions of labour conflict rather than new forms of labour conflict per se. there is likely to be little that is fundamentally new in the sense of never before having occurred. the prospect exists that forms of conflict at work over the terms of wage labour may be variations and replications of already well- established themes. but the very con- tinuation of this socio-economic system (despite periods of war. and b) rediscovered by dif- ferent groups of workers for the first time in a long time. The final implicit proposition is that if workers’ collective power in the workplace has waned. revolu- tion and depression) is likely to give rise to a continuity of responses from wage-labourers in the forms of conflict at work. and the way it organises and re-organises itself – sometimes in response to challenges from labour – may find its match in the way labour organises itself and responds to capital. the initiative was taken to provide an extended consideration of some of these issues by drawing upon the work and understanding of a number of academics. and these will impact upon and influence forms of labour conflict.

What may make forms and expressions look ‘new’ is the context. The spate of bossnappings in France. The prevalence of the general strike as a form of generalised political – rather than economic – action which may or may not directly concern matters of work and employ- ment dates back to its first use by the Chartists in Britain in 1842. Gregor Gall 3 to avoid de facto acquiescence in the terms of exploitation by finding a more external means of contesting them. way and frequency in which they are used as well as the way in which workers use them. Similarly. often militant means being used for moderate ends (see Kelly 1996) where the militancy of the modus operandi takes centre stage and compels wider interest. the few cases of such action in recent times would seem to be radical innovations (particularly given their usage as part of alli- ances with members of the travelling public against austerity measures). nor has it evolved into something more potent like a community of work-ins acting as cooperatives. varying political cultures impact upon forms of conflict. we can begin to understand why such various aforementioned actions are. All the five propositions are articulated deliberately as propositions – and not hypotheses – not only because they underlie the chapters rather than exist as being established to then be consciously tested in search of a null hypothesis or not. Without knowl- edge of that. in effect. workplace occupations are far from being new. It suggests that genuine innovation as per the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ work-in of 1971–1972 or the Lip clock factory work-in in France from 1973–1974 and 1976–1977 is rare – and the instance of the work-in has very seldom been repeated in the global north despite its potential purchase. nor to develop alternatives to it. but because the data to test them does not often exist (and cannot be cre- ated to do so). Thus. Put together. however. variations take place on already established themes. A number of examples highlight this. minor innova- tion takes place within existing forms. Since . In this sense. Indeed. the first modern occupation or ‘sit-down’ strike was recorded in 1906 at General Electric in the United States followed by usage in the 1930s in the same country and elsewhere in Italy (1919–1921) and Spain (1936). There is anecdotal evidence that workers have not sought to reinvent the wheel of collectively withdrawing their willingness to work. we are locked into both ‘back to the future’ and ‘forward to the past’. These propositions can be summarised thus – little is fundamentally new. does appear to have a more recent genesis. and extra-workplace conflict may be a new locus. one of the first recorded uses of transport workers working but not collecting fares as a form of industrial action took place in the United States in the early part of the twentieth century.

Peter Fleming then provides a thought-provoking essay on workers’ responses to the ever more encompassing and ensnaring experience of capitalist work and employment. for the presence or absence of phenomenon warrant explanation. integrated and compre- hensive manner. and in western Europe its usage has increased in recent years (Gall 2013). Jacques Bélanger and Paul Edwards begin the collection by discussing the wider meaning of conflict at work as a phenomenon of contestation of the will and power of capital in the employment relationship. These first three . Robert Hebdon and Sung Chul Noh review the extant literature on conflict at work theory in order to advance our understanding in a more rounded. it has been used in a diverse array of countries of the global north and south. and with alternatives to work outside capitalism as within it. Yet the deployment of the general strike seventeen times in Greece in a mere two years (2010 and 2011) may suggest that it is not the knockout blow that it might have been thought to be. This does not seem to be wholly dependent upon such actions being discontinuous. distribution and exchange remain necessarily highly integrated under globalised capitalism – and in horizontal and vertical as well as spatial and temporal ways – but that these systems are now also more fragile than ever before. as well as the extent of the contracting out and outsourcing of activities so that individual companies provide key serv- ices to many other companies. it seems the absence of a revival or re-appearance of widespread sabotage has become increas- ingly noticeable. The strike by Ford workers in Britain in 1988 – which brought Ford produc- tion in other parts of Europe to a halt as a result of a just-in-time supply chain – does not seem to have become a template for others. rather than being continuous. Whatever the case. They then seek to deploy this in order to understand the relationship between different forms or methods of conflict making. Following on from this. this provides the potential lever for workers to not so much develop new tools as finesse old ones. and given that production.4 Introduction then. But the opportunities afforded by lean and just-in-time supply chain systems. Turning to the chapters themselves. with the centrality of information technology. laying particular emphasis on a processual perspective. that is taken for one or two days. They then move to chart some of the issues that others examine in more depth and in particular contexts later in the collection. Moreover. the situation demands that the salient questions are asked and investigated in order to generate analysis of what has happened and why. This may be taken to suggest that the very rationale of this collection is ill-founded. He is not concerned as much with flight as fight. However. do not appear to be being taken up.

but its distinctive spatial and temporal dimensions are very much related to changes in Egyptian society (see also Totonchi 2011).and issue-specific examinations. After this. Michele Ford explains that the use of different forms of violence by workers. Sylvie Contrepois then presents a historical analysis of contemporary industrial conflicts in France in order to explain how and why these contemporary conflicts can be characterised as ‘radical’ compared with past struggles. Next. Adam Mrozowicki and Małgorzata Maciejewska examine the resistance to the control of capital at the ‘bottom end’ of the labour market in Poland. especially the riot. where a burgeoning stratum of workers perform their labour under conditions of insecure employment and intensified work regimes. the particular trajectory has common elements to those found elsewhere. In her study of Indonesia. In a situation where state ideology (and consequent legal regulation) did not envisage the need for – nor permit – the right to strike or independent forms of collec- tive organisation (Au and Bai 2010). Following this. contours and dynamics of the use of self-immolation and suicide in South Korea as a tool in the struggle for . paucity of rights and under-developed institutionalisation. Maurizio Atzeni and Pablo Ghigliani document and explain how workplace assemblies and delegate com- mittees have emerged in recent years as alternatives to the established unions. In their chapter. and it is these grassroots bodies which are the main protago- nists in the taking of collective industrial action. Gregor Gall 5 chapters form a foundation for a number of country. Jamie Doucette examines the origins. Although of a relatively modest depth and extent. Gregor Gall and Sheila Cohen show that in Britain. high levels of labour exploitation. the forms of resistance have been varied and stratified along a number of axes. In their chapter on Argentina. Anne Alexander demonstrates that the rediscovery of the strike in Egypt has its roots in the wider political economy of the restructuring of capital and state. In her chapter. the mes- sage emerging is that resistance is possible and not futile. Fang Lee Cooke surveys and analyses the emerging forms of conflict at work in China. and notwithstanding the limitations of available data. Again. closed down or limited. there is little evidence to suggest that a displacement effect has taken place as the strike weapon has receded in frequency and not been replaced by other collective means of seeking to express and resolve collective grievances. The corollary has been that workers are relatively open to the use of forms of political protest and activity (see Lane 2010) because certain avenues have been shut off. reflects a particular dynamic combination of tradition of protest. and often quite radical action at that.

77–109. 13/4: 481–505. What remains to be explored across a wider terrain and in more probing depth is the significance of these insights across the contexts of time and space. The collection offers substantive. he returns to the issues of which contextual situations might see the renewal and arising of the strike weapon again. . Totonchi. Finally. Hence. (forthcoming) ‘Labour quiescence continued? Recent strike activity in Western Europe’ Economic and Industrial Democracy. Ackers. Kelly. Kim Moody examines why. E. Gall. (1996) ‘Union militancy and social partnership’ in P. G. (2010) ‘Indonesia and the fall of Suharto: proletarian politics in the ‘planet of slums’ era’ WorkingUSA: a journal of labor and society. and future of free trade unions in Egypt’ WorkingUSA: A Journal of Labor and Society. J. Alongside other tactics like occupation. but much else of this cannot be carried out until policy-makers and research funders discontinue their view that workers making conflict is dysfunctional. 13/2: 185–200. the suicide tactic reflects much that is particular about South Korean society. (2011) ‘Laboring a democratic spring: the past. Smith (eds) The New Workplace and Trade Unionism: critical perspectives on work and organisation. R. Routledge. pp. C. present. M. 1989–2009’ WorkingUSA: A Journal of Labor and Society. Some of this cannot be done until more time has elapsed in as much as the benefit of hindsight is required. and Bai. References Au. Lane. Smith and P. illegitimate and counter-productive.6 Introduction social justice in the workplace. sometimes theoretical. 14/3: 259–83. insights into many of the salient issues about the contemporary nature of the forms and expressions of how workers ‘make conflict’ – or return the gesture – in the prosecution of their collective interests at work. (2010) ‘Contemporary labor resistance in China. the strike weapon has experienced such considerable decline but has still not been trumped by other alternatives or substitutes. in the United States. L-Y. London.

elaboration and justification. it sug- gests one way to think about changing patterns of contestation. enemies. and our purpose here is not to rehearse the- ory on the former. rather. other holders of power. namely. when. it looks at another idea. is to lay out some themes in the understanding of conflict in its concrete sense and to suggest ways of tracing it back to more fundamental principles. underlying antagonisms or clashes of interests. Finally. antagonism and resistance Tilly (2004: ix) defined contestation as ‘how. This chapter performs five tasks. Second. This edited collection addresses primarily the latter. we use the word contestation. 7 . that of shifts geographically and how we might think of these shifts in terms of the strategies of key actors. where and why ordi- nary people make collective claims on public authorities. The word ‘conflict’ has two distinct senses.2 Conflict and Contestation in the Contemporary World of Work: Theory and Perspectives Jacques Bélanger and Paul Edwards Introduction The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the meaning of ‘conflict’ together with some tools of analysis. it illustrates these influences through the example of call centres. it turns to the level of the workplace to consider some of the causal influences on patterns of con- test. the idea that it can have alternative forms. it defines the focus in terms of contestation. The aim. Fourth. Contestation. First. and concrete actions such as strikes. competitors. Tying these themes together is the idea of locating contestation in underlying causal processes within the organization of work. though we do need to make one fundamental point (in the first section below). We follow this definition with delimitation. Third. and objects of popular disapproval’. namely. To underline the focus on the concrete.

It is true that resistance can be found in many places. This edited collection. rehearsed in many places (e. As to what to study. This allows us to ground contestation in a view of what that contestation is about. Claims are most likely to be directed to employers. The term a ‘structured antago- nism’ is often used to capture this idea. rather than all areas in which subordinate groups can make claims on the powerful. The relation can be ‘privileged’ because of its distinct properties. tattooing. This is to replace analysis with assertion. something that the observer chose to identify as resistance was elevated into a high-minded political action. Second. he went on. protests in several countries against public pension reform would be an instance. For Gabriel (2008: 319). Thompson and Smith 2009). The more sensible question that informs this edited collection is what strategies employers and workers use to manage the antagonism and why contestation takes particular forms in particular times and places. action may be directed against it. Moreover. where the state plays a role in the terms of employment. Dick 2008). and sometimes traced back to its origin (Edwards 1986: 5). and it is aware of the complex issues involved in inferring political and other motivations from some concrete form of behaviour. the terms on which work effort is exchanged for pay and other rewards. Their grounds for this are that ‘resistance’. But the fact of its existence has two crucial implica- tions. but the employment relation is distinct because antagonism is inscribed into it. it makes no sense to ask whether conflict has disappeared. occurs in many spheres and not just this relation. women’s fashions. for it necessarily underpins the organization of employment relation- ships. has a grounded view of what contestation is. However. dirty jokes and rock videos’. The anthropologist Michael Brown (1996: 729) complained about the use of the term resistance: almost anything had come to be included as a form of ‘cultural resistance’ including ‘cross-dressing. some scholars like to argue against what they see as a privileging of the capital–labour relation (e. ‘modernist forms .8 Conflict and Contestation in the Contemporary World of Work The delimitation is that we are interested in the employment relation- ship. thus. Contestation can be observed in many areas of social life. This brings us to the justification.g. as they term it. We are not concerned here with why such antagonism exists. There is. is that conflict in the sense of an organizing principle underlies the employment relationship. First. some scholars of resistance pursue the point about privileging some actions.g. namely. The elaboration makes the fundamental point highlighted above. no defini- tional focus. which is a second reason for privileging the employment relationship. so what makes the employment relationship distinctive? The answer. by con- trast.

But we need to think in more nuanced ways than Gabriel’s approach permits. Like some other scholars. Jacques Bélanger and Paul Edwards 9 of work resistance’ such as strikes have declined. But this is to neglect the fact that whistle-blowing often reflects super-conformity. and new forms of work simultaneously offer benefits for and new challenges to workers. there is no evidence that quit rates have risen or that quitting is being used to signal resistance. This reflects. ideology and the supervisory gaze. commitment and quality’. for example. as though all workers in the past were ‘class warriors’. which is not based on any specific detailed research on organi- zations and which presumes a very direct linkage between this image as a macro phenomenon and micro level forms of behaviour. Consider for example going absent from work. subvert. Controls on workers are imposed by processes includ- ing culture. Has quitting replaced strikes? Testing the idea has. van Buitenen’s (2000) account of his efforts to rem- edy financial malpractice in the European Union). b) a stark contrast between ‘modernism’ and something else. and exit is a key form of resistance (Gabriel 2008: 321). The key point is that workers do not simply counter managerial calls for commitment: work- ers can be committed to some aspects of the job while being unhappy about others. proved difficult. trapped while having an illusion of choice. in fact. Gabriel is excited by whistle-blowing as a form of resistance to organizational expectations. and d) a neglect of variation and multiple patterns. in part because some forms of action are necessarily hard to measure but also for more fundamental conceptual reasons. however. or dis- regard managerial calls for flexibility. he argues. with the ‘resistance’ being against perceived deviation from correct practice (see. which is often seen as . Alternative forms One approach is to consider the different forms in which contestation can occur. an effort to get organizations to run as they are supposed to run. a change in the nature of the organization from an iron to a glass cage in which people are. Several features of this are questionable: a) the generation of an image of a wholesale shift from iron to glass cage. This collection’s interest in new forms of conflict means that it is sensitive to the possibilities of non-strike actions. c) assertion in place of evidence. to be replaced by a ‘bewildering range of [worker] responses that qualify. namely.

It made sense to compare its rates with strike rates but not necessarily elsewhere. and it is like an iceberg if one form. In other words. absence levels generally fell while strikes increased and then declined (Turnbull and Sapsford 1992) and that these patterns related to the organization of work. It is something amenable to measurement. to mobilize. for it does not assume a mechanical link at the level of these particular phenomena but instead looks at the causal mechanisms generating strikes and absence and the ways in which these are related. Mechanization. such as strikes. which may mean that there is no such inverse association. Its method for doing so is subtle. through unions. studies of lean production have documented very tight managerial control regimes that constrain both strikes and absence (Delbridge 1998). It ‘may happen to be the case that absence and strike rates tend to be inversely related [but] such correlations do not explain why the two forms of behaviour might be alternatives’ (Edwards 1986: 261). tended to increase strikes and to reduce absence. And. when you squeeze at one point you get an expansion somewhere else. In particular. for further reasons connected to the social organization of the labour process which cannot be pursued here. in particular the ways in which the . this quasi-experiment is convincing precisely because it can hold other factors constant. Two very detailed studies help us to see what a ‘pattern of control’ means. over the period 1955–1988. This comes out strongly in Sapsford and Turnbull’s (1994) study of British docks. unlike in most other industries. Yet this shows only that when one particular route is directly closed off. what may be true cross-sectionally need not be true over time. This adopts the neat metaphor of balloons and icebergs: conflict is like a balloon if. indeed. For example. absence was. Yet Sapsford and Turnbull (1994) were at pains to stress that on the docks. a targeted action against management. acts as the tip of the iceberg representing other forms of conflict that move in the same way.10 Conflict and Contestation in the Contemporary World of Work the archetypical ‘individual’ form of action in contrast to strikes. It concludes that strikes and absence act as part of a balloon. their doing so depends on the fact that they have the means. for example. We need to consider the ‘pattern of control’ in a workplace. workers find other means to say things that they would oth- erwise say through that route. They also show that. They showed that rates of grievance arbitration were relatively high and argued that the use of arbitration may have been an alternative to strikes. Hebdon and Stern (1998) examined public sector workers in Ontario whose use of the strike was constrained by no-strike laws. But we cannot conclude that any wider link between forms of conflict is as simple. of course.

Consider a well-known study consistent with the balloons thesis – that of Turner et al. the right to protest is embedded in legal institutions. But the explanation is. This shows that at Ford managerial suppression of strikes was followed by a rise in quitting and absence. we mean the means to organize protest and also the fact that there are sources of discontent that call these means into play. This identifies three different kinds of workplace regime. (1967) in the car industry in Britain. waterfront work is not all the same. Jacques Bélanger and Paul Edwards 11 regulation of casual work on the docks changed. In other words. In the longer term. First. for example. He found differing relationships between collec- tive and individual action. In other conditions. By relevant mechanisms. there was the sense of militancy and the tradition of action that allowed other forms of conflict to be deployed. first. that worker organization was otherwise unchanged. And the subsequent history of the industry has been marked by a mas- sive decline in strike rates with certainly no increase and. such a relationship would be absent. patterns of conflict varied considerably (Turnbull and Sapsford 2001). in which the National Dock Labour Scheme was abolished and a new regime of managerial control was introduced (Turnbull and Sapsford 2001). a decrease in absence levels. Such contextual factors shape how collective and individual actions are connected. Studies of other forms of individual action reach complementary conclusions. This reflected the ways in which casual work was organized and regulated. second. that this was a very specific squeeze on part of the balloon and. If we reflect on trends of conflict in a sector like the docks several facts stand out. for example. strikes . conflict was removed from the system through mechanization and the drastic re-organization of the industry in 1989. Jefferys (2011). In short. A complementary take on this issue comes from a study at the level of the workplace (Roscigno and Hodson 2004). which he explained in terms of the national institutional regime of each country. These other conditions seem increasingly common. even in the pre-mechanization era when dock work was casualized in most countries and the image of the militant docker was a common one (as reflected of course in the celebrated and profoundly inaccurate image of the isolated mass). probably. studied strikes and the pursuit of grievances in labour courts in five European countries. when other things remain constant and when the relevant mechanisms are in place for shifting the expression of conflict from one form to another. In contentious workplaces. In France. the hypothesis of forms as substitutes holds. and the strikes–absence association in the UK may well not hold under other conditions.

though it is hard to test the idea given that several countries.12 Conflict and Contestation in the Contemporary World of Work and individual expressions of conflict go together. but the counting of them is . for the five years on which data are reported. These indicate an overall rise in unrest that peaked in the late 1940s followed by a decline. This includes all open protests and any of the more hidden ones that become widespread and collective (Silver 2003: 187–188). appears to have rates well below that of Britain. Not only have overall mentions of conflict gone down. but little organized resistance. South Africa and Mexico. The most substantial analysis of these arguments comes from Silver (2003) where she draws upon a database of mentions of labour unrest in two newspapers – a methodology with a long and established his- tory. one is that conflict has. The headline figures are in three charts showing global trends and trends in metropolitan and other countries over the period 1876–1996 (Silver 2003: 126–128). patterns of control matter. whether in the workplace or the labour market. they have mean figures. of 165 and 25 days ‘lost’ per 1000 workers over the period 1999–2008 (see <http://laborsta. report no data. Her focus is labour unrest. the average was 1041. There are two interpretations of these data. There is some evidence that strikes have moved from the advanced industrial nations to the developing countries. South Africa has a figure of 217 while in Argentina. Mexico. In unorganized workplaces. If we take Canada and Britain as examples of developed economies with high and average strike rates. and unionization promotes these activities. defined as resistance to being treated as a commodity. Has contestation moved elsewhere? A related view is that the balloon has been squeezed in a different way: overt contestation may have declined in advanced economies but risen in other countries. and also a shift towards the non-metropolitan countries. reflecting stress and work pressures. In short. Brazil and China for example. ilo. Strikes have not disappeared but nor have they simply shifted elsewhere – their dynamics in these countries are considered further below.>). But available data are indicative. while data on other countries are likely to be highly unreliable. there is an emphasis on individual resistance. declined. by contrast. in fact. there is little underlying management-worker conflict and here unionization has a negative associ- ation with indicators of contestation. More detailed analyses in the car industry show a very clear move in the location of conflict as the industry has moved to countries such as Brazil. Notwithstanding Silver’s best efforts. And in cohesive workplaces.

It is also. is that measured unrest is the result of two forces. Dribbusch and Vandaele (2007) note a general decline in strikes. And. State strategies are also important. These forces have tended to combine to reduce the desire to engage in strikes and the effectiveness of the action. one dominated by old industries and one by new. true that the strike is weapon of the industrial worker. For example. the ways in which this production is organized does not copy the conditions of the advanced countries. A study relying on official strike statistics in 15 countries helps to develop this point. Jacques Bélanger and Paul Edwards 13 not corrected for the size of the working population. A study of China drawing on Silver’s work helps to develop these ideas. which is Silver’s own though she does not put it in these terms. Lee (2007) looks at two contrasting regions. Their ability to do so depends on the extent to which this discontent is prevented from expression. and that the decline of mass manufacturing in advanced countries has reduced the population of such workers. In short. concrete events such as strikes reflect multiple causal influences. and social benefits act to contain industrial protest (Schaffeld 2007). of course. though relevant production has moved to other countries. state corporatism in Mexico creates strong links between government and the official unions. such as the size of the reserve army of labour in the latter country. These measures have meant that conflict has to a degree been suppressed. The degree of organized discontent shapes how much workers feel a desire to go on strike. which breaks down into two categories: repression. rather than its having disappeared with the decay of ‘modernity’. They also identify labour market conditions that limit the value of strikes. but its form reflects some very specific conditions. and it is argued that in comparative terms Chinese workers . Three analytical features of the study stand out. workers’ abilities to stage protests are considered. Silver stresses that the bargaining power of workers in industrializing countries – a key driver of the ability to supply organized discontent – is low. Workers in China are plainly not abandoning the idea of unrest and struggle. We can conclude with Silver that there has been a shift in the locale of labour unrest but that the extent of it depends on the balance between discontent and measures to control it. The other. First. and management and regulation. albeit with major upsurges around moves to democratization in such countries as Argentina and South Africa. The strike remains potentially important in newly industrializing countries. and finds evidence of mass protests in both despite the evident difficulties of mobilization. while they are also aware of the extent of repression. as discussed further below.

Several comparative lessons stand out. of promoting capital accumulation and securing legitimacy for the current order. and lim- ited competition between political elites. We might also expect other concrete forms at different places and times. namely. which stressed that states pursue two strategies which are necessarily in tension with each other. with the first and third falling under ‘legitimation’ and the second under ‘accumula- tion’. ‘government responsiveness to worker expectations’ and the nature of the economic development strategy adopted (Frenkel and Kuruvilla 2002: 388). this line of analy- sis connects with studies of the strategies of states in containing labour conflict. Comparing four developing countries. Second. but as long as they can be traced back to the fundamental two then Offe’s analysis holds. they explain variation in the use of these elements in terms of such things as union strength. in the production process. Subsequent studies have addressed the emerging legal regime in China. pointing to efforts to contain and regulate conflict by individualizing it through the granting of legal rights (Friedman and Lee 2010). protests of discrimina- tion can have the effect of reducing the more collective forms of action. we might say. The second is reflected in Lee’s focus on the structure of political elites. First. who was clearly very sensitive to language and highly localized identities while not forget- ting that these identities are expressions of material subordination and are deployed in bargaining about the terms of labour. Frenkel and Kuruvilla (2002) identify three elements of such strategies. Third. are the fundamental strategies. though this effect will depend on the nature of the wider regime govern- ing the expression of conflict (Jefferys 2011). workers express protest in varying terms including those of class. via skills. promoting competition and providing employment and income security. protests in the newly modernizing region of Guangdong are seen as ‘protests of discrimination’ in which workers use law suits to pursue legal rights. Lee’s analysis is clear that the languages are used within the context of the struggles arising from workers’ subordinate economic position – an analytical point also made by Silver and one that can be traced back to the work of Thompson (1991). Second. . These. Underlying these specific strategies. which in turn limits workers’ ability to exploit divisions within ruling groups. seeking industrial peace. followed by collective protests if the aims are not achieved. of which Frenkel and Kuruvilla’s three are particular concrete manifestations.14 Conflict and Contestation in the Contemporary World of Work lack resources in three respects: weak community-based forms of asso- ciation. The point of analysis in these terms is thus. limited leverage. we might go back to the celebrated work of Offe (1975). citizenship and sub- altern stratus.

and possibly in ways that are hard to contain. But they are to a degree orthogonal. Observed patterns have to be explained in light of the underlying dynamics. The wider analytical implication here is that changing pat- terns of contestation need to be understood in terms of the strategies of states. In the same way. Its author tended. accumulation and legitimation are not poles on a continuum. A good example is the success- ful social democratic regimes of Scandinavia. can be accounted for theoretically. In the case of China. 2004). and only two. at least in the negative sense of actively containing dissent and using rural workers as a reserve army of labour. The relations between accumulation and legitimation are necessarily in contradiction. A first step consists in establishing how different workplace regimes. but the two are not opposites. Second. The notion of ‘concerns’ is used instead of the usual notion of ‘interests’ to move away from any conception of a pre- determinate or pre-defined set of benefits or objectives on the part of labour or management. and workers and unions. For example. employers. or different patterns of contestation and cooperation. strate- gies driven by granting workers ‘responsible autonomy’ or subjecting them to direct control. (2006) and Bélanger and Edwards (2007)). to see the strategies as opposites (Friedman 1977. Structuring influences on patterns of contestation We now relate these macro-patterns to the level of the workplace by looking at influences on the organization of contestation (and through drawing upon Edwards et al. a welfare state stressing legitimation co-existed with active labour mar- ket policies aimed at accumulation (even though this apparent success came under challenge from the 1980s by employers fearing that accu- mulation and profitability were endangered under intensifying global competition). where up to the 1970s. a failure of legitimation can mean that overt conflict re-emerges. The point is that the orientations and objectives of the agents are constructed through the evolution of the employment . a regime based on strong performance- management principles will tend to combine high levels of autonomy in the conduct of a task with close control of the targets to which those tasks are directed (Edwards 2005). Even if strikes appear to have withered away. it underlines that contestation has to be actively managed. states can promote both accumulation and legitimation. of two. the state has pursued accumulation strategies while having to have some sensitivity to legitimation. Jacques Bélanger and Paul Edwards 15 First. and probably still tends. Consider the very similar idea which operates at the level of the labour process rather than the state.

The latter relate to potentially shared objectives and longer-term considerations. it is well known that the position in the value chain. a key factor is the extent to which the production unit is insulated from the winds of competition.16 Conflict and Contestation in the Contemporary World of Work relationship. and may be contrasting. This is explained mostly by the high extent of immobile capital investment and the fact that competition occurs at the global stage. The former relate to the effort bargain and the concrete matters relating to the frontier of control. Hence we see technology as a key structuring factor because it is neither deterministic nor neutral. On the former. An analytical distinction is intro- duced between control and developmental concerns. hence pointing out the key sources of diversity among workplace regimes (Bélanger and Edwards 2007). Such relative market immunity (from the perspective of local agents) is sometimes observed in highly competitive sectors. Rather. We will see for instance in the case of call centres that indi- vidualized work stations hinder social cohesiveness. such as aluminium production. a social structure that is shaped by the antagonism and asymmetry between capital and labour. at the point and at the time of production. have obvi- ous implications on workplace regimes. a situa- tion that is more conducive to developmental concerns and positive- sum compromises between capital and labour. Product markets. There is a rich tradition in industrial sociology that placed technol- ogy as a central influence in the study of work relations (Bélanger 2006: 328–36). which may foster the reproduction of the employment relationship over time. in which the structuring conditions leading to one pattern or another are defined. On the latter. These sets of influences have to do with technology. such as investment in technology or mandates for strategic lines of products. This makes possible a second step. These conceptual tools lead to the construction of a matrix by which different patterns of workplace relations can be portrayed. product markets and institutional regulation. namely the constraints on the organization of produc- tion and the stability of employment (Bélanger and Edwards 2007: 718). Edwards and Scullion 1982). the second set of structuring influences. it sets a more or less favourable ground for distinct patterns of control and conflict. they are conditioned to some extent by technology. We pay particular attention to two dimensions. Ethnographic studies have shown how patterns of social con- trol at work are tied to the production process (Burawoy 1979. when we look at . While social relations prevail. or the dependency upon a few large customers in a given niche of the market. The situation is expected to be different. may unsettle the management of production and add pressure on the shop-floor.

but it is important to specify what we mean by institutional regulation. In his analysis of the characteristic features of contemporary capitalism. but these agents do not operate in an institutional vacuum. he conceptualized the ‘internal state’ as ‘the set of institutions that organize. We need to look at institutions through the inter- connections between macro. Especially among capital- ists. but also capitalists have tried again and again to forge social compacts protecting them from market entry by outsiders and from the attacks of insiders. some agents find much room for co-operation while others do not? We sug- gest that technology and product markets are the primary sets of factors to consider here. Jacques Bélanger and Paul Edwards 17 call centres. In short. pointing out that ‘not only workers. . Burawoy (1985) compared ways by which state institutions influenced the construction of different ‘factory regimes’. The influence of institutions on workplace regimes is acknowledged by all. Why is it that. however … success always remained precarious’. or repress struggles over relations in production and relations of production at the level of the enterprise’ (Burawoy 1979: 110). the analysis has to be even more specific to account for so much diversity within any national set of rules. However. The study of a workplace regime has to consider the actual ways by which the union. and some international comparisons do highlight these overall patterns. the shift to shareholder value in capital markets and systematic ration- alization across the whole value chain of firms’. transform. ‘employer objectives in the labour process and employment relationship are frequently at odds under the inter-related impacts of globalization. short-term corporate objectives and the financialization of the economy were hampering the development and continuity of cooperation arrangements. national institutions play a significant role in fos- tering general patters of relations between capital and labour. it remains an empirical question. And in the context of the United States collective bargaining system. plays a role in supporting or containing employee opposition.and micro-levels. Attention here is primarily focused upon social relations between management and labour at the point of production. Streeck (2011: 151– 152) singles out one aspect as ‘competition privileged over solidarity’. However. or other forms of social cohesiveness that may exist among employees. But beyond that. within a given institutional framework. As noted by Thompson (2003: 371) in his analysis of ‘disconnected capitalism’. A recurring theme in the recent stream of research on partnership at work was that harsh competition. Too many accounts of insti- tutions are static. and the key here is how workplace agents make use of institutions as leverages to improve their strategic position (Kristensen and Zeitlin 2005). Thus.

g. in spite of significant work constraints. Still. 2004) and to various forms of cynicism and lack of engagement with customers. cus- tomer service work is not as simple. Contrary to stereotypes. prescribed and regimented as often assumed. Though some early analyses assumed that open contestation was thereby prevented. In-depth observation of workplace relations is necessary to understand and account for the social processes by which workers do or do not organ- ize to voice frustration and concerns and to support concrete actions. both in supporting the process and in generating further information (Russell 2009). and management has to allow some latitude and discretion to employees so that they engage with the customers and meet the sales and production targets (Frenkel et al. These oppositional practices cover a broad range of behav- iour. the research literature has consistently been more nuanced. Technology allows for close monitoring. The effort bargain in call centres has a distinctive character: what impresses the observer most is not so much the intensity in call-centre work but rather its relentlessness. Taylor 2010).18 Conflict and Contestation in the Contemporary World of Work the diversity of workplace regimes remains a challenge for research. the contradictory tendency is that sales and service rela- tionships require a set of social competencies and technical know-how that makes management vulnerable to ‘bad attitudes’ (Callaghan and Thompson 2002. Technology certainly sets limits to this space (Bélanger 2006: 340–343). Mulholland. This distinction becomes . Bain and Taylor 2000) to more recent reviews (Russell 2008. 1999. National institutional con- texts in neo-liberal countries impose few constraints upon managers. And competitive product mar- kets limit managerial toleration of informal resistance. from cynicism to inventive ways to regain some control over work- ing time. from a managerial perspective. The information and communication technologies that under- pin call centre operations are becoming more and more sophisticated. and except in the most mundane types of encounters. Russell 2009). research provides rich evidence that impressionistic accounts of an ‘electronic panopticon’ are grossly exag- gerated and documents how customer service representatives (CSRs) create some space for agency and resistance. Illustration: call centres Call centres provide a useful illustration. From the early labour process studies (e. where CSRs simply have to ‘follow the script’. Although management would like to standardize work and to tighten control even further. the ‘problem’ lies elsewhere.

Info-service workers do not generally have the ability to not be available once they are rostered onto the phones. Field research from different countries documents the means by which call centre employees seek to regain some control over time (Buscatto 2002. over individual calls – and control over work flows – that is. or they may use such fiddles in order to take non-rostered breaks away from the workstation’. and no control over the sequence of operations. for that matter. CSRs do not have the autonomy to vary the pace of their work over the course of a working day. there is no re-appropriation of time in the course of the shift. (Russell 2009: 107–108. However. the insulation of each CSR on a single work station. Jacques Bélanger and Paul Edwards 19 clearer if we distinguish between control over the job cycle – that is. As noted by Russell (2009: 240): ‘CSRs may soldier on the job by remaining in an occupied mode. sets material condi- tions for both individualization and the close monitoring of individual performance. In contrast with most industrial work and. Such a dynamic of control and contestation is documented by Mulholland in an Irish call centre. at least by not allowing management to victimize offenders in ways that would be seen as illegitimate. Individual actions such as fiddling time require a minimal degree of social cohe- siveness. Mulholland 2004. Moreover. The study details how CSRs could get around the control system and cheat the sales-bonus incentive scheme. remain- ing on line after the conversation is complete and pretending to be ‘on line’ by faking it. workers exercise some control over individual calls. But ‘they cannot choose to “bank” their work or otherwise vary their effort by working with greater or less diligence over the course of the shift’ (Russell 2009: 108). control from call to call or over whole blocks of time. like extending the conversation with an easy customer. while getting a precious breather from a relentless queue of calls. includ- ing their duration and content … But at the same time. and the fact that s/he interacts with a single customer through electronic equipment which is exclusive to each employee but connected to the mainframe. These practices go from the most classic. there is no accumulation of breathing time here. In most interactional encounters. to more inventive forms of cheating. with many service jobs supported by information technology. emphasis original) This distinction is revealing in clarifying what is distinct from most industrial work. CSRs often have significant autonomy in the course of a given interaction with a customer. . Russell 2009). or beyond accepted norms in a given workplace.

First. They see cynical behaviour as part of process of ‘dis-identification’ that should not be written off as non-significant in that it does contribute to the undermining of the hegemonic discourse constructed by management. Call centres represent a highly constraining work environment and can therefore be taken as a ‘critical case’ for testing ideas about the development of alternative forms of contestation. unions are sometimes involved in supporting col- lective action in call centres. although union organization is often very . Hence: ‘the experience of taking part in acts of opposition resulted in the emergence of informal collective practices … the distinguishing feature of these practices is the subtlety of the tacit alliances. emphasis original). This point about the social cohesiveness – which often supports the individual effort bargain in call centres – is a recurrent theme in field studies (Russell 2009: 235–243). cyni- cism appears to be a broader phenomenon in call centre work. Bain and Taylor (2000: 5. 15–16) contest the notion that the possibilities for resistance are purely ‘individualistic. While the necessary conditions of social cohesiveness and institutional support often exclude the opportunity for union representation. as in the case of cheating. Fleming and Spicer (2003. They argue that ‘the efflorescence of humor- ous activities at a subterranean level. Two further points can be highlighted regarding alternative forms of contestation. especially in call centres and other service organizations. when workers stayed silent under questioning’ (Mulholland 2004: 721). they have not been ‘socially atomized’ to use the phrase of Granovetter (1985: 483–487).20 Conflict and Contestation in the Contemporary World of Work Her key point is that even individual forms of opposition should not be interpreted from a purely individualistic perspective. On the basis of observation. that is. delivers a further blow to those who liken the call centre to an electronic prison’ (Taylor and Bain 2003: 1507). by fostering countercultures and social cohesiveness. never collective’. They assert that this has implications for power and patterns of control and ‘may also be an important way of facilitating other forms of opposition rather that undermining them’ (Fleming and Spicer 2007: 83. often by cynicism but also through various forms of concrete action that would not be sustainable without some degree of social cohesiveness. The empirical evidence is that CSRs do find ways to express discontent. fragmentary. beneath the organizational surface. From a different perspective. Taylor and Bain (2003) show how humour had a subversive character in call centres. overall. 2007) note how cynicism was portrayed as a major phenomenon in organizational studies in recent decades. and they analyse the processes by which activists sustain social organization (Taylor and Bain 2003). What comes out of field research is that call cen- tre employees face severe constraints but.

not at the level of concrete phenomena. that collective contestation may have shifted geographically rather than disappearing. but in relation to patterns of workplace control. More importantly. institutions. such trends have to be considered. consideration of call centres. that do not fit into the traditional category of collective organization. each form has its own causal dynamics. concessions or some balance of these two strategies. illus- trated the dynamics around this balance at the level of the workplace. on the one hand. on the other. In short. contesta- tion has been re-configured and not eliminated. We now offer some wider conclusions linking these ideas together. Second. Even here. Especially in front-line service work. The technology is strongly – but not wholly – constraining. which can mean that different forms correlate with each other in shifting ways. The same idea informs the second issue. this in turn means that managers depend on workers’ skills and that some work autonomy can be generated. the degree to which managements and states regulate con- testation through repression. The third line of analysis. And some call centres pursue markets for complex products that require lengthy engagement with customers. there is a need for sociologists to better understand and conceptualize the forms of social organization. Taylor (2010) shows the interconnections between call centres in the two countries and the logic underlying corporate decisions to offshore some of this work to India over the last decade. Jacques Bélanger and Paul Edwards 21 hard to sustain. that contestation may take alternative forms. be they unions or less formal groups. These trends reflect the balance between workers’ desire and ability to contest systems of labour control. Relations with customers allow relentless demands from the work flow to be moderated. They sug- gest some geographical shifts within a general pattern of decline but not disappearance. convincing data on overall trends are lacking. It is rare for changes in the use of one form to be balanced directly by another. And. In a synthesis of field research in Britain and India. play some role. the absence of a union does not mean that contestation is purely individualistic. such as the ‘tacit alliances’ and ‘informal collective practices’ observed by Mulholland. and. . as noted above. On the first. Call centres are an appropriate place to start. Clearly. The data here are more plentiful. the product market creates two kinds of space for workers. there are many facets of the dynamics of control and contestation that are not accounted for with a binary and simple distinction between the ‘individual’ and the ‘collective’. Conclusions We have offered three lines of analysis to consider the reconfiguration of conflict.

and the shift of production to peripheral countries. He also rejects the notion that call centres ‘can be located anywhere’. as in the influx of Irish workers to Britain during the early nineteenth century or the mass migration of eastern Europeans to the United States during the latter half of the century. The possibilities of contestation are thus inscribed in the labour process.22 Conflict and Contestation in the Contemporary World of Work He explains how the understanding of this trend ‘must take account of the political and economic environments of deregulation. other things being equal. ‘labour has attributes that make India attractive as a location. can overcome the problem of the indeterminacy of Indian call centre labour power’ (Taylor 2010: 263). These two processes have ebbed and flowed but have displayed great long-run persistence. from these companies. both direct and indirect. for example where migration is restricted on racist or other exclusionary principles. There are even fewer direct connections where a state’s policy is driven by matters outside the labour agenda. Examples of a direct connection are state policies to attract capital by weakening labour protection. Less direct connections exist around such policies as the attraction of multinational companies: such policies do not necessar- ily imply a particular kind of labour regime. In China. no attempt by capital to use remote location. independently of social forces. As he points out. The ebb and flow is shaped by political processes. and managements may well experience unexpected problems such as high quit rates if they develop a regime that workers resent and if alternative employment options are available. . explicit or implicit. … Yet. financialization and the broader thrust of neoliberalism’ (Taylor 2010: 252). It has two elements: the import of labour to metro- politan countries. the initial expan- sion of coastal cities has been followed by a shift of manufacturing firms to inland regions as firms seek new sources of cheap labour. for example. restrictions will. organizational restructuring. give workers in the country more bargaining power than they would otherwise have. These processes are connected to labour regulation in varying degrees of directness. But policies. In the last example. but they make states pursu- ing them potentially dependent on the multinationals. There is no reason to expect them to falter in the immedi- ate future. The weakening of established forms of labour protection in several countries can be attributed in part to demands. no “spatial fix”. This search for cheap and compliant labour has marked out capitalism since its inception. together with more recent waves of migration within Europe and from Mexico to the United States. in this industry and more generally. have consequences for labour control regimes. The search for new locations of production is likely to be a continuing one.

Oxford. R (eds) Social Theory at Work. 44/1: 99–17. (1985) The Politics of Production. managements have to balance the minimization of labour costs against the need to secure a degree of worker consent. Jacques Bélanger and Paul Edwards 23 It is impossible to predict future levels of contestation. J. 15/1: 2–18. are some of the factors that may affect these levels. M. we have argued. while those with more complex production systems will be more likely to offer a degree of employee empowerment. (2006) ‘Technology and work’ in Korczynski. Bélanger. (1998) Life on the Line in Contemporary Manufacturing. What can be suggested. Tracing out how these forces interact is a task on which. London. M. however. R. The success of capital in finding new sources of labour and the form of the institutional regime of labour control are two overarching influences. labour militancy has often not maintained itself. Taylor (2000) ‘Entrapped by the ‘electronic panopticon’? Worker resistance in the call centre’ New Technology. (2007) ‘The conditions promoting compromise in the workplace’ British Journal of Industrial Relations. Bélanger. and Hodson. P. Delbridge. and Thompson. Burawoy. These choices are then inscribed in workplace traditions: where contestation has established a presence. Work and Employment. Verso. (2002) ‘‘‘We recruit attitude’: the selection and shaping of routine call centre labour’ Journal of Management Studies. Buscatto. 45/4: 713–34. M. usines modernes ? Les rationalisations paradoxales de la relation téléphonique’ Sociologie du travail. . Such balancing will have different dynamics accord- ing to the nature of the production system. Within these. To pursue the call centre example. P. pp. Chicago. and P. an oppositional tradition can become embedded.. shaped by forces from the very general to the very particular. P. Oxford. G. J. M. whereas in workplaces without such a history employees will lack the habits and language of opposition. Oxford University Press. Such structural factors are then mediated by the choices of actors. Oxford University Press. 98/4: 729–36. Burawoy. P. and Edwards. Edwards. progress has already been made and to which this book makes a further contribution. (1996) ‘On resisting resistance’ American Anthropologist. (1979) Manufacturing Consent. equally. Periods of qui- escence have been followed by upsurges of new and unpredictable forms of industrial action. some centres offering very simple services are likely to focus on highly regimented labour control strategies and cost minimization. Chicago University Press. (2002) ‘Les centres d’appels. References Bain. Callaghan. Contestation is. thus. 325–55. M. 39/2: 233–54. Brown.

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A Theory of Workplace Conflict
Development: From Grievances
to Strikes
Robert Hebdon and Sung Chul Noh


Relatively little is known about the complex inter-relationships between
the various expressions of workplace conflict. This is an important topic
because a full understanding is necessary for successful dispute resolu-
tion, to predict future developments such as form or method displace-
ment, and perhaps most significantly, to develop conflict theory. Thus,
a key purpose of this chapter is to build theory by examining the rela-
tionship between expressions of conflict. Conflict at work (or workplace
conflict) has been broadly defined to include such forms as absentee-
ism, theft, sabotage, turnover, grievances, job actions and strikes. The
most studied expressions are undoubtedly grievances and strikes but we
know very little about their inter-relationship. Are they complemen-
tary or competitive? Are they alternatives or substitutes? The literature
provides only anecdotal evidence of their relationship and no theory.
Consequently, this chapter develops and tests, at least in an introduc-
tory fashion, a theory of workplace conflict that will provide hypotheses
about expression relationships. To date scholars from various disciplines
have conducted conceptual and empirical studies to address whether,
and how, conflict can be managed or resolved (see, for example, De Dreu
2008, Jehn 1997, Morill et al. 2003, Wheeler 1985). But to address these
issues, enquiries must be conducted into the nature of workplace con-
flict and its dynamics. To better understand these latter two issues, it is
necessary to consider the literatures on workplace conflict from several
disciplines and then integrate their findings into a comprehensive
theory (Bendersky 2003, Feuille and Wheeler 1981).
Much of the organizational behaviour literature has addressed behav-
iours that could be considered workplace conflict at the individual


Robert Hebdon and Sung Chul Noh 27

level: absenteeism, turnover, grievance and misbehaviours. However,
it has been criticized for overlooking the nature of conflict embedded in
the broader context of employment relations (Fortado 2001, Meyerson
1998). The bias inherent in this approach has led organizational behav-
iour scholars away from considering structural and macro-level factors
surrounding workplace conflict, basing concepts of absenteeism and
turnover, for example, on the notion of the individual as autonomous
and acultural. In contrast, theorists in industrial relations link the sources
and manifestations of workplace conflict to broader socio-political struc-
tures, viewing them as something fundamental to the employment rela-
tionship in a capitalist economy (Godard 2011). For example, Hyman
(1972) pointed out such underlying sources of conflict in capitalist
labour relations as asymmetrical power relationships and managerial
control over the labour process. However, most scholars in industrial
relations have tended to be preoccupied with more visible and com-
bative expressions of conflict between labour and management such as
strikes. Consequently, this singular focus has caused some scholars to
misinterpret the decline in strike rates as evidence of the lack of work-
place conflict (Gall and Hebdon 2008).
Overall, this narrowness of focus found in both organizational behav-
iour and industrial relations has limited researchers’ understanding
of the dynamics of conflict expressions in the workplace due to the
lack of multi- and cross-level studies in the field (Barbash 1980). This
chapter argues that workplace conflict should inherently be thought
of as a phenomenon for which individual motivation, working condi-
tions and labour-management relations combine to shape its dynamic
character within an organization. Consequently, this chapter aims to
contribute to the stream of research on workplace conflict by taking a
holistic approach in which psychological (organizational behaviour),
technological-structural (HRM), and socio-political (i.e. industriaI rela-
tions) perspectives are brought to bear. It focuses more upon industriaI
relations workplace conflict between employees and management, and
not upon organizational behaviour interpersonal conflict. In particular,
our interest lies in the process by which workplace conflict develops
from individual expressions into its most advanced forms, job actions
and strikes. By doing so, our chapter extends existing theories on work-
place conflict in several ways. First, while many industrial relations
scholars have defined industrial conflict as a collective phenomenon
and analysed it at the level of collective action (Edwards 1986, Wheeler
1985), we highlight the role of individual and covert forms of workplace
conflict acting as a preliminary and latent form of collective conflict

28 A Theory of Workplace Conflict Development

by incorporating insights from the organizational behaviour litera-
ture. Second, we shed light on conflict in both union and non-union
workplaces. Finally, we add to the understanding of the dynamics of
workplace conflict by incorporating a temporal dimension, using a large-
scale longitudinal data set rarely found in this stream of research. To
perform these tasks, relevant research on workplace conflict from vari-
ous disciplines is first reviewed and compared, followed by theoretical
development around the role of voice mechanisms which mediate the
complex interplay among different forms of conflict expression such as
turnover, grievances, job actions and strikes. We conclude with implica-
tions of the startling Canadian evidence showing relatively high levels
of job actions in non-union firms and then suggest avenues for future

Theoretical approaches

Our initial observation about workplace conflict is that it has two dis-
tinct dimensions. First, in the context of labour and management rela-
tions, it is an outcome of their interactions. This is due to a fundamental
and inevitable conflict of interest over the wage-effort bargain that is
augmented by an imbalance of power. Second, collective conflict has
an agency element where actors may attempt to not only obtain wage-
effort advantages but to alter the balance of power (Gall and Hebdon
2008). Typically, we think of the agent as a union or, possibly in some
European countries, a works council. Employee organizations have the
potential, at least, to mobilize workers and shift the power balance. We
note in passing, however, that there were a surprising number of job
actions (e.g., working to rule, banning overtime, slowdowns) in our
Canadian data from firms that were identified as non-union.
Workplace conflict is a multi-faceted phenomenon, the definition of
which is broad and varies across different disciplines (Feuille and Wheeler
1981). As briefly described in the previous section, two disciplines –
industrial relations and organizational behaviour – have taken different
approaches to workplace conflict based on their contrasting views on
social order (Scott and Davis 2007). According to the Marxist viewpoint,
social order can be seen as something that is achieved and maintained by
the dominant group’s suppressing interests of the subordinate through
various forms of control mechanisms (Barker 1993, Braverman 1974,
Burawoy 1979). Extending this view to the employment relationship
under modern capitalism, most industrial relations scholars propose

We have presented the two extreme views on workplace conflict. which can be seen as representing opposite poles in a theoretical continuum. Tjosvold 2008). In contrast. 2008). Instead. Overall. This led industrial relations scholars traditionally to focus more on the visible forms of conflict expression mobilized by a union (Gall and Hebdon. Robinson and Bennett 1995. workplace conflict may have a collective and inevitable nature embedded in the capitalist labour relationship. (1979) coined the term ‘social loafing’ which refers to the reduction in effort of employees working collectively as a social disease (Sheppard and Taylor 1999). individual-covert forms of conflict such as misbehaviours are receiving more attention as a form of resistance on the part of workers (see. is universal and inherent in the relationship between management and labour (Godard 1992). the status and self-respect of both groups rest on their ability to outwit or control the other. Vardi and Wiener 1996). 2002. Thus. given the bias against collective conflict and the decline in strikes. As a result. for example. Based upon this unitarist view of employment relations. For example. workplace conflict emerges from the power struggles due to the sup- pression or diversion of worker dissatisfaction and to worker resistance to control and domination. For example. according to others. They can serve as a starting point for a more integrative framework on workplace conflict. Ambrose et al. They regard workplace conflict as a socialized process in which a variety of individuals and social groups from different backgrounds close the gap between different and sometimes conflicting interests in order to accomplish organizational goals. workplace con- flict has been thought of as negative. according to this view. Robert Hebdon and Sung Chul Noh 29 that organizations be better understood as a contested terrain of power between workers and managers (Knights and Vrudubakis 1994). recent studies in social psychology are shifting attention towards the positive aspect of workplace conflict in the context of increasing diversity within an organization (De Dreu 2008. they deny the existence of workplace conflict which. Ackroyd and Thompson 1999. Consequently. Since their relationship is innately hostile. the major- ity of organizational behaviour and HRM scholars tend to emphasize social consensus among organizational members as a basis of social order. Also. scholars seem to be approaching a consensus that conflict can be managed to a . Marxist and unitarist. Latané et al. it is argued that the cause of workplace conflict depends on the local entities such as task characteristics or interpersonal relations among employees. and to be overcome by the appro- priate management practices and policies (Morgan 1986).

Also organized conflict is more likely to be associated with a dispute settlement process (e.g. although still involving interaction between two or more persons. Kornhauser 1954. Coser (1965: 172) defined two kinds of conflict. Fox (1966: 8) included indi- vidual expressions of conflict that he labelled as ‘unorganized conflict’: labour turnover. can be called realistic conflicts. Edwards 1986. Conventionally. analytical attention is shifting from the appearance of consensus to the reality of an ever-present conflict dynamic that provides a basis for under- standing the underlying instability and strains within an organization. on the other hand. and which are directed at the presumed frustrating object. grievance pro- cedure) but unorganized conflict would not normally have such a route (Scott et al. Hyman 1975. Non-realistic conflict may be more difficult to channel or regulate since satisfaction is derived from the aggressive act itself. Coser 1965). but by the need for tension release of at least one of them. scholars have viewed workplace conflict through the lens of several dichotomies: realistic/ non-realistic. substantive/procedural and individual/collective (Gall and Hebdon 2008. overt). 1963). latent (hidden. Non-realistic conflicts. In his definition of industrial conflict. Fox 1966.30 A Theory of Workplace Conflict Development greater or lesser degree but not abolished within the existing social struc- ture of society and organizations (Gall and Hebdon 2008). are not occasioned by the rival ends of the antagonists. unorganized conflict has referred to individual expressions whereas organized conflict has involved collec- tive ones (Gall and Hebdon 2008). realistic and non-realistic: Conflicts which arise from frustration of specific demands within the relationship and from estimates of gains of the participants. insofar as they are means towards a specific result. the chapter outlines various types of workplace conflict as a necessary step toward generating hypotheses on the dynamic relationship between expressions. On this basis.. realistic conflict is more easily channelled into less aggressive means if they appear more effective in achieving the desired goal. On the other hand. organized/ unorganized. in the next section. and negative attitudes. Workplace conflict may also be distinguished by . poor time-keeping and discipline. covert)/manifest (open. absenteeism. Accordingly. Workplace conflict dichotomies As a first step toward a comprehensive theory.

An example might by a group or union grievance filed on behalf of a particular group or by the union for the entire bargaining unit. Kelly 1998. We suggest two dimensions of workplace conflict as depicted in Figure 3. Morill et al. a common way of examining conflict is to con- struct a continuum from individual to semi-individual/semi-collective to collective expressions. Robert Hebdon and Sung Chul Noh 31 the type of issue in dispute. 2000. spontaneous and even hidden in nature. In contrast. Gall and Hebdon 2008). Substantive issues are those affecting pay and benefits. If a dynamic relation- ship exists between the outbreak of one form of conflict and another. Also some grievances may appear to be individual and unconnected but could be part of a larger job action and as such more collective than individual (Dowding et al. we may assume the presence of underlying dimensions of workplace con- flict (Edwards 1986). 2003. Finally. such as grievance procedures. overt forms of workplace conflict refer to conflict expressions that typically entail explicit and visible worker protests such as strikes and output restrictions. while procedural are those affecting the processes of labour-management relations. Covert forms of workplace conflict point to less visible and more indirect expressions of discontent that take place within the everyday worlds of organizations. They are often unplanned.1 Two dimensions of workplace conflict . mediation and arbitration. Collective- level conflicts level conflicts Theft Work-to- rule Wildcats Sabotage Shirking Job Action Covert Figure 3. This range of conflict forms contemplates those that are hybrid individual and collective.1 below: overt-covert and individual-collective continua. Overt forms of Overt Turnover Strike Grievances Union Absence Grievances Individual.

32 A Theory of Workplace Conflict Development workplace conflict can be seen either as the expression of latent conflict or conflict expressions through institutionalized channels. The choice of level of analysis has been an important factor in researchers’ agenda. Normally. Edwards and Scullion 1982). other than grievances. Conversely. For instance. health and safety complaints. turnover. strikes are not only the most visible form of conflict but also represent the most severe in terms of a shutdown of production or services. filing unfair labour practices. theft. When the level is the individual. strikes require a high level of organi- zation and mobilization by a union. very little research exists on such forms as job or industrial actions (overtime bans. individual forms of workplace conflict include expressions of dissatisfaction which are usually unorganized and to some extent more personal or interper- sonal. vandalism. wildcat strikes and overtime bans have started to gain more attention from both practitioners and scholars as union influence has declined in both private and public sectors. Unfortunately. it is necessary to examine under which conditions a covert form of work- place conflict appears in an overt fashion or individual forms of conflict develop into more organized/collective forms of conflict. they stem from management’s unwillingness to acknowledge such entitlements as an employees’ right to participate in decisions affecting their work environment (Godard 1992). Working to rule is a typical form of collec- tive resistance by restricting output through strictly following organiza- tional rules and procedures (Morill et al. Collective forms of workplace conflict refer to any kind of organized expression of collective discontent with managerial initiatives. We argue that these forms of workplace conflict are intimately con- nected to one another in the sense that the emergence of a dominant form of conflict is employed from day-to-day through various institu- tional means such as unions or formal grievance procedures. work-to-rule campaigns etc.). instead of strikes. absenteeism. 2003). the focus has been upon the ‘perceived loss . law suits and political actions (Gall and Hebdon 2008. Theft and sabotage are examples (Robinson and Bennett 1995. it is more imperative than ever that researchers study alternative forms. Now that they are in decline in the industrialized world. The availability of data and wider public interest in strikes has meant that they have been the most stud- ied expression. Therefore. Fortado 2001). sabotage. Strike – the dominant expression Whether in a firm or industry. other collective or organized forms of conflict expres- sion such as slowdowns. In general.

This implies that grievances and strikes are complements. On the other hand. there are divergent views in the industrial relations literature over their expected relationship. 1991). This confusion may be explained. For example. 2003. Gall and Hebdon 2008). we review previous theoretical works that provide insight into the dynamic linkages between different forms of conflict expressions . Lewin and Peterson (1988) portrayed several instances of grievances leading to job actions and eventually changes in the agreement. Relationship between strikes and grievances Strikes and grievances are those conflict expressions that have received the most scholarly attention. Grievances may also perform the multiple role of producing an agenda of issues for future collective bargaining. theorists posit an inverse relationship between strikes and grievances whereby the exercising of the voice/grievance mechanism reduces conflict in the form of strikes. Yet we know little about their relationship. Gandz (1979) describes the tactical and strategic use of grievance filing by unions as an extension of the bargaining process. Robert Hebdon and Sung Chul Noh 33 of control’ and wage-effort bargain (Morill et al. If the organization is the level of study then. … Empirical research reveals support for the substitution hypothesis. several authors describe grievances as influencing collective bargaining and. by the lack of theory. there are conflicting views in the industrial relations literature over both the causality and expected relationship between collective bargaining and strikes on the one hand. Conflict expression dynamics In this section. strikes. Thus. possibly. the focus is upon: ‘substitution’ and ‘complementarity’ hypotheses … The substitution hypothesis predicts formal structures that facilitate ‘voice’ will reduce covert conflict and the complementarity hypothesis predicts that formally enabling voice is associated with ‘corresponding increases in other forms of … [submerged] conflict’. In fact. as Gall and Hebdon (2008: 596) point out. Since the primary function of the North American griev- ance system is to bring labour peace during the term of the agreement (Hebdon and Brown 2011). in part. and grievances on the other. They are the pillars of the field of industrial relations. adjusting daily problems (where relations are good) and serving as a battleground (where rela- tions are poor) (Reynolds et al.

. Sapsford and Turnbull (1994) reviewed two competing hypotheses about the relationship between collective and individual forms of conflict expression: the substitutes (balloon) and the complementarity (iceberg) hypotheses. reduced effort). Two competing models have emerged.34 A Theory of Workplace Conflict Development in order to generate several sets of hypotheses reflecting different struc- tural conditions in both union and non-union settings. The exit–voice framework has been applied directly to the workplace in a number of studies. Depending on their loyalty. the existence of a voice channel comes into play as employees make decisions to express their dissatisfaction with their organization. and to silence (Morrison and Milliken 2003. transfers) and various forms of voice ranging from whistle blowing (Miceli et al. Hirschman argues that employees who have a high level of loyalty to the organization will attempt to remedy the problem rather than to leave the organization. It provides a theoretical foundation for understanding the relationships among temporary exit (e. Gall and Hebdon 2008). employees dissatisfied with their employer will either leave the employment rela- tionship or attempt to express their opinions in order to effect change on the source of dissatisfaction.g. Near and Miceli 1995) to filing grievances. voice and loyalty.. Filling this gap. The substitu- tion hypothesis suggests that reduction in one form of conflict expression . There will be a significant negative relationship between grievance and turnover rates in both union and non-union workplaces. permanent exit (e. turnover.g. 1991. several studies have attempted to examine the relationship between individual and collec- tive forms of conflict. In the relationship among exit. Exit–voice framework A simple framework for understanding the relationship among various forms of conflict expression has developed based upon the exit–voice model by Hirschman (1970). but only when they have formal avenues for speaking out. tardiness. One of the limitations of the exit–voice framework is that it offers little insight into the occurrence of collective forms of conflict (Dowding et al. 2000. absenteeism. Substitutes versus complementary models In their research on the relationship between strikes and absenteeism on the British docks in the post-war period. Perlow 2003). This leads to our first hypothesis regarding the relationship between voluntary turnover and filing grievances: H1.

There have been several efforts to develop a theoretical framework for integrating these seemingly contradictory models. For example. First. grievance delays. On the contrary. Turner et al. In support of this hypothesis. (1967) gave anecdotal evidence that collective and individual actions are alternatives in a way that the suppression of the former in some forceful way leads to the increase in the latter form of conflict expres- sion. the complementarity hypothesis proposes that. a complementary or trade-off relationship prevails among different forms of workplace conflict at the organiza- tional level. The findings of these studies seem to support the trade-off (balloon) model between individual and collective forms of conflict expression. It is also called the ‘balloon’ hypothesis since the mechanism reminds one of a filled balloon which. and under which circumstances. Robert Hebdon and Sung Chul Noh 35 is likely to lead to a corresponding increase in other manifestations of workplace conflict. 1991. In a similar vein. This is also called the iceberg hypothesis in the sense that overt expression of conflict hides other covert forms of conflict beneath it like the tip of an iceberg. it induces corresponding increases in other forms of workplace conflict. Hebdon and Stern (2003) examined the impact of no-strike laws on the emergence of more cov- ert forms of conflict such as job actions. unfair labour practices and political actions at the municipal level of government. Extending their study. the implication of their findings is still limited to unionized workplaces and structural factors such as no-strike laws. Sapsford and Turnbull (1994) demonstrated an inverse rela- tionship between strikes and absenteeism. Lewin and Peterson 1999). Unionized workplaces The role of unions as a voice mechanism for employees is twofold (Batt et al. So the current literature has yet to conceptually and empirically deal with why. Hebdon and Stern (1998) demonstrated that suppressed strikes brought about an increase in the rate of grievance arbitrations by comparing grievance arbitrations in strike and no-strike subsectors of health care and government. Several empirical studies provided evidence for this hypothesis demonstrating that collective and individual actions go together. However. as a representative for employees’ economic inter- est. higher absenteeism rates have been found among employees who file more grievances than those who did not (Klaas et al. once squeezed in one place. it enables workers to gain higher wages than those in non-union . 2002). expands outward in another location. once an increase in any form of conflict expression occurs. Most notably.

Freeman and Medoff (1984) hypothesized that union exercise of voice on behalf of employees reduces their exit or quit rates compared to those of non-union employees. workplaces without a collective action legacy suffered more work avoidance. Second. Roscigno and Hodson (2004) found that the combination of a unionized. Thus. high-strike. unions provide workers with political voice chan- nels to influence the managerial decision-making process on working conditions. A remedial voice channel is designed to hear employee objections and challenges to organiza- tional decisions that have already been made. in this theoretical framework. It provides a processual view on workplace conflict which shifts the focus of inquiry from isolating each form of workplace conflict to the processes by which they emerge from other forms of conflict (Andersson and Pearson 1999). 2004). The preventive voice channel allows employees to offer their inputs into as decisions before they are made. Procedural due process concerns employee rights. (1992) also suggest two functions of unionized voice mechanisms: remedial and preventive voice channels. while substantive due process relates to organizational resource distribution. Aram and Salipante (1981) identified two aspects of organizational due process for which unions take responsibil- ity. . On the other hand. By a combination of the remedial and preventive mechanisms.36 A Theory of Workplace Conflict Development workplaces. In a similar vein. different forms of conflict expression have an interdependent relationship in such a way that conflict launched at one level is likely to stimulate other levels. For instance. it has been said that conflict resolution through formal grievance procedures has been one of the major attractions of a union in the US (Lewin and Peterson 1999). It is suggested that the outbreak of one form of conflict is rarely a spontaneous act but more often the manifestation of escalating patterns of negative interaction between actors. Sheppard et al. Escalation theory of conflict Escalation theory of conflict has been mainly developed by social psy- chologists who defined it as the increase in the severity of aggressive means used in a given conflict and the consequences of using such means (Winstok et al. most empirical studies of unionized workplaces based on the exit–voice framework acknowledge the effec- tiveness of formal voice channels backed by a union and its positive effect on conflict expressions. absenteeism and theft. As a result. and bureaucratic environment was associated with lower levels of individualized forms of worker resistance. In their study of worker resistance in the US and UK over a 160-year period.

This leads to a stepwise process of conflict development from individual expressions to softer collective expression to strikes. Strikes normally require motiva- tion and mobilization. Recall that previous research on conflict has shown what Gall and Hebdon (2008) termed ‘method displacement’. We suggest a rough hierarchy of conflict expressions as set out in Figure 3. we want respect.. A schedule was posted which cut hours from 40 to nine per week for some members of staff. Although. we are human. The exist- ence of a union is clearly not a necessary condition for some forms of collective action. walked out of the store in Hialeah Gardens at 9am Monday. conflict expressions should be hier- archically ordered. we contend that a full-blown strike is very unlikely to happen without some build-up of pressure leading to collective action. … Around 50–60 workers were still protesting outside the store that afternoon. with individual actions at one end. However. Each form of workplace conflict is assigned a relative degree of collectivity and organization. they would normally require the construction and mobilization of social agency (Gall and Hebdon 2008). As forms of resistance to capitalism. Thus.g. followed by spon- taneous collective actions. or close to the entire shift. it is more than just a ranking . The build-up period starts with various forms of individual conflict expression and if the problems persist could lead to softer forms of collective action (e.2. the type of (seemingly) spontaneous combustion described in the Wal-Mart case above would appear to be quite rare. we have a development process where each step is dependent on the completion of the previous one. According to this model. In addition. noon hour picket. Of course there will be exceptions as the case below illustrates: Around 200 workers. work-to-rule.’1 A number of observations may be useful at this juncture. and with organized industrial conflicts at the other end. slow down). We see the selection of conflict expression as a relative function of the mobilized state of worker unrest. where the inability to express grievances and discontent through strikes may find expression through other alternative or covert means. Collective expressions of conflict differ in important ways from individual con- flict. Robert Hebdon and Sung Chul Noh 37 Extending the micro-level theory to employment relations. if media reports are indicative. with one holding a hand-made sign saying: ‘Wal-Mart. the significant number of non-union job actions in the Canadian data may be a sign of method displacement as private sector unionization falls (see Godard 2011).

grievances will have no statistical relationship with strikes. Our theory suggests that.38 A Theory of Workplace Conflict Development Organized Collective Action Collective Strikes Action Early Job Action Collective Actions Formal Noon-hour Complaints Picketing Written Informal Grievance Complaints Vol. H3.000 establishments drawn from the Canadian Workplace and Employee Survey (WES). In all workplaces. we can identify several hypoth- eses about the relationship between expressions as follows: H2. H4. grievances will be positively associated with job actions. Turn Over Absenteeism Figure 3. on average.2 A process model of conflict development because we see each higher level of conflict dependent on the comple- tion of the previous level. Formal grievance procedure: channelling workplace conflict Given our conflict escalation theory. In all workplaces. which is conducted by Statistics . job actions will be positively associated with strikes. grievances do not lead directly to strikes but to softer expressions such as work-to-rule or slowdown actions. Method Sample This study uses data on 6. In all workplaces.

short and frequent and have unclear objectives. Key variables Grievance rate – This measures the ratio of the total number of griev- ances filed drawn from the question (e. long and infrequent and have economic objectives. Turnover rate – This was the number of employees who had resigned between April 1. 2006?’ This number was expressed as a rate by dividing by the number of people employed in the last pay period of March 2006. ‘How many disputes. over the number of peo- ple employed in the last pay period of March 2006. 2006. 2005 and March 31.9% in 2000) to say that samples represent Canadian workplaces with a minimum level of non-response bias. Establishments were selected from all employers in Canada with paid employees. in the survey of year 2006). Job actions.g. allow- ing for a clearer understanding of changing patterns in labour market and employment relations of Canada over time. small.2 It is a sample survey with a longitudinal design. Since the sample workplaces are mandated by a gov- ernment agency to respond to the survey. job actions measure the ratio of the total number of collective voice activities including work-to-rule actions and work slowdowns which took place between 1 April 2005 and 31 March 2006 expressed as a rate with the denominator the number of people employed in the last pay period of March 2006. Job actions – Strikes traditionally reflect union tactics and are official.. In this study. Control variables Several variables are included to control for workplace characteristics that might affect the relationship among different forms of industrial . grievances or complaints were filed between April 1. the response rates were high enough (e. 90. reflect unrest in informal work groups and are unofficial. organized. Robert Hebdon and Sung Chul Noh 39 Canada to examine a broad range of issues relating to employers and their employees. For analytical purposes. fishing and trapping. on the other hand. spontaneous. religious organizations and public administration. except for those in the Yukon. The survey was conducted from 1999 to 2006 with general managers for smaller workplaces and with HR managers for larger workplaces. large. 2005 and March 31. The rea- son for doing this is to reduce the influence of high variability in annual grievance rates and turnover rates in small establishments arising from the small denominator in the equation for the both rates. smaller establishments are dropped from our sample. Nunavut and Northwest Territories and those in farming.g.

It records who – workers. which affect the way in which employees express their discontent. and new product development. weekly planning of individual work. Workforce size was measured in hundreds of people employed at the establishment. . staffing levels. including the use of HIWP such as teams. self-directed work and information sharing with employ- ees. the proportion full- time and permanent is 0. quality control. which might affect the turnover rate and job actions. suggestion programmes. quality control. (2000) found that the statistically significant relationship between quit rates and unionization disappeared when wages and benefits were taken into account. The second of these variables captures workgroup involvement through a four-item scale measuring the degree to which work groups make decisions with respect to: daily planning of individual work. For example. The first of these variables captures individual employee involvement through a four-item scale measuring the degree to which individual employees make decisions with respect to: daily plan- ning of individual work.75). and maintenance of machinery and equipment. weekly planning of individual work. Finally. Delery et al. Two variables provided a measure of the degree to which employees are involved in decision- making in the workplace. management or some combined team – participates in decisions over twelve different aspects of the production process. which focus upon the relations among our key conflict variables (grievance rates. Work- force stability.. purchase of necessary supplies.40 A Theory of Workplace Conflict Development conflict. There has been criticism that the exit–voice framework operates entirely through compensation. Batt et al. (2002) show that the extent of employee participation in problem-solving and self-directed work teams is negatively related to turnover rates. including planning of individual work. we also control for average pay of employees measured in thousands of dollars. if 75% of the workforce is full-time and permanent. we control for the adoption of various types of high involvement work practices (HIWP) because they facilitate employee trust in an organization and increase their sense of control and iden- tification with it (Locke and Schweiger 1979).g. We also control for the industry. The WES survey elicits detailed information about work organization. purchase of machinery. Results3 We schematize our key findings in the following diagrams. was measured by the proportion of full-time and permanent employees (e. For example. follow-up results. To address this issue. follow-up results. feedback. and maintenance of machinery and equipment. and we took natural logarithms of the size. purchase of necessary supplies.

5.6. This positive relation- ship is consistent with our escalation hypothesis. The sum and inter-relationship of Figures 3.4 demonstrates that grievance and job action rates were sig- nificantly and positively related after controlling for various characteris- tics.4 Relationship between grievance/quit rate and job action . The rela- tionship was again highly statistically significant. This result is consistent with previ- ous findings (Batt et al. Both regression and path analysis provide support Individual Conflict Grievance Vol. 3. Grievance and turnover rates were negatively related as predicted in Hypothesis 1 based on the exit–voice framework. we found no statistical relationship between grievance and strike rates (or levels). job actions and strikes) after controlling for organizational and industry characteristics. This supports our escalation hypothesis that individual expressions are precursors for soft collective actions. Figure 3. Olson-Buchanan 1996). Figure 3. Turn Over ** Figure 3. Robert Hebdon and Sung Chul Noh 41 turnover. Finally. 2002. Turn Over Figure 3. job actions and strikes were positively linked. In Figure 3.3 Relationship between grievance and quit rate Individual Collective but Conflict Informal Conflict Grievance +* Job Action +** Vol.4 and 3.3.5 is illustrated in Figure 3.3 depicts the results for all workplaces in our sample.

Since most of the reported job actions were slowdowns and the oth- ers were working to rule we examined a breakdown of union and non- union slowdowns over the period (Figure 3.6 Overall relationship among three forms of workplace conflict for a theory of conflict escalation where grievances are positively linked to job actions and job actions to strikes but there is no direct statistical link between grievances and strikes.5 Relationship between job action and strike Individual Collective but Collective & Conflict Informal formal Conflict Conflict Grievance * + Job Action *** + Strike +** Vol. Turning to non-union job actions. Turn Over Figure 3. we were surprised by the level and growth in non-union job actions over the period 1999–2006. we see a rise .8). To our knowledge this is the first research that has found such a phenomenon. The conflict literature has tended to assume that the mobilization of collective actions require the existence of a union.42 A Theory of Workplace Conflict Development Collective but Collective & Informal formal Conflict Conflict *** Job Action + Strike Figure 3. By the end of the period non-union job actions outnumbered those in the union- ized sector (Figure 3.7). Once again.

most studies have attempted to answer questions about one type of conflict expression at a time (Hebdon 2005.8 Slowdowns – union and non-union in slowdowns in the non-union slowdowns and a higher number of non-union slowdowns than union ones. Discussion Despite a wide range of conflict expressions. however. shedding light on the actors which are directly implicated in conflict situations and the strategies organiza- tions use to resolve these situations. Robert Hebdon and Sung Chul Noh 43 Union Non-union 120 100 80 60 40 20 0 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Figure 3.7 Union and non-union job actions Union Non-union 100 80 60 40 20 0 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Figure 3. Previous studies have focused upon how to resolve and manage workplace conflict. Studies need to focus upon the dynamics . Consequently. about the nature of workplace conflict itself despite its fundamental importance to conflict management. Hebdon and Stern 1998). We know little. researchers have yet to develop a comprehensive theory – or set of theories – regarding workplace conflict.

Finally. particularly in non-union firms. The wider theory tested here is that a full-blown strike is very unlikely to happen without some build-up of pressure leading to strong collective action.statcan. For more information on WES. What would be the chosen voice mechanism. We found support for the exit–voice trade-off as previously found in the literature.44 A Theory of Workplace Conflict Development between different forms of conflict expression. 2. see http://www23. Thus.gc. job actions and strikes (and in countries other than Canada). We found that after choosing voice over exit. organizational behaviour scholars may have to go beyond studies of individual expres- sions if they want to fully understand conflict within organizations. . This is a confirmatory result that gave us some confidence in our data and model. More research is necessary to test the robust- ness of the theory on expressions other than grievances. more qualitative research is needed to understand how collective action develops. or other expression including some new expression not previously stud- ied. if a grievance procedure is not available in non-union firms? It could be absenteeism. pl?Function=getSurvey&SurvId=2615&SurvVer=1&InstaId=13978&InstaVer= 5&SDDS=2615&lang=en&db=imdb&adm=8&dis=2 3. There are implications of this chapter for the disciplines that study workplace conflict. For the statistical data which supports the representation of results in the Figures. for This non-union job action phenomenon may provide an answer to the question of what happened to strikes – a sign of method displacement. http://libcom. When workers are dissatisfied with conditions they either choose exit or voice. conflict is a step-by-step process with the selection of conflict expression as a function of the mobilized state of worker unrest. sabotage. worker dissatisfaction starts with grievances and is then followed by softer forms of collective action such as working to rule or slowing down. With the decline of unions. We have devel- oped a model of conflict escalation that provides testable hypotheses about expression linkages. theft. Notes 1. industrial relations and organizational behaviour scholars may have to review their current research agendas. contact the lead author. The assumption that a union is necessary for collective action is called into question by our research. 19 October 2006. High grievance rates did not lead directly to strikes but were linked to strikes only through these softer forms of job actions. the industrial relations field may have to examine collective conflict in the non-union world. Given the high numbers of non-union job actions.

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more influential now than ever. On the other hand. mainstream movies deride it as a matter of course and even those in charge of officially sanctioning employed work only do so with a glint of irony. at the very moment work has truly lost its ideologi- cal shine.4 A Working Death? Contesting Life Itself in the Bio-Political Organization Peter Fleming Introduction Following in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis and the subsequent widespread discrediting of the neo-liberal political agenda (and perhaps capitalism itself). On the one hand. it has ironically become a socio-economic force par excellence. Compared to yesteryear when it was one of the key icons of social good even among a militant workforce – and usually cast in very masculinist terms – today the ideology of work holds very little progressive currency or legitimacy. Marazzi (2011) and Quiggin (2010) share a bewilderment regarding the way that the moribund 48 . we feel this impasse is con- nected more fundamentally to what Crouch (2011) recently termed the strange non-death of neo-liberalism. Even its most fervent admirers seem to agree that the neo-liberal project has fundamentally failed. the meaning of work for the multitude labouring in and around the large corporations of the west has arrived at a peculiar juncture. To quote the sentiments of one senior manage- ment consultant recently interviewed: ‘work is shit’ (Fleming 2011: 22). At the broader political economy level. determining ever increasing aspects of our lives both in and outside the formal place of employment (to the point where even children and the unemployed find themselves obsessed with it). let alone those of capitalism more generally. People avoid it when they can. Commentators as diverse as Crouch (2011). even on its own myopic terms. there has been a massive divest- ment in the idea of work.

we are now gaining an understanding of the wider tectonic forces that allow a dead idea to still govern our lives. How does the broader politico-economic impasse noted above translate into an experience of work at the point of production. employment law and the market mechanism. if any. But a new experience is emerg- ing. This chapter suggests this engenders a mindset among the workforce that is qualitatively different to previous modes of labour politicization. As Cederstrom and Fleming (2012) noted in their research of employment in Europe and the United States. even in our sleep). this chapter outlines a peculiar mindset that stems from the impasse described above. Reporting from the coalface of a variety of contemporary workplaces. even as its handiwork has led to the obliteration of the financial markets and the corporate infrastructure of Western society. but what kind of existential milieu does it engen- der for the millions who have to still participate in a discursive matrix that everyone realizes for all intents and purposes is as good as dead? And what type of labour politics. translates into a living death of the working subject. on our days off. But little has been said about the moment of labour itself amidst this impasse. It must be said that neo-liberalism has perhaps always been dead from the point of view of labour – its birth did. this chapter sets out to address these questions in order to offer an analysis of the crisis of neo-liberalism from the standpoint of labour. Both at the top and lower rungs of the employment hierarchy. from the daily tedium of the office. represent a massive capitalist class offensive (Harvey 2007). or perhaps the amplification of an older one. there is a poign- ant perception that ‘a job’ no longer holds any substantive social value whatsoever. to the . This mindset reflects the strange impasse observed with respect to the strange non-death of neo-liberalism. to the alienating rituals of the service economy. This dead idea haunts us almost completely without respite. to the humiliating team- building exercise. It suggests the living death of neo-liberalism. thus. yet has become a universal social code that has infected our whole lives (whereby we work at home. after all. might emerge from the con- cretization of this impasse in the myriad corporations and workplaces that dot the post-industrial landscape in Western societies? Given the importance of how work is organized and culturally experienced at the ‘point of production’. Peter Fleming 49 framework of neo-liberal capitalism still appears to have incomparable sway in governmental policy. corporate strategy. distribution and exchange? In other words. While the ideology of work is dead and over for so many – it is seen of little ‘worth’ – labour nevertheless has to act as if the superlative credence of working is alive and healthy.

For sure. given the repeated defeats of neo-liberalism. the logic of work comes to colo- nize all aspects of life. . Under bio-political regimes of control. And. but is something we are. are broken down so that work is no longer something we only do (among other things). Indeed. the attendant political enactments that this ‘exit wish’ inspires may not always be politically progressive. but the way the material forces of neo-liberalism continue and expand their realm of influence even as widespread opin- ion has deemed it fundamentally dead. This is where the traditional boundaries between work and non-work. The desire to exit and withdraw from an obsolete and unsalvageable ‘totality’ is becoming a significant facet of the political imaginary currently fer- menting in and around the scattered points of production. it remains to be asked why this brittle corpse not only fails to die but actually extends and deepens its reign. its failures both as an ideal for the advance- ment of personal freedom and autonomy as well as the crises that have done for its scientific and social legitimacy. Neo-liberalism at work – or the persistence of a dead idea Any analysis of the way in which the meaning and legitimacy of hav- ing a job is being reshaped and recast today might do well to place it on the backdrop of the ongoing failure of the neo-liberalist model of capitalism. better work or fairer work. but this becomes exceeding difficult when it has integrated itself inside life as such. the power relations of capitalism change significantly. But for the multitude subjected to it. What is peculiar is not necessarily the economic and ideo- logical crisis per se. This chapter suggests this is why ‘life’ is experienced by the bio- proletariat as a kind of live death. as we shall soon discuss. work is still something that we would rather avoid (like the plague to paraphrase Marx). labour no longer asks for more work. but an escape from work. When life itself – our social com- petencies and intelligence. whether the current recalibration of workplace struggle around the sign of ‘exit’ or ‘exodus’ represents an effective retort to the demands of late capitalism is likely to be hotly debated in the near future. even in our dreams. the experience is not one of dying but neither of living. distribution and exchange today. As a response.50 A Working Death? petty mind games of a passive-aggressive boss. our artisanal enthusiasm and ability to self- organize (often outside paid working hours) – is put to work. work and life. But a novel counter-work politics is also afoot that is also quite distinct from previous modes of workplace struggle.

as lower taxes have meant that what had been considered social goods – such as health and education – become dependent upon the vagaries of the private sec- tor job markets and individualized wage deals. the operations of which are kept in being by the circulation of pure a-signifying signs around the dead husks of industrial capitalism. Crouch 2011. which leave an ever-dwindling supply for further rounds. through the corridors of institutions whose raison d’être is now forgotten but that cannot cease without collapsing what is the mere memory of social life into anarchic dystopias of a future past. As he put it. 2010). The ‘being in this together’ exists only as a cry for austerity by those who do not have to experience it.1 Markets not only fail – their reliability consists in precisely our being able to rely on them doing so persistently and regularly – but their failure is what allows for each stage of the next round of dis-assembling of the remains of the social. as the promoter of a flourishing free-market economy. Alan Greenspan. and increasingly to the extension of the working life as the almost complete privatization – individualization – of the costs of old age have been presented as a natural consequence of an ever-older population. allowing for the scapegoating of the very poor. That neo-liberalism has failed in terms of its scientific ideal. to admit in 2008 that the legitimacy of the model was at an end. by those only a few steps above them on the income security ladder. migrants etc. Peter Fleming 51 That it has failed on all known measures to further its purported ide- als of freedom is clear (see. What this chapter explores is how the collapse of the model of expla- nation and legitimation of ‘how the world works’ can co-exist with the continued operations of that structure – especially in the post-industrial workhouse. the infirm. he found a ‘flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works’. Each failure is ‘resolved’ through a further attack on the social relations and structures that have managed to survive previous rounds of surplus extraction. Over the last thirty years. The ever-increasing work- ing day has turned into an ever-longer working week. Quiggin. for example. culminating in the ongoing crisis that began in late 2007 and that caused even that doyen of neo-liberalism. Whereas – as Fredric . We are left with an increasingly bloodless and gutless struc- ture. perhaps needs even less argument after the ever more resounding failures of markets over the last three decades. the working day in the ‘advanced’ economies has become ever longer as increasingly two salaries are necessary to live a half-decent life for all but a tiny number of professions. The ideal of the entre- preneurial individual has had the effect of turning the social into a cost for individuals (rather than a resource).

contemporary neo-liberal capital leaves us with figures on a screen. which translate into unrelated dead objects. the work- place? The translation of this ‘living death’ of neo-liberal capitalism and its deep-rooted currents of crisis into the institutional setting of the workplace is no doubt complex. Subsequently. What do we mean by the bio-politicization of work? Unlike the clas- sic bureaucracy that formally banished anything remotely personal or emotive from the workplace (as Max Weber well documented) or . of translating their inertia into relational laws or inner dynamics of what turn out to be static in appearance only’. But it is the way the neo-liberal project has bio- politicized the ideology of work (to paraphrase Gorz (1989)) that is of most import for understanding the concretization of the crisis. That the legitimacy of work is over is now well founded. but is also something we are.52 A Working Death? Jameson (2011: 21) points out – Marx outlines two sets of languages. Universalizing a dead idea? The bio-political workplace If neo-liberalism is putatively and practically dead. what does this mean for the way we approach one of its central institutional pillars – namely. The only thing sustaining the model is the unconscious memory of the social. and most crucially. labour and play have been severely disrupted. work is not only something we do among other realms of social activity. Today. as the many accounts of employment today have recorded (including Parker (2002). one that of a fetishistic ‘object-ness’ and another ‘a mathematical process capable of taking the place of those substances and objects. the marginal persistence of collectivity – in many cases mere survivals but in all cases survivals that are both threats and preconditions for continued surplus extraction. the institution of having ‘a job’ is not only perceived to be bereft of life or social good but also. But this collective mindset might also be partially responsible for the strange continuance of the moribund neo-liberal moment. Cederstrom and Fleming (2012). and yet we seem- ingly must all behave as if it is alive. becoming a kind of warped lifestyle that we carry around with us in our DNA. Gregg (2011) and Berardi (2009) among many others). almost inexorable in its preponderance over our imagination and social relations. It engenders a specific type of anomie – the feeling that one is languishing in a dead-end job and leading a life not worth living. especially the way the once important boundaries between work and non-work. transforming ‘a job’ into a virus-like totality unlike any previous modality of capitalism.

Indeed. you are free’. But the process also flowed the other way since management . Ross (2004) nicely described this new mode of exploitation in his study of employment in the US. As Fleming and Sturdy (2011) highlighted in their study of a call-centre. italics in original). unique personalities and all that is different about them. favourite food. the author of the best-selling pop-management book Maverick!. Yet indicative of how the firm today aims to enroll living labour – all of those facets of social intelligence and amateurism including our propensity for innovation and self-organization – by putting life itself (or bios) to work. traditional controls around time and bureau- cratic regulation still abound (see Fleming and Sturdy 2011). Peter Fleming 53 the archetypical factory that criminalized anything hinting of non- employment activities (play. this not only entails the transposition of life into the workplace as a regulative principle. liberty and choice at work. including their sexual orientation and hobbies. goes so far as to say that ‘control is now per se … now. Personal preferences of the employee of the month – choice of music. he argues that work and life are today indistinguishable. today’s employment settings have significantly displaced the cultural boundary between work and non-work. The blurb on the back cover of Semler’s (2004) The Seven Day Weekend tells – to the strains of unbelievable and fantastical hyperbole – of complete and unregulated worker autonomy. informal banter). But they have been augmented by what we would like to call biocracy in which what employees once considered ‘a life’ outside the office or factory is now an essential ‘human resource’ to be exploited. The capitalist rationale is clear. It also acknowl- edges that it desperately needs all of those social and non-commercial qualities of the worker that so frequently lie outside the structures of formal economic rationality (and are banished under older modes of domination found in the classic bureaucracy and factory). Of course. Further more. the management pundits celebrate this shift in managerialism as the arrival of new employment freedoms. The ‘permissive firm’ realizes it is now merely a machine for reproducing dead labour. and historical heroes – might be presented on a monitor in the office’s foyer. He found that the non-work signifiers continuously were evoked as the firm imported ‘lifestyle components back into the workplace’ (Ross 2004: 139). but also its obverse – namely. fun. We only have to wander into any airport bookstore to find titles that proclaim the ‘Seven Day Weekend’ or the ‘Play Ethic’ to note this. For sure. today many employees are exhorted by ‘liberation management’ to express their individuality. Semler (1994: xiii. freedom. the spread of work into everyday life beyond the office.

extend- ing the logic of the market into society as a whole. it is remarkable that Foucault theorized its ideological birth without any mention of the industrial violence and strife that accompanied it – Thatcherism in Britain.54 A Working Death? knew that ‘ideas and creativity were just as likely to surface at home or in other locations. Beset by both internal and external socio- economic shocks during the 1970s and 1980s. The living death of work … up close How did it come about that we find ourselves semi-existing in a dead world under the sign of biocracy? The translation of the living death of neo-liberal into a kind of existential malaise concerning the meaning of work has a history. for example. The notion of biocracy is inspired. the biocratic moment emerges during that phase of capitalism where it recognizes it cannot organize itself and so enlists workers to do it instead. But accordingly. But it was also indicative of a new paradigm of exploitation in which corporate managerialism understood the coming need to exploit the informal qualities of workers. dreaming up solutions to problematic code conundrums (what he called ‘sleep-working’) in the middle of the night. Indeed. Now it is not only the formal state that begins to manage life itself but also the market mechanism. It was a tactical response to the inbuilt inadequacies of the capitalist mode of production as it characteristically ran up against its own limits. In his prescient lecture series pub- lished in English as The Birth of Bio-Politics. extending . This was certainly a neo-liberal class offensive bent on a major re-expropriation of surplus value (Harvey 2007). Foucault (2010) convinc- ingly connects bio-power to the rapid dominance of neo-liberalism. by the broader concept of bio-power. This is vividly captured in a recent biographical essay by Lucas (2010) called ‘Dreaming in Code’. But even sleep is now ripe for exploitation under biocracy. the argument here is that the current universalization of work (in the form of bioc- racy) itself was born out of crisis. of course. Indeed. The computer programmer described how his life was so integrated into the moment of production that sleep was even involved. American economists like Becker begin to speak of ‘human capital’ and ‘human resources’ in which the very life abilities of an individual can be indexed as an economic utility. The weakness of Foucault’s analysis is the downplaying of class strug- gle and class conflict in the emergence of neo-liberalism. and so employees were encouraged to work else- where … the goal was to extract every waking moment of an employee’s day’ (Ross 2004: 52).

we see the importance of non-work in a wide range of industries. reject authority and inject an element of humanity back into work notwithstanding the edicts of formal rules (via play. A good example of this . personality. their gay identities or alternative political views at work. And. we see the rise of what Kuhn (2006) calls the ‘lifestyle firm’. amidst widespread incredulity about the importance of work and a crippling neo-liberal crisis. It aims to engage workers by allowing them to just be themselves (‘warts and all’). Indeed. Recent studies have shown how this organic informality is now actively encouraged and utilized by a more ‘holistic’ kind of human resource management (HRM). As the classic studies of workplace behaviour including Roy (1952. employees have always found ways to relieve boredom. emotional acumen and collective improvisation. It includes also the world of non-labour. games. 1958) and Burawoy (1979) have demonstrated. But we should not overemphasize the importance of identity and its free expression. since these aspects of social labour often lie outside or beyond the logic of economic rationality. the experiences and knowledge matured outside of the factory and the office. We might see the managerialization of the under- life forged by workers that was always present but previously distrusted under Fordism. Virno (2004: 203) explains the rationale succinctly: The productive cooperation in which labour-power participates is always larger and richer than the one put into play by the labour process. rather than hiding them from view for fear of chastisement (of course. today. This biocratic attempt to exploit the riches of non-work may take a number of forms. It is the concrete extension of the logic of work into all facets of life that is the key rationale of biocracy. sexuality. humour and even sabotage). The idea is that employees might be more motivated if they feel comfortable expressing. say. as we noted above. from the call-centre (Fleming 2009) to the management consultancy (Costas and Fleming 2009) and the textile factory (Land and Taylor 2010). labour unionism is conspicuously left of the list of desirable expressions of identity). Peter Fleming 55 workplace regulation into life itself is typical of a kind of capitalism that is super-reliant on human qualities such as social intelligence. But things are different today. Some corporations even promote what was once deemed ‘organizational misbehavior’ (Ackroyd and Thompson 1999) under the Fordist model of accumulation. Labour- power increases the value of capital only because it never loses its qualities of non-labour.

she investigates the way com- puter technology in particular created an enviroment of self-entrapment. working Sunday night so the Monday morning went well). And this meant the labour was never ending. ‘keep on top’ and not let your team down overwhelmed employees with a perception of being swamped by a torrent of endless. on an accident and emergency hospital table – well. Moreover. With the aid of mobile technology. and in one extreme case. For example. the quest to ‘keep up’. Regarding ‘presence bleed’ she writes (Gregg 2011: 2): Communication platforms and devices allow work to invade spaces and times that were only susceptible to its presence. This is a process we might describe as the presence bleed of contemporary office cul- ture. teams were crucial for concentrating work into an urgent. more to the point: ‘Loyalty to the team has the effect of making extra work seem courteous and common sense’ (Gregg 2011: 85). there was an enormous amount of unpaid effort to ‘ready’ or ‘poise’ oneself for the formal moment of exploitation (e. The management function was embedded in the worker himself or her- self (as well as having a normal ‘boss’ above them). someone had to inform the office that they would not make the meeting! The never-ending overstimulation outlined by Gregg also represents what might be called the horizontalization of capitalist power relations. in bed. This is what Gregg calls ‘presence bleed’ (always being mentally on the job) and ‘function creep’ (increased time being given up to work). useless labour. workers could (and often did) work at home. Gregg (2011: 74) notes: ‘The team becomes hegemonic in the office culture due to its effectiveness in erasing the power hierarchies and differential entitlements that clearly remain in large organizations. In a number of case studies. . on the weekend. ever-pressing ‘problem’ requiring immediate attention. on their days off. in the café. where firm boundaries between personal and professional iden- tities no longer apply..’ And. Presence bleed explains the familiar experience whereby location and time of work become secondary considerations faced with the ‘to do list’ that seems forever out of control.g. at a child’s football game. It not only explains the sense of responsibility workers feel in making themselves ready and willing to work beyond paid hours but also captures the feeling of anxiety that arises in jobs that involve a never- ending schedule of tasks that must be fulfilled. With the use of mobile technology.56 A Working Death? can be found in Gregg’s (2011) Work’s Intimacy. demonstrating how the ideology of work literally took over the lives of post-industrial employees in Australia.

is slightly different. it is never over. nevertheless. enter this institution (often with a fake smile) as forcefully as it enters us as a universal presence. who laments how conventional tactics of proletarian struggle are simply outflanked when work is not only something we do but also something we are: given the individually allocated and project centered character of the job. The labour of crisis translates into a moment of living death. This viral-like logic of a working crisis has even spread into our most intimate pastimes. of course. heel dragging necessarily involves a sense of guilt towards other workers. precipitating new modes of capitalist regulation. however. as work that is not done will have to be done later under increased stress. writ-large by a complete. however. then the politics of industrial antago- nism also undergo permutations. ‘Exit work’ and the labour of crisis If the current neo-liberal crisis is fundamentally exemplified by the strange persistence of a moribund ideological ideal. Neo-liberal capitalism is over. This impasse is amplified in the workplace. Given the collaborative nature of the work. absenteeism only amounts to self-punishment. On the production line. For the workers studied. but when your work resembles that of . the truly perplexing question is this: how does one resist a workplace that has gone ‘viral’. let’s recap. overcoded by the feeling of sheer pointlessness of our job. sabo- tage might be a rational tactic. But the formula of our bio-proletarian malaise. We have also always known that capitalism accu- mulates numerical value by subtracting social value. The institution of work is besmirched even by captains of industry but we. yet it continues to determine us like a force of nature. The difficulty here is perfectly captured by our aforementioned ‘sleep worker’ Lucas (2010: 128). But. a frenetic busyness without end or rationale. assuming a gaseous form that that infects our very social being. Capitalist work from the beginning was always under- stood to be tantamount to a social and existential death. irreversible and ominous dead end. no matter how many industrial psychologists were wheeled out to convince workers otherwise or how inventive the sub-cultural employee games became to escape boredom. our dreams and imagination. Peter Fleming 57 So. disenchantment and dehumanization. slowly poisoning almost every aspect of our lives on the job and even afterwards when we think the daily grind is over. precipitating a novel and inescapable cultural malaise. experienced as alienation.

making debates about whether the state is ‘semi-autonomous’ which preoccupied previous generations seem laugh- able today. family and so-forth). While the excerpt certainly conveys a sense of hopelessness. Following the wave of corporate corruption scandals from 2002 onwards. It is a strange thing to rejoice in the onset of a flu. This is represented among the ever- increasing multitude of the bio-proletariat who feel there is actually very little left to save when it comes to their (dead-end) ‘job’. anti-social institution that is inherently designed to appropriate that which it cannot provide on its own terms (see Fleming and Zyglidoplous 2009). And for the thousands of university-educated workers who have found themselves entering the low-paid service sector. This suggests the coming of what we might call a kind of post-recognition politics that does not want to be counted. Indeed. and a corrupt state apparatus promises prosperity and a whole range of related institu- tions (education. A byproduct of the growing percep- tion that neo-liberalism is both dead and paradoxically expanding its reign over our lives is the conclusion that there is something deeply unsalvageable about working today. The extreme nature of this disillusionment heralds a new labour poli- tics since it does not seek to be included or recognized by the capitalist state or corporation. heard or included by power. sabotage would only make life harder … It is only when sickness comes and I am involuntary incapable of work that I really gain extra time for myself. Its tactics are not based upon the old model of entering into dialogue with power and demanding better work. this perception itself engenders an ‘all or nothing’ or ‘zero-sum’ that was previously the sole reserve of a revolutionary discourse. most see the corporation as an unreformable. more work. simply to be ‘left alone’. but in the words of Lucas (2010) above. perversely riding on our . They also know that their governments are primary handmaidens to a nasty corporate elite. it also – albeit inadvertently – underlines what seems is an emergent paradigm of worker’s struggle: that of exit. While the labour of crisis outlined in the preceding sections is perhaps an accomplice to the conservative worldview that work is all there is. or fairer work.58 A Working Death? an artisan. The working and middle classes know full well that work is a con-job best left to its own self-destructive devices. It simply seeks to walk and be left alone. best not even mention the idea of meritocracy that underpins the bourgeois education apparatus. since many surmise that (neo-liberal) capitalism is now noth- ing more than a bloated and parasitic corpse.

the opposite. then why ask it for anything? Why not just leave? And this brings us back to the central question underlying the politics of post-recognition in the current climate of an overworked society – namely. But the less dramatic cases of alcoholism and ‘burnout’ are also indicative of this erroneous conflation of life with the deadness of neo- liberal capitalism. then I will hurt it by hurting myself. counter-attack against bio-political forms of power. Indeed.’ Only in the hope of an externally imposed and catastrophic death did freedom become discernible. the ‘big exit’ of death seems to be at the forefront of the desires among some in the workforce. As a junior management con- sultant told the author privately: ‘I realized things were bad whenever I boarded a plane for work. dressed him up in a garish yellow cat suit and called him ‘Howie. the Quality Cat’. many attempts to leave fail because they get it wrong. Peter Fleming 59 attempts to compensate and cope with its outlandish demands. They mistake the dead ideology of work for the breathing body. this proactive utilization of illness was first experimented with in early 1970s. To curb production defects. the manufactured bio-proletarian individual for life itself. management took a man off the line. I always prayed it would crash. Think again of our ‘sleep worker’ (Lucas 2010) and the way he rejoiced in the onset of the flu. how do we exit work when it has infiltrated our very mode of social being. This exit attempt says to itself: ‘If I am the bearer of power. Indeed. The Socialist Patient Collective urged workers to ‘use illness as a weapon’ and exhorted the proletariat to reconfigure the damaged body into a beacon of freedom. I will incapacitate it by incapacitating myself. and thus resists by resisting life itself. if misinformed. Foxconn (in China) and the bankers’ suicides in London following the financial meltdown can easily be understood in these terms. . As argued elsewhere (Fleming 2011. No detachment from work is achieved – in fact. and the stulti- fied ‘human resource’ for living labour.’ Deleuze and Guattari (1987) label this a ‘failed escape’ simply because it concedes life to capital. The wave of suicides on the job at France Telecom. Cederstrom and Fleming 2012) self-destruction is an understandable. The incapacitated body was considered a moment of freedom from the continuous pressure to work. One fascinating example can be found in Hamper’s (1992) tragic-comedic account of life in a large automobile factory that was slowly implementing controls associated with biocracy. over-saturating our lives so completely? Failed escape attempts Fundamentally.

social intelligence.60 A Working Death? At first. resourcefulness and open-sharing. the emergent labour politics noted by Shukiatis (2009) and Pasquinelli (2008) seek such a realization by de-working living co-operation and self-valorizing its evi- dent wealth. Soon a dejected Howie began to look more like a dishevelled stray. a process of subtraction from the relationship with capital by means of actualizing the potential autonomy of labour power. From the company’s per- spective. Refusal to work A more successful mode of repossessing life from capital is the refusal to work movement currently gaining moment in the west. amateurism. which would be communism. In theoretical terms. In part it involves what Harney (2011) calls social preserva- tion or ‘social rest’. democratic mutual aid. But more substantially. But he soon became the butt of almost every anti-management joke. it was easy to categorize him as yet another post-industrial stress casualty. Moreover. Indeed. The rationale goes like this. we observe firsthand how capitalist exploitation involves a conspicuous overreliance on those things that it cannot provide itself and that only we can: creativity. Hardt and Negri (2009: 368) call this exodus: … by [which] we mean. Howie mistook himself for the bio-regulated human resource he had become and turned on his own body. artisanal free-time and the associatives of non-work. Unlike other experiments in this area – most famously Larfargu’s classic ‘right to be lazy’ – this politics of disengagement is not individualist but collective in character. the ideology of work today is about harnessing the non. the bio-proletariat is no better placed to witness the corporation’s blatant overreliance on those things outside of its reg- ulative remit: free labour. as practised by independent- media groups (Shukiatis 2009) and co-operative working communities in the large metropolis of the west (see Pasquinelli (2008) for an excel- lent overview). Under the conditions of biocracy. Howie seemed happy with his newfound freedom. One fellow worker even tried to set him on fire. it might also entail the making of alternative worlds outside of capitalism. The notion of self-valorization is central to this social practice of exit. an escape from the frenetic attention economy of corporate life. sitting for long periods in the car park smoking cigarettes and drinking hard liquor. but in a manner that blocks their full realization.(or even counter-) capitalist social relations that yield this wealth. Thus. The end was nigh. initially at least. Exodus is not thus a refusal of .

2007). This strategy of . some have suggested simply turning away from the gaze of domination. We only need to look to the mass of employees who have departed their jobs – including the so-called ‘downshift movement’ in order to lead less exploited lives (see Nelson et al. Think of the bizarre self-referentiality in the reasoning of former president George W. Indeed. more so than we he started and many others. We might also think about the multitude of non-workers that chose never to enter the corporation in the first place (for a discussion of this see Costas and Fleming (2009)). an ex-consultant recounted an incident (see Fleming 2012): when he finally chose to leave the business he himself founded. Rather than speaking to power and thus risking falling prey to the ideological mirror game of recognition politics. More recently. While certainly a worthy form of struggle. However. Peter Fleming 61 productivity of bio-labour of labour power but rather a refusal of the fetters placed on its productive capacities by capital. he was overwhelmed with the congratulations from colleagues. Becoming imperceptible We often associate political struggle with being heard. the corporate world saw it in a particular light. In the London business newspaper City Life in 2011. Once again. the ideology of liberalism has always functioned in this manner. Escaping the self-entrapment of modern employment was considered a major achievement. Many among the bio-precariat worry that even voicing one’s discontent might simply strengthen the legiti- macy of the power structure being questioned. There are many examples of exodus in and around the formal enter- prise. if bio-capitalism is purely parasitical then why even bother speaking to power? It simply reinforces the idea that capitalism can give us some- thing (and it can’t and won’t). Why so? First. becoming visible to power might be counter-productive. a lead article entitled ‘How to Profit from the Protests’ recom- mended engaging with the protests to find new forms of innovation and ideas. with being recognized and being counted. in the bio-political climate. Bush when he said he felt vindicated by the millions of protesters opposing his policies because he stood for free speech. For example. Hundreds of websites are available to this end including leavingacademia. another example can be found amidst the 2011 anti-corporation protests that began with an occupation on Wall Street and spread around the world. the bio-proletariat was brought back onto the stage of power.

and through conspiracy. But again. Moore (2007) nicely explores this post-recognition politics in the music industry.62 A Working Death? reclamation of life (through the various detachments we have discussed above) might be better described as the struggle to be left alone. vulnerable. The infamous ‘invisible committee’ (Invisible Committee 2009) in France is a good example when it comes to anti- corporate protest and the refusal to work. this frequently resulted in artistic ‘sell-out’. When Leftists everywhere continually make their cause more “visible” – whether that of the homeless. In this context. In a demonstration.” But to be visible is to be exposed. which is notorious for capturing the living labour of art- ists. refusing dialogue and simply disappearing to enact the self-valorization of that which business ideology seeks to exploit. feminist DYI groups) understood this aspect of commodification. rendering the unmar- ketable marketable. In the 1990s a thriving network of autonomous culture producers had developed a unique sub-economy of music in a number of US cities. “Take responsibility for what you’re doing instead of hiding yourself. but instead turning the anonymity to which we’ve been relegated to our advantage. that is to say above all. of women or of undocumented immigrants – in hopes that it will get dealt with. At the same time. they’re doing exactly the contrary of what must be done. While engagement with the powerful corporates through various forms of ironic and cynical lam- pooning was and still is common currency (a la Nirvana or Radio Head). large music multinationals were making ever-deeper forays into this sub-culture. it does not entail disappearing into some kind of private solitude. These communities often celebrated anti-capitalist independence and a DIY ethic that dispensed with the need for large commercial labels. So these bands practised a politics of impercepti- bility: ‘riot grrrl participants developed a sophisticated response: a media . creating an invulnerable position of attack. a union member tears the mask off an anonymous person who has just broken a window. Not making ourselves visible. It explained the rationale (Invisible Committee 2009: 112–13): Turn anonymity into a defensive position. This is what some have called the politics of imperceptibility (see Papadopoulos. It is a very social disappearing. Stephenson and Tsianos 2009) or a post-recognition politics (see Fleming 2010). however. Some have achieved this by becoming inscrutable to power. nocturnal or faceless actions. Bikini Kill (which had considerable underground success with the song ‘Suck My Left One’) and other ‘riot grrrl’ bands (anti-consumerist.

the value of work for the multitude too is undergoing important permutations. Conclusion What does the crisis of neo-liberalism mean for the labouring subject beyond the economic realities of precarity. for better or worse. Perhaps. then that does not mean power is done with us. and as the neo-liberal model of accumulation and exploitation continues to dominate Western societies even when its legitimacy has reached an all-time low. There are detractors who feel that even if we are done with power. From our so-called ‘external’ vantage point. 2007: 9). for those . think of the wave of banker suicides in London (and elsewhere) that followed the initial jolts of the financial crisis in 2008. and is perhaps a key fulcrum for the debates around the best way to resist capitalism.’ And third. First. But this might also be part of its mythology that keeps our current miserable state of affairs intact. Second. fear of unemployment and debt? And what kind of political possibilities does this conceptual ‘beyond’ harbour? As capitalism enters a phase marked by a kind of strange living death as the financial and economic crisis deepens. By way of analogy. a post-recognition politics of exit has appeared among the labour movement. the corporation and the general tyranny of economic reason today. actively engaging the central organization of the state or corporate power is still an inevitable part of contemporary labour politics. the world of work has exhausted its cul- tural kudos to the point where even CEOs and the mainstream media lampoon it. Therefore. work has assumed the aura of an almost omniscient totality – forming what Fisher (2009) termed an irrefutable and self-referential ‘business ontology. given the recognition that work and neo-liberalism capitalism more fundamentally signify an unsalvageable and parasitical institutional husk. And is not the very idea of somehow exiting capitalism a massive ask. Is the motif of exit any more useful or desirable than the politics of voice and inclusion? This remains to be seen. it is easy to say that all these individuals had to do was to walk away and leave their jobs. tantamount to re-writing the flows of global politics on a grand and almost insurmountable scale? Perhaps. given its bio-politicization over the last twenty years in which it has come to be seen as the Siamese twin of life itself. Form the inside. Such an insignificant (yet vital) gesture compared to dying! But that is out of view. Peter Fleming 63 blackout … for the most part the mainstream media were forced to describe what they could comprehend of the burgeoning scene from the outer edge of a sweaty mosh pit’ (Moore.

64 A Working Death?

experiencing the neo-liberal crisis and the bio-political realities of a life
overtaken by work, it was no small matter. The market, the corporation,
a life of work was everything. This is a key ideological element of work
today that weds us to our own exploitation, the power of self-entrapment.
And it is exacerbated by the ongoing financial crisis, since it aims to
spread the virus of work so that it pre-occupies every facet of society,
even infiltrating the worlds of children and the unemployed. But from
the standpoint of historical materialism all that is required is a modest
political intervention to bring down this useless and parasitical house of
cards. Might not the politics of labour today, then, be the universaliza-
tion of this so-called ‘external’ standpoint that until now has only been
reserved to make sense of a friendless banker’s death?

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The Re-Emergence of
Workplace-Based Organization
as the New Expression of
Conflict in Argentina
Maurizio Atzeni and Pablo Ghigliani


Since the turn of the century, labour conflict in Argentina has taken
on a wide and diverse range of forms and expressions influenced by
economic cycles and changing political conditions. In the context of
economic stagnation and unemployment surrounding the 2001 crisis,
workers’ demands were framed within wider patterns of social mobiliza-
tion which saw less significance attached to union-led mobilization. This
was the time of road occupations by the initiative of the unemployed to
demand productive employment, and of the factory occupations – the
so-called ‘recovered factories’ – by which workers defended their jobs
and reinvented it under workers’ control. Both processes gained world-
wide resonance and have been analysed widely in the international
literature (Atzeni and Ghigliani 2007, Bryer 2010, Dinerstein 2002, 2008,
Grigera 2006). However, since the economic recovery of 2003 the return
to more traditional labour conflicts and the revitalization of unions
together with the increase of collective bargaining have taken place.
This renewed strength of Argentinean unions has been explained by a
combination of economic, political and institutional variables, inter alia
economic and employment growth, which resulted in a steady reduc-
tion of unemployment rates (Kosacoff 2010), government emphasis
in employment generation and collective bargaining (Palomino and
Trajtenberg 2006), and the role given to central union confederations in
tripartite bodies (Etchemendy and Collier 2007).
This context has produced fertile soil for the re-emergence of the dem-
ocratic and initiative aspects of unionism which, on the one hand, have
given room to grassroots mobilizations and direct actions that empow-
ered workers at the workplace and, on the other hand, has favoured


Maurizio Atzeni and Pablo Ghigliani 67

a renewal of strategies and leaderships, framing these within a more
leftist discourse. Although these can hardly be considered as new phe-
nomena in Argentinean union history, their relevance goes beyond an
assertion of pure novelty. These bottom-up initiatives, even if propor-
tionally few, have nonetheless represented through their emphasis on
participation and democracy a qualitative step forward with respect to
traditional union representation and methods of struggle. In turn, this
has re-instilled in Argentina a debate on union democracy and forms of
workers’ representation while at the same time expressing in everyday
demands the most radical opposition to neo-liberalism. In this sense,
the renewed visibility of workplace-based organizations, the so-called
comisiones internas (shop floor commissions), a distinctive trait in the
structure of labour unionism in Argentina and historically one of the
sources of workers’ power (Atzeni and Ghigliani 2011, Basualdo 2009,
Lenguita and Varela 2011), can be seen as an important and promising
novelty and development in the field of workers’ struggle.
A detailed analysis of some of the emblematic cases and of the practices
adopted by workers, while contributing to discussions about new forms
and expressions of conflict and to existing debates on union renewal
more generally (Fairbrother 2000, Hyman 2004, Phelan 2007, Gall 2009),
also offers the opportunity to engage with debates on i) unions’ nature
as both movements and institutions (Cohen 2006), ii) the never ending
democracy versus bureaucracy debate (Darlington and Upchurch 2012,
Belkin and Ghigliani 2010, Hyman 1975, 1979, Martinez Lucio 2012,
Norris and Zeitlin 1995) and iii) the role of leadership, particularly
left-wing, and workplace collective action (Beynon 1984, Cohen 2011,
Darlington 1994, 2002, 2006, Fantasia 1988, Gall 2003).
Using these theoretical debates as a background, after a section giv-
ing a brief description of key cases, this chapter is structured around
three main areas of analysis in which it focuses upon the following
a) the main determinants in the recurrence of these ‘movement type’
unions, b) the continuing tensions existing between grassroots initia-
tives’ aspiration to democracy and participation and the need to adopt
institutionalizing practices in their everyday functioning and c) the
role of leaders in framing collective action and the tension existing
between this role and internal democracy.


The empirical material on which this chapter is structured draws from
different sources. It is based upon an ongoing investigation into the

68 The Re-Emergence of Workplace-Based Organization

issue of union democracy in the Buenos Aires’ underground (Atzeni and
Ghigliani 2010) and previous research on workers’ grassroots collective
action in FATE and Mafissa (Ghigliani and Schneider 2010). The recent
cases of workplace conflict and organization that occurred in Argentina
have achieved public relevance, being the object of several case studies,
articles in national newspapers and the left-wing press, union publica-
tions and workers’ testimonies. These materials have been very useful
in constructing the analysis of the overall cases. The methodological
approach used is clearly inscribed in the field of qualitative studies,
which are known to best capture the dynamics of social processes in
the workplace. In addition, we believe that the variety of primary and
secondary sources used in the chapter allows for a balanced and wide-
spread picture of the events analysed.

Grassroots organizing and organizations

There have been over the last years a number of leading key cases in
which grassroots initiatives ended up challenging both employers and
established union leaderships through democratic narratives and prac-
tices. Indeed, all these processes of mobilization have been characterized
by a discourse based on principles of workers’ democracy in organizing
(with an emphasis upon the centrality of the assemblies in decision-
making, regular elections of workers’ representatives, leaders’ account-
ability) and the actual implementation of practices of direct democracy.
Undoubtedly, the most salient and successful case has been that of
Buenos Aires’ underground workers, who put workers’ democracy at the
centre of a conscious strategy used to strengthen shop-floor organizing.
Since 2000, when winning the shop-floor structure of workers’ repre-
sentation against the official union representatives, the underground’s
workers increased their wages, obtained a 6-hour working day, stopped
outsourcing and improved terms and conditions of employment through
intensive campaigning, combining industrial and direct action with
periods of relative peace and negotiations. Simultaneously, the growing
conflicts between the shop-steward structures and the Unión Tranviarios
Automotor (UTA), the legal union organizing the activity, led in 2009
to a split and the creation of a new union, the Asociación Gremial de
Trabajadores de Subte y Premetro (AGTSyP) (Arias et al. 2011, Atzeni and
Ghigliani 2010, Bouvet 2008, Ventrici 2009). This conflict was perhaps
the most important event in the opening of a public discussion about
the established model of union organization backed by the Argentinean
labour laws.

it had its roots in the 1990s and often was in conflict with national union leadership. In FATE. located in the Gran La Plata region. a factory occupation and police repression) that led to workers being finally defeated (Ghigliani and Schneider 2010). By the end of the year. in the midst of the politicized environment following the 2001 popular upheaval. a conflict in 2009 witnessed a similar process of grassroots organizing led by left activists. a decision was taken to demand a 40% increase. Varela 2008. grassroots organizing was sparked by the conflictive collec- tive bargaining round of 2006 in the rubber industry. however. Management reacted by dismissing 40 workers. 2009). Between 2005 and 2008. activ- ists organized numerous mass meetings to discuss their salaries and working conditions. In the face of the difficulties to organize a strike in a company well-known for its anti-union attitude. In the multinational food corporation Kraft-Terrabusi. activists from FATE together with other left workers’ representatives from Pirelli and Bridgestone-Firestone won control of the union branch of San Fernando and obtained more than 40% of ballots in the national election of the Sindicato Único de Trabajadores del Neumático de Argentina (SUTNA). the comisión interna confronted management tactics through grassroots mobilization and increasingly bitter conflicts (including a lock-out. This left victory in the FATE plant derived from intra-union con- flicts and realignments at both the local union and national level. the Asociación de Obreros Textiles (AOT). in 2007 gained the majority in the election of the comisión interna. Maurizio Atzeni and Pablo Ghigliani 69 There have been other democratic and grassroots organizing initia- tives. with the conflict further escalating when workers occupied factory premises. occasionally. advocating mass meetings and direct actions. This broad focus opened different fronts in the conflict with the company. challenging employers and. whose focus was not just on wage increases but also on different terms and conditions between old and new workers and on the introduction of a productivity agreement linked to a shared profit scheme. although in this case. this experience has undergone an uneven process of development. In the textile firm Mafissa. through participatory democratic methods and narratives. Soon after FATE’s comisión interna elections. Since then. In this context. It was only . an initiative led by leftist activists. workers blocked the factory’s doors. which ended up in electoral divisions (Ghigliani and Schneider 2010. During 2005. an important tyre factory in the north of the Buenos Aires’s province. did not take action against falling wages and deteriorating terms and conditions. established union lead- erships. as the official union. a tiny group of workers begun gradually and clandestinely to discuss the need of re-organizing the comisión interna.

This organization has a complicated relationship with the Federación de Empleados de Comercio (FEC) for the difficulties of maintaining high levels of grassroots participation limited its development. This experience was led by new. These sorts of ways of grassroots organizing have also been taking place among precarious workers. neither of which was recognized by the com- pany or by the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria de la Alimentación (STIA). young activists and leftist party members (Belkin 2010). and were finally defeated. Young work- ers from call-centres attempted to organize grassroots structures through clandestine methods and networking on the web. and after a long process of self-organization. The cause of the conflict was the dismissal of 158 workers. though usually with less success. because of a judicial decision. the employers and political authorities. But this case should be still be seen as a successful one given Walmart’s anti-union stance (Abal Medina and Crivelli 2011). most of them activists. By contrast with the aforementioned cases. These workers became famous during the 2001 popular upheaval when they confronted police. As a consequence. an anti-union US multinational chemical firm. employees organized a comisión interna appealing to grassroots democratic narratives and practices. 2009). including five members of the comisión interna and the majority of the representatives of the Cuerpo de Delegados (shop- floor delegates assembly). The most successful grassroots organization of pre- carious workers is perhaps that of motoqueros (motorbike messengers).70 The Re-Emergence of Workplace-Based Organization after 2001 when this bottom-up building started to deepen and become more radical. In a supermarket of the giant chain Walmart. forcing the comisión interna to look for external support. workers went on strike and occupied Kraft’s premises for 37 days. advocating . At Praxair. the ferocity of their employers’ anti-union practices along with structural factors thwarted the attempts (Abal Medina 2011). workers mounted a comisión interna which under- took a bitter conflict in order to get company recognition. helped the injured and supplied logistics to demonstrators in the midst of bloody repression. Kraft had to recognize delegates and to reinstall the laid-off workers (Varela and Lotito 2009). Sindicato del Personal de Industrias Químicas y Petroquímicas (SPIQyP) (Arecco et al. In the following years. the Sindicato Independiente de Mensajeros y Cadetes (SIMeCa). producing a highly politicized conflict where workers faced a yellow union. An important process of workers’ self-organization occurred in the casinos of Buenos Aires. and then several others to improve wages and conditions. before being violently evicted by police. This led to criticism from some workers. Despite some initial advances. this comisión interna established a collaborative relationship with the official union. However.

Where successful. much difficulty remains in explaining the cases in which labour conflict and workers’ representation have been led by workplace-based organizations ‘rooted in the class needs and demands of the rank and file’ (Cohen 2006: 4). over the course of time. sabotage and work-to-rule to gain visibility vis-a-vis the employer and the official unions. tensions and contradictions. grassroots experiences stand out as a form of workers’ more radical response to neo-liberal flexibility of work. According to Cotarelo (2007). 2008. However. developed in size and implantation. In this sense. These examples also displayed forms and methods of collective struggle which exist as alternatives to the traditional union-led strike. one third of the total labour . similarity exists between cases with and with- out union representation. some of these this chapter will now address. more representative and democratic organization when led by members and activists from far-left parties. However. Explaining the resilience of grassroots mobilization From the perspective opened up by the union revitalization debate. these cases brought about improvements in wages and terms and conditions of employment and tar- geted outsourced labour through workers’ mobilization and democratic narratives and practices. with the official union keeping to a negotiating role and its de facto monopoly in the call to a full-scale strike. At the same time. Etchemendy and Collier 2007). When companies escalated conflicts by laying off activists in retaliation. workers often made use of walkouts. The use of these methods has partly reflected widespread worker dissatisfaction and partly. the union joined the Central de Trabajadores de la Argentina (CTA). these methods have often represented the most direct and viable way available to workers’ collectives in the workplace. workers resorted to workplace occupations and roadblocks. their emergence and further consolidation is open to question. it did not eschew direct action (Barattini and Pascual 2011). Maurizio Atzeni and Pablo Ghigliani 71 grassroots democracy and resorting to direct action. and although it turned its attention to negotia- tions and launched a process of institutionalization which ended with its recognition by the public authorities. In the predomi- nant use of direct action. it has been argued the renewed strength of the Argentinean union ini- tiative has its basis the persistence of traditional institutional practices and channels of representation and conflict negotiation (Atzeni and Ghigliani 2007. In 2005. Especially during early clandestine phases. the adoption of means to consciously construct an alternative.

it is the capitalist nature of the employment relation and the labour process that continuously creates contradictions and conflict between employ- ers’ interest in profitability and workers’ satisfaction of needs. In this context. unionism-as-initiative can be seen as the natural process in the collectivization of interests – that is. From a structural standpoint. grassroots initiatives born out of economic necessity consoli- dated their organization in the struggles by engaging with democracy as a practice and as a narrative. Thus. But there were also cases where grassroots initiatives did not clash against existing union structures as a result of filling a vacuum of organs of rep- resentation and empowering workers in the face of unfavourable power relations. In this context. affect the success of these developments and the concrete way through which workers pursue democracy as a con- stitutive element in the structure of grassroots organizations. democratic decision-making and discussions were seen as a way of involving the grassroots to build commitment and solidarity as the tool leading to activity and unity in the daily struggle on the shop floor. has workers’ non-conformity with their conditions led them to coalesce around establishing new and more effective forms of representation rather than to trust the established ones? Why have these new forms been inspired by grassroots democratic methods and principles and why have these been considered as the ones powerful enough to undertake open confrontation with employers? The emerging unionism-as-initiative collectives tended to clash against the ‘formal. One way of looking at this revitalization of union-as-initiatives is to look at ‘episodes of rank and file resurgence as impelled by economic necessity rather than ide- alistic aspiration’ (Cohen 2006: 2). Thus. these contradictions do not just directly affect workers’ wages but also their working conditions and overall attitude toward work. in all the cases. clandestine activity was inevitable for fear of company or official . as an empirical manifestation of class divisions in the workplace. bureaucratically structured “representative” counterpart’ (Cohen 2006: 4) exemplifying the logic of the union-as-institution. In this sense. Moreover. in the cases we are analysing. economic motivations and working conditions are certainly at the roots of unions-as-movement. However. The work- place is undoubtedly the site in which these contradictions affecting the daily conditions of people emerge.72 The Re-Emergence of Workplace-Based Organization conflicts between 2003 and 2007 were launched by alternative union leaderships based within workplace structures. the existence of contextual variables – such as employer action. union policy and external socio- economic conditions – and the interplay of these with the role of left agency and leaderships. Why. but are not sufficient to explain this.

His overall conclusion is that the role of leadership by union militants and left-wing activists is a crucial variable in understanding collective workplace mobilization. eth- nographic studies of workplace dynamics and mobilization theory. writers on Argentina have underlined the role played by leftist activists and party members. Darling- ton (2002. and they can provide cohesion to a general discontent by generalizing from workers’ specific economic grievances to broader. the problematic of left agency has been re-addressed. Kraft. Praxair and underground transport. Left-wing leadership and collective action Recently. propagandistic and moralistic campaigns of left activists (contra initiative-building from below) and the prioritization of party-related demands and programmes over the promotion of working-class self activity served to distance left agency from the working class. .. underlining the paradox of workplace radicalism whereby lack of fusion between the aim to politicize struggles and the economistic content of shop-floor issues is characteristic of much left agency. they can spread a belief in the desirability and feasi- bility of strike action. By contrast. Cohen (2011) has proffered a more critical view. Indeed. the political mandate of left political parties has at times become dominant. drawing upon insights from classical Marxism. Mafissa. this kind of leadership ‘can stimulate awareness of grievances and of the potential for collective action for redress. while the role of left leaderships has been important to firmly install democratic prac- tices. At the same time. compromising the sustainability of grassroots organizing (see below). the only exception possibly being some participation in community activities. Maurizio Atzeni and Pablo Ghigliani 73 union retaliation and was paradigmatic of the way in which actual democracy was progressively built up. highlighting how this involvement has not been free of tensions and contradictions. has re-examined the agitator’s theory as a means of analysing workplace leadership and left agency. supermarkets and SIMeCa. This debate is important for analysing the aforementioned grassroots initia- tives.e. 2006). This is so because as Darlington (2006: 493) summarizes. even political concerns’. But this has also been predominantly the case in FATE. The youngest among them began work after 2002 without previous union experience. A salient feature of the stratum of activists is that most of them were young (i. This is most obvious in call-centres. For Cohen. where most workers are in their twenties. they can take the lead in proposing or initiating such action. 25–35 years old). While recognizing the significance of left agency at the workplace.

politicized former and current students were also involved in activating their fellow workers. which gained some ground in the universities during the rebellion of December 2001. and even partici- pated in. Except in Kraft and FATE. these collective leaderships appealed to democratic narratives and practices to spur organization and mobilization. In certain settings. Others are former Trotskyist activists. In these processes. A handful of activist from Socialismo Libertario (SL) were also influential in the advocacy of grass- roots politics and democracy in FATE. to confront at the same time employers and also the top-down decision-making mechanisms of traditional union leader- ships (or as Cohen puts it. This had a political meaning – that is. sharing information about workers’ rights and laws and overall doing very basic ideological propaganda towards union organiz- ing.74 The Re-Emergence of Workplace-Based Organization the older workers who entered the labour market during the 1990s have. like call- centres. This complicated the relationship with fellow workers and posed serious challenges to the ability to mobilize. Partido Obrero (PO) and Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS). Nonetheless. The political background of their activism is diverse. They have played an organizing and leading role in some of the grassroots initiatives. This activity empowered workers and led to conflicts with employers. and to a lesser extent SIMeCa. experienced contact with. Many are members of left parties. the logics of union as institutions). . the majority are grassroots workers without previous party or union experience who adopted combative and adversarial stances. in a period of retreat. In union-free workplaces with strong anti-union policies. They had sometimes already been members of Trotskyist parties or sympathizers of autonomist groupings. the initial tiny group of activ- ists had to work clandestinely in setting themselves up in order to avoid employer retaliation. However. emerging leaders spent much of their time collecting data on existing collective agreements. But these processes emerged in different contexts. union activities and party politics. par- ticularly in industry. especially Trotskyist ones like the Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS). where established comisiones internas were already in place. Maoist activists from the Partido Revolucionario Comunista (PCR) have headed the Kraft comisión interna since the mid- 1990s and have an influence at Mafissa. which determined important aspects of the opportunity structure for organized action. who left their organizations over differences regarding union politics and practices. A handful of these played a crucial role in the Buenos Aires underground but also in Praxair. the effective collective leadership of these grassroots ini- tiatives has often been the outcome of a combination of activists with different backgrounds.

the comisión interna established a working relationship with the chemical union. The distinctive feature of this was the success of the left agency in mobilizing workers through a grassroots democratic narrative and practices of direct democracy through mass meetings and direct-action tactics. Union support was crucial when having to confront the dismissal of one of its most signifi- cant activists. and after the 1993 strike defeat the comisión interna became a formal and powerless body. instead. the emerging leadership called mass meetings to discuss wages and the incorporation of contract workers. obtain- ing some 20% in the election for the food union’s general secretary. did not attempt to reorganize the remaining workers. PepsiCo and Cadbury-Stani. won at several important workplaces in the nearby industrial areas. and shop-stewards integrated into union representative structures. The AOT did not seek to reorganize the workplace. the emerging leadership maintained a conscious policy towards involving the union in defence of their demands. The situation in FATE and Kraft was different. although with the same combination of mass meetings and direct action pushed through by new leaders. which also organized and influenced unemployed organizations (piqueteros) and the Trotskyist PTS. the employer defeated this grassroots initiative through repression and dismissals. the FEC maintained a conflictual relationship with elected workers who were critical of the union. Corriente Clasista y Combativa (CCC). In 2005. after almost four years of working under- ground. five activists began discussing with fellow workers the need for self-organization to raise their wages and improve health and working conditions. . including Kraft. the AOT was seen by workers as pro-employer. In this case. Maurizio Atzeni and Pablo Ghigliani 75 individual dismissals of activists as well as union involvement. In Praxair. an alliance between the Maoists. initially through clandestine methods as a result of conniving between the UTA and private operator Metrovías. Left activists had been active in both factories for some time. in turn. In the case of Kraft. after a long and hard conflict. activists strongly criticised the union and the union. In Mafissa. the Buenos Aires underground presents a different dynamic. In 2004. In Walmart. Federación de Obreros y Empleados Telefónicos de la República Argentina (FOETRA) initially supported the struggle. Maoist militants had headed the workplace structure of representation since 1993. However. three differ- ent groupings of activists. but once the grass- roots initiative was defeated. Finally. In both places. This organizing process led to the recognition of the comisión interna. In call- centres. well- established comisiones internas existed with competition for gaining election to them. In this case. In this context.

as in FATE. a homogeneous leadership with an agreed sin- gular perspective of pursuing a hard-line approach almost entirely based on promoting industrial action contributed to alienating grassroots support. Elsewhere. this tactical orientation led to isolation and defeat in the face of the employer’s offensive (and where there were also different views on how to deal with the employer’s repression). have a more flexible and quite pragmatic understanding of union . opposing the top-down and pro-employer outlook of many unions by using grassroots democratic narratives and practices and by building in this manner material conditions for col- lective action from below. At Mafissa. generating frustration and disillusion- ment. Therefore. The influence of electoral politics and party lines has often created obstacles to developing grassroots support. activists belonging to Trotskyite parties and a group of radical independent activists. led to an organizational split and the creation of a new union. Sometimes. Different ideas and practices about the meaning of democracy competed within the workplace structure of representation. Once again. the leadership built by activists on the Buenos Aires underground stands out for its complexity and dynamics. grassroots fundamentalists. In the main. leftist leaderships – fulfilling the role ascribed by Darlington – were at the centre of constructing grievances by identifying demands and workers’ rights. promot- ing internal group cohesion. three groups with different and sometimes opposing visions existed: namely. However. the independent activists. which first replaced union official representatives and then. who had the greater leading role. Cohen’s observations highlighted limits and contradictions. grassroots backing has been limited. At Kraft and FATE there were divisions along political lines during or after indus- trial conflicts and in the face of competition from established unions. This case was the most striking of all and a model for others because of workers’ ability to engage in innovation in tactics and discourses and to drastically improve wages and the terms and conditions of employment. in the face of a direct confrontation with the union. and despite significant gains. where the traditional leadership won back the union election with more than 50% support. bringing about defeat and disorganization in the former and the establishment of a comisión interna that depends heavily on just a handful of activists in the latter. In call-centres and Walmart for instance.76 The Re-Emergence of Workplace-Based Organization gradually developed a workplace structure of shop-stewards. blaming employers for the grievances. Leadership cohesion was often fragile. While the first two defended – for differ- ent reasons – mass meetings in the decision-making process as a matter of principle. this undermined rank-and-file support.

has frequently been at the centre of analysis of work. The issue of democracy within unions. delegates should be just the voice of the assembly as they consider there is a high risk of bureaucratization in any decision-making by delegates without membership consultation. This simultaneously both empowers and dis-empowers independent organizing in the workplace so that workers’ demand for more democracy and accountability within unions. formal and informal . Democracy as a principle and as a practice A common theme running through all the workplace initiatives was democracy because it was regarded as the most fundamental principle guiding and inspiring the practical aspects of workers’ decision-making and regulating the accountability of elected leaders to their members. On the one hand. This aspiration to more democratic forms of collective organization is rooted in the history and structure of labour unionism in Argentina. They argued that delegates must take on collective responsibility and. has been a recurrent issue within the history of the Argentinean labour movement. and thus they advocated relative autonomy of the delegates. For those advocating mass meetings as the cornerstone of decision-making within the union. One concerns relations between democracy and collective action/identity. and the accompanying anti-bureaucratic struggles against union officialdom. On the other hand. on some occasions. By contrast. This practice has usually involved later consultation by which workers could reject delegates’ decisions. the vertical nature of labour unionism in Argentina – in which workers are legally represented by only one union per sector – means workplace structures are often at risk of being subordinated to centralized decision- making in national unions. The different understandings amongst activists reflected dif- ferent views about the role of workers’ delegates. Due to the diversity of inter- ests amongst workers as a result of the structuring of the labour/capital relations and of workers’ subordination within it. Its centrality. particularly from a Marxist perspective. decide on behalf of workers. the law – following workers’ struggle during the 1930s and 1940s to gain recognition of workplace structures – now provides recognition to workers’ comisiones internas and protection to workers’ delegates exercising a union function (fuero sindical). the independent activ- ists believe workers’ delegates’ lack of a clear plan of action signalled weakness in front of their fellow workers in the assemblies. Maurizio Atzeni and Pablo Ghigliani 77 democracy. and its limits and possibilities. has been approached from different standpoints. and more generally a focus upon the logic of processes regulating unions’ internal practices.

A second standpoint places democracy within broader debates about the very nature of unions. Thus. Thus. they develop the bureau- cratic apparatus of experts in negotiation. their functions. However. but later participation in the delegate elections in 1998 and 2000 extended the possibility of more direct participation. and are regarded as the outcomes of tensions emerging from hav- ing to sustain dignified work in a context of powerlessness as Martinez Lucio (2012: 42) expressed it. on the Buenos Aires underground. Progressive consolidation of grassroots democracy is not the immediate priority of workers. but it gradually emerges as the most natural and direct way to enlarge the base of support for collective actions and organization- building initially led by small groups of activists. 2005. purpose. unions are organizations with internal contradictions. By contrast. rather than static relations. Debates on these aspects within Marxism have alternated between pessimism and optimism (Hyman 1971). Levi et al.78 The Re-Emergence of Workplace-Based Organization processes of democracy are considered essential to the redefinition of workers’ individual interests in collective terms (Offe and Wiesenthal 1980. But Hyman’s early work (1971. it is asked whether democracy is achievable within unions under capitalism. due to their role as mediator between workers and capitalists. Shifting product and labour markets in which unions try to gain dignified work and the shifting balance of power between capital and labour in the workplace and society require an analysis of democracy and bureaucracy (themselves built on contra- diction and tension). legislation and mediation. these features are seen as proc- esses. and growing as institu- tions within a system of industrial relations. 1975. initially required clandestine activity did not provide space to discuss strategies and actions in an open and inclusive way with all the workers. Norris and Zeitlin 1995). which for individual and functional reasons becomes detached from the needs of workers. ideological and institutional fac- tors act on their production is fundamental in evaluating the limits and possibilities of democracy within the new grassroots workers organiza- tions considered in this chapter (Belkin and Ghigliani 2010). Democratic practices develop conscious- ness. Thus. 2009) and consolidate the union and legitimate delegates (Peetz and Pocock 2009). solidarity and militancy (Lévesque et al. affecting organizations at different levels. The focus on these and how material. 1979) has been important in moving beyond the simplistic view that bureaucratization and institutionalization of unions and their leaderships are inevitable processes and the distinction and differentiation of interests between bureaucracy and rank-and-file (see also Darlington and Upchurch 2012). resulting from different factors. political role and identity. .

militants adopted a very gradual approach to organizing in recognition of the company’s anti- union policy. This time. though speeding up and formally extending the assembly method. Here. they opened up a period of intense debate and discus- sion within the factory that further increased the number of workers involved. to which workers responded with roadblocks and occupations. using layoffs to retaliate. However. contributed to strengthening grassroots democracy through the assembly method and allowed the activists to call and gain the election of a new comisión interna. workers’ delegates expanded democracy far beyond representative elections. continued violent confron- tation with the company and the politicization of Mafissa’s workers’ struggle. did not facilitate democracy. actively organizing small assemblies on the underground’s different sectors/lines through open weekly assemblies of the workers’ delegates and monthly meetings in the union premises. This success translated into strengthened solidarity. Resentment against the company and the ensuing confrontation fol- lowing the laying off of a delegate and attempts to delegitimize the elected comisión interna opened up room for wider discussion and offered the original small group of activists a way to extend democracy far beyond the limits of formal procedures and elections. discussions were limited to an initially restricted group of workers who used to meet secretly in the factory’s changing room. well-attended assemblies within the factory became a daily routine. effectively installing democracy as a habitual practice. The epilogue was that Mafissa . Worsening salary levels and labour con- ditions compelled workers into a more direct confrontation with the company through the mobilization and the organization of grassroots workers. Starting in 2003. They elected new delegates independently of the comisión interna. The employer’s attitude toward the emerging forms of representation has been particularly important at Mafissa. A similar process of progressive consolidation of grassroots democracy and of the assembly as the centre of decision-making was observed at Praxair. but the employer refused to recognize them or negotiate. Before. These actions were initially successful as the employ- ers retreated. Maurizio Atzeni and Pablo Ghigliani 79 it was against company flexibility plans in 2001 that the formal and procedural kind of democracy gained in the previous representative elections was transformed into a powerful tool able to mobilize workers in action. which in turn expressed itself in new democratic advances through which an insti- tutional consolidation of the new workers’ representation was gained. a sycophantic official union and a fragmented workforce comprising workers on different shifts and partly composed of precari- ous and outsourced workers.

2009: 143). Thus. group of workers. The case of the underground workers. and the last activists occupying the factory were evicted by police in 2007. however. consolidation of grassroots initiatives in a comisión interna imposes an enlargement of democratic consent for the new representation and for its leaders.80 The Re-Emergence of Workplace-Based Organization laid off a hundred workers. adverse circumstances such as company and official union opposition have represented material obstacles to developing assemblies. Second. Constituting delegates as executors of the assembly. This outcome invites further reflection about the most effective meth- ods of making grassroots democracy not just a principle but a living practice. Thus. which makes the means a shibboleth. . though representative. the main episodes of these workers’ struggles reveal that in many situations decisions were taken by workers’ delegates. not just because of the necessity to sometimes organize clandestinely but also because contingent strategies might need to be adopted during conflict and negotiations by a small. They saw delegates’ subordination and accountability to the assembly as the answer to the problem. First. does not seem a credible solution. while often cited as a key example of the fullest and most inclusive form of union democracy over a ten- year period. would have prevented action or would have lost the element of surprise. and allowing activists to dominate over silent majorities. This real- ity of imperfect grassroots democracy in struggle rests upon recognition that perfect democracy is often beyond reach within the dynamics of class struggle and the power relations in which they operate. is a good example of how democracy in principle does not always correspond to democracy in practice. Yet. Praxair’s workers’ delegates acknowledge this problem in a publication they wrote about their experience by argu- ing that consolidation required delegates not to discuss how to relate the comisión interna to the whole workforce (Areco et al. the emerging leadership on the underground tended to differentiate between construction of conditions for the fullest grassroots involve- ment through democratic assemblies and assembly-ism. Assemblies are almost unanimously considered as the primary method through which democracy is achieved. which sometimes pre-empted the will of the majority because wider consultation was impossible. workers have adopted this method to collectively defend their inter- ests. but this can also generate friction between the collective of workers represented in the assembly and the comisión interna. there are factors that contribute to reducing the democratic nature of the assembly. Indeed historically. thereby restricting the number of participants and the issues discussed.

Conclusion All these grassroots initiatives recounted in this chapter have shared some basic features. which rested almost exclusively on mass meetings and direct action. While countervailing factors play a part – strong internal opposi- tion and debate. Activists and delegates involved were part of a new generation of workers without previous participation in union activity and often with few experiences of work. The role played by left-wing party members in building organization and consciousness cannot be considered in isolation from the developments outside the workplace . legally recognized to negotiate and repre- sent the workers of the sector. Many of them had experiences of left-wing political parties and grew up in the context of popular protests and working-class mobilizations that characterized Argentina at the beginning of the 2000s. Indeed. The state imposes institutionalization upon worker initiatives. it formed a legal union in order to negotiate and close agreements with employers and abide by labour law. and concomitantly. The recent transformation of the underground comisión interna into an independent union. number of workers brings forth the possibility of increasing functional bureauc- racy. has been the cor- nerstone of the ongoing institutionalization of workers representation here. of the state. the logic of Argentinean industrial relations and the role within it of labour law. the risk associated with the rela- tive autonomy of delegates from the grassroots leading to a growing detachment should not be underestimated. remain explanatory variables. substantial power of the assemblies and the existence of informal channels of communication – the danger of reinforcement of the logic of the union-as-institution as against those of unions-as- movements does exist. Maurizio Atzeni and Pablo Ghigliani 81 While this pragmatic approach has the merit of highlighting the con- straints upon grassroots democracy and how emphasis on assembly-ism can be sometimes counterproductive. though elected. if there are mate- rial constraints to democracy. Yet. SIMeCa. the dynamics towards institutionalization can not be fully understood if analysis remains at the level of union organization. This was the cauldron in which these future grassroots leaderships grew up. and the continuation of the historical group of activists forming the new union structure. Rather. it is equally true that centralization of decision-making in the hands of a restricted. passed through this process. Workers without recognition are legally limited in exercising power through collective bargaining. for example. initially a grassroots initiative.

historically. But the unresolved challenge is to combine democracy with efficiency. to . While these features can explain why grassroots organizations have re-emerged at this particular juncture in Argentinean history.82 The Re-Emergence of Workplace-Based Organization in radical. in many cases to the emergence of violent conflicts. with work- ers using direct action in opposition to employer and established union officialdom. In many cases. This. could lead to a centralization of decision-making and the monopolization of leadership. This led. Although the dis- course of grassroots democracy remains pivotal. Yet. in practice the dynam- ics of the employment relationship and the Argentinean system of industrial relations regularly challenge the widespread use of democratic decision-making and compel the institutionalization of collective forms of representation. in turn. a separation of roles and personnel con- sequent upon formal recognition and operating within the institutional arena potentially de-activate many from participating in the internal life of their organization. improve working conditions and demand for salary increases and a struggle for autonomy and independence involving gaining rec- ognition from employers and consolidating organization. While the dynamics of collective bargaining for wage increases help to maintain shop-floor-level participation. grassroots initiatives and organizations have been forged in the context of a double struggle: namely. role of the state) and partly to the extent to which the grassroots initiatives are aware of the challenges that therein arise and how they respond to them. the resilience of grassroots organizing with its emphasis on democracy and participation is a continuous reminder and expression of not just conflict in workplaces but of working people’s power in ‘cracking’. A key aspirational aspect of this emerging consciousness was found in the practical activity of establishing grassroots democratic decision-making processes within workplaces and by the accompanying rejection of bureaucratic prac- tices associated with the existing unions and their leaderships. industrial relations system. resulting in some cases in the creation of new unions or the complete renewal of existing structures. an economic struggle to defend rights. once again representing a challenge to democracy as a practice. This partly relates to a series of external factors (company’s attitude. it remains more difficult to assess the future of the most successful of these experiences. Contradictions and tensions exist in many aspects of the internal life of the grassroots initiatives and their organizations. economic and product market context. Efficient organization to defend workers’ interests in this context necessarily requires delegation. popular social consciousness. in turn. role of official unions.

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union member- ship has also declined markedly. ineffectiveness and difficulty in organising strikes in the current period 86 . there were over 750 strikes per annum but since the early 1990s there have been less than 250 strikes per annum. In the 1980s.6 The Collective Expression of Workplace Grievances in Britain Gregor Gall and Sheila Cohen Introduction As not only employer power but also its exercise in a unilateral manner have grown in Britain since the late 1970s. being around 50% lower in 2010 than in 1979 and standing at 26% in 2010. Consequently. The emer- gence of European Works Councils. The decline in strike activity. with only a 14% density in the private sector. in 2009 and 2010 there were less than 100 strikes per annum and since 1989 less than 100 days were not worked per thousand workers as a result of strikes. is largely attributable to the relative costliness. All three phenomena are indicative of a weakening of collective worker influence in the workplace. according to the Labour Force Survey. a ‘representation gap’ for employee voice and mandate exists. The starkest signs of this have been the falls in strike action. union membership and union recognition. 64% of workplace establishments were covered by union recognition. According to the Workplace Industrial Relations Survey/ Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WIRS/WERS) surveys. the Information and Consultation Regulations and the statutory union recognition procedure have arrived too late and their powers are too weak to alter the dimensions of decline of the independent and effective means of grievance articulation and resolution. this had fallen to 27%. the seemingly primary traditional means of grievance resolution. Indeed. the independent and effec- tive collective means for employees expressing and resolving collective grievances have declined. in 1980.1 Concomitantly. By 2004.

this chapter examines the frequency and nature of other forms of collective industrial leverage which do not deploy official strike action. Although the number of workers involved and the number of days lost per year varies widely as a result of large single strikes amongst groups of public sector workers. strike action has been accentuated by developments in case law following the interpretation of the legisla- tion. Advisory. Thus. what other forms of collective action are available to workers to express and resolve their collective grievances? Consequently. if official strike action is no longer so feasible or has become too difficult or costly. and the . While the use of individual-based avenues of employment tribunals. resolve their collective grievances. and thus protected. Speechly Bircham 2011. the dominance of extant strike activity by such political leverage strikes – where the government is the target of pressure – merely highlights the fact that the number of employer- specific economic leverage strikes in the private sector has experienced massive retrenchment over the last thirty years. industrial action which has immunity in law – for the union – from prosecution for loss of business by the concerned employer must comprise balloted action which is notified and speci- fied to the employer in advance. Action which does not accord with these prescribed regulations is liable to be injuncted by courts follow- ing the actions of employers as litigants. articulate and. Consequently. 2012). These compromise those actions associated with unionisation such as official industrial action short of strikes (such as work-to-rules. critically. Of further note here is that lawful strike action is now significantly more regulated and its scope considerably narrowed following the 1979–1997 Conservative governments’ employment legislation (and its maintenance by the 1997–2010 Labour governments). Abbott 2004). This restriction on what constitutes lawful. Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) indi- vidual conciliation and Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) has increased sig- nificantly (Kelly 1998. 2003. unofficial industrial action like sits downs and ‘wildcats’. the use of legally required ballots – and consequent mandates – for industrial and strike action as bargaining chips. Given the continuation of significant employee dissatisfaction at work and employee aspirations for change (TUC 2001. this situation raises the issue of how workers can now attempt to express. Gregor Gall and Sheila Cohen 87 of enhanced employer power. serving to indi- cate that the prospect of locally initiated and led strikes continues to remain very limited. relatively little is known about how workers express their collective grievances other than through official strike action. Indeed. these types of strikes are primarily bureaucratically and centrally led. overtime bans and go-slows).

in this chapter. with the relative preponderance of mandated ballots for official industrial action (strike and non-strike) increasing while the relative preponderance of official strike action has decreased. this premise is easily understood. with the relative preponderance of unofficial action increasing while the relative preponderance of official strike action has decreased. workplace level. In the context of the cost and difficulties of organising official strike action having increased as its effectiveness has also decreased. In the case of official strike action being superseded by unofficial strike action.and intra-geographical or sectoral) dimensions and dynamics but it is to overall. Gall and Hebdon (2008). temporal dimensions and dynamics. for example. i) the balance of ‘cut price’ action to official strike action has changed. iii) the balance of mandated ballots for official industrial action (strike and non-strike) to official action (strike and non-strike) has changed. necessarily not sen- sitive to spatial (inter. In the case of strike action being replaced by non-strike action. . Simply put. Hebdon and Stern (1998). The central premise upon which they are based is that of the displacement effect. with the rela- tive preponderance of collective conciliation increasing while the relative preponderance of official strike action has decreased. ease and effectiveness) then other means are used as alternatives and substitutes. this means as one method of the expression and resolution becomes relatively less available (by dint of cost. ii) the balance of unofficial action to official action has changed. with the relative preponderance of ‘cut price’ action increasing while the relative preponderance of official strike action has decreased. the four propositions to be examined for the period 1980–2010 are. These propositions are intended to help open up a discussion of the salient issues in order to explore and understand the dynamics of the relative volumes of the different means of expression and resolution as well as their inter-relationship. thus. This notion of the displacement effect is. It. Bélanger and Edwards (this volume)) whilst not having the ability to probe more deeply into the more concrete relations between means at the lived. Sapsford and Turnbull (1994). retains some familiarity with previous studies and writings (see. iv) the balance of collective conciliation through ACAS to official industrial action (strike and non-strike) has changed.88 Collective Expression of Workplace Grievances in Britain use of collective conciliation cases dealt with by ACAS. this relates to the legal regulation of official strikes (see below).

the DTI/ESRC/ACAS/PSI WIRS/WERS. com- prising the TUC Trade Union Trends surveys. prompting a re-examination of other means of collective industrial action. Milner (1993) demonstrated that between 1979 and 1989 industrial action short of a strike. Although the consequent generated data from press sources. in particular. Strikes – always the traditional weapon? Strike action has nearly always been taken to have been the traditional weapon of choice in the industrial armoury of (unionised) workers. Socialist Worker and regional press accessed through the Lexis-Nexis electronic database. not forms of action. as a result of the decline in strike activity in the 1980s (see Table 6. primarily overtime bans and work-to-rules/go-slows. Moreover. as else- where. Guardian. Using the CBI Databank. Three caveats are in order before proceeding.1). because of degrees of under-reporting or non- reporting. and reporting from the Financial Times. putting together all the sources produces the most compre- hensive and robust data yet available. . DLA employment law surveys. ACAS annual reports. as this legal noose also applies in equal measure to industrial action short of a strike. Such conventional wisdom was challenged by Milner (1993). it is not possible to disentangle the impact of its effect so that a ‘pure’ version of industrial action short of a strike can be examined in this chapter. is not inclusive of all incidences of the different types of action under study. was considerably more frequent than strikes. New media means are techniques for action. Gregor Gall and Sheila Cohen 89 The data for this exercise is derived from secondary data sources. It is rea- sonable to suggest that the noose has progressively tightened around the neck of the unions in this regard since 1980 but it is hard to quan- tify the exact extent of this either in total or by the stages by which the legislation was progressively implemented and developed through case law. The third concerns the effect of the lawful restrictions on strike and industrial action. One is that it should be noted that this chapter is not intended to shed light upon the processes by which collective grievances are or are not formed (even though the availability and efficacy of the means of articulation and resolution clearly have a bearing on their usage (see Kelly 1998)). The second is that other forms of collective action like campaigns to damage brands and reputations as well as consumer boycotts are not considered as being sufficiently widespread to warrant inclusion. the use of new social media is merely a tool to organise this and other quite traditional forms of collective action. Morning Star. In these.

of days Days not worked involved not worked per 1.000 3.000 755.000 3.000 759.000 11 1999 205 141.000 55 1997 216 130.013.000 10 1998 166 93.000 155 1988 781 790. 1981–2010 Year No.000 5.000 32 1992 253 148.000 20 2001 194 180.000 19 2004 130 293.000 23 1993 211 385.90 Collective Expression of Workplace Grievances in Britain Table 6.000 1.000 157 1989 701 727.1) but also a) the prevailing wisdom that the changed legal position of a lawful strike has meant that the vast majority of strikes are now both official and .000 282.323.128.000 905.903.000 365.000 158.000 4.000 455.388 1. The rationale for again questioning the pre- eminence of the strike as the major modus operandi of collective griev- ance expression and resolution of unionised workers is predicated on not only the further decline of strike activity (see Table 6.074 720.1 Strike activity.041.016 887.000 6.000 525.402.000 51 2003 133 151.313.000 278.000 78 1991 369 176.000 528.464.364 574.000 6 2006 158 713.266.221 1.546.000 168 1984 1.00 17 2010 92 132.702.513. Moreover.000 242. industrial action short of a strike was found to be at least as frequent as the strike.000 3.000 workers 1981 1.303.207 1985 903 791.000 761.000 1.000 85 1987 1.000 499.000 4.000 27.000 34 2005 116 93.000 10 2000 212 183.000 184 1982 1.000 1. and examining previous surveys carried out between 1966 and 1978.000 38 2008 144 511.000 28 2009 98 209.528 2.000 28 2007 142 745.754.000 649.000 1.000 235.000 12 1995 235 174.000 28 1994 205 107.000 234 1983 1.000 20 2002 146 943.000 172 1990 630 298. of strikes No.000 1.00 14 Source: Employment Gazette/Labour Market Trends/Economic and Labour Market Review (various).000 415. of workers No.920.000 499.000 282 1986 1.000 1.135.000 18 1996 244 364.

suggests that this form of industrial action continued to be rea- sonably prevalent – at a 31% average annual incidence – in the period . 2000. The import of these two latter points is that. concerning just overtime bans and from a wholly unionised sample. Given that WIRS/WERS covers both unionised and non-unionised workers and workplaces. thus. This does mean that the issues of how non-unionised workers express and resolve their collective grievances cannot be directly addressed (assuming that they are able to form collective grievances). and b) the prevalence of the use of balloting for industrial action as a means of creating bargaining leverage. State collation of data on industrial action has always focused exclusively on strikes because lockouts are exceptional and industrial action short of a strike is regarded as diffi- cult to quantify. this may seem to slightly underscore the preponderance of the action given that the chapter has effectively concerned itself with only unionised workers and workplaces. Kersley et al. have increased purchase. That data which does exist is found in the WIRS/WERS (Millward et al. whilst.2). although with some stability around the 2%–4% mark since 1990. WIRS/WERS indicates a fall in the incidence of ‘cut price’ action across the period 1980–2004 (see Table 6. it is worth acknowledging that in effect this chapter is largely – if not quite solely – then concerned with the behaviour of an ever declining pool of unionised workers. unions are compelled to investigate alternative avenues for exercising leverage. it is clear that the frequency of strike action on any meas- ure has fallen substantially. and these other methods. because of the restrictions on official and lawful strike action. on the one hand. For the moment and in light of this. Gregor Gall and Sheila Cohen 91 lawful (whereas in the 1960s some 95% of strikes were not official). To re-affirm.3. 2006). unofficial and unlawful strikes may now have a purchase in a way that official and lawful strikes do not because the former can ‘strike while the iron is hot’ and retain the element of sur- prise. Yet it may be self-evident that this was likely to be the case as the number of union members halved between 1979 (13m) and 2010 (6. Table 6. Trade Union Trends (TUC 1995–2001) and DLA (1994–2004) employment law surveys.5m) and that strikes by non-union members are almost unheard of. The significance of this is all the more evi- dent given the expansion in size of the labour force over the period. on the other hand. ‘Cut price’ action Data on the preponderance of industrial action short of a strike (of any status) continues to be sparse.

although again subject to wide fluctuations. based on a survey of large unionised and non-unionised employers. (2000: 178). it has also experienced decline and has been less prevalent in the period of the 1990s onwards than might have been expected given Milner’s (1993) earlier research.2 Industrial action activity.2m (n/a) 46% Source: TUC (1995–2001).92 Collective Expression of Workplace Grievances in Britain Table 6. indi- cates that again industrial action short of a strike – this time covering all types of such action – in the period 1994–2004. Kersley et al.6m (68%) 20% 1997a 179 4.0m (88%) 27% 1998 n/a n/a 34% 1999 n/a 4. Yet. Note: The surveys were six-monthly for the first three years before becoming annual. Roughly speaking. The different sampling methods and populations in the three surveys make any direct comparison extremely hazardous. Nonetheless. . 1980–2004 All workplaces 1980 1984 1990 1998 2004 None 75% 69% 80% 98% 97% Non-strike action only 10% 8% 4% 1% 2% Strike action only 9% 11% 11% 1% 2% Both strike and non-strike action 7% 11% 5% >1% n/a Threatened action. (2006: 209).9m (68%) 40% 1996a 134 4.6m (n/a) 14% 2000 n/a 5. all three suggest that ‘cut price’ action has been of some level of significance. 1995–2000.4. Table 6. Table 6. and despite incomplete data for the period under study within and across the available data.3 Incidence of overtime bans. any type n/a n/a n/a 3% 4% Source: Millward et al. 1995–2000 Year Number of cases of Respondent unions’ Overtime ban industrial action membership (% of TUC as either sole or affiliated membership) joint means of industrial action 1995a 132 3.7m (70%) 20% 1996b 96 4. although this was subject to wide fluctuations. it might be thought of as on some kind of par with strike action.3m (48%) 45% 1995b 162 4.5m (66%) 30% 1997b 82 6. was common at a 15% average annual incidence.

478 2005 81 1.009 2006 64 154. From this data.8% n/a 1995 26% 5.375 2003 11 7.280. indicating that there has been little of a displacement effect of workers not taking strike action but taking industrial short of a strike as an alternative instead.5% n/a 1996 7% 8.4 Incidences of industrial action short of a strike.5) suggests that the later part of the period under study has witnessed a broadly similar trajectory in the number of incidences of industrial action short of a strike. it would be hard to conclude that ‘cut price’ action has received much of a fillip as strikes declined. Note: Although DLA continued to publish intermittent reports on industrial relations. 2000–10 Year Number of incidences Number of workers involved 2000 10 34.0% 220 2000 14% 8. again being .747 2001 16 123.5 Incidences of industrial action short of a strike.816 Source: Newspaper reporting – see methodology.080 2009 81 17.048 2004 111 2. Data for the period 2000–2010 (Table 6. 1994–2004 Year Experience of industrial Experience of Number of employer action short of a strike strike action respondents 1994 14% 7.904 2010 33 252. Gregor Gall and Sheila Cohen 93 Table 6. it ceased conducting its own surveys in 2004 and its 2010 report did not ask the same ques- tions as previously.0% 220 1998 10% 11. Table 6.129 2007 68 47.5% 230 1999 14% 9.212.385 2002 25 48.0% n/a 1997 12% 7.0% 249 2001 21% 18% 252 2002 n/a n/a n/a 2003 10% 20% 370 2004 8% 7% n/a Source: DLA (1994–2004).327 2008 82 51.

respectively. of those partici- pating in unofficial strikes without recourse to unfair dismissal claims. and the industrial action not necessarily constituting a breach of contract (for example. and the more porous nature of indus- trial action short of a strike with regard to policing its exercise vis-à-vis a strike. the enactment of the Employment Act 1990 in November 1990 led to a large and immediate but temporary fall in the number of unofficial strikes as a result of the aware- ness that the Act allowed the dismissal. ‘the majority of strikes are unofficial’ and ‘most industrial action remains unballoted’ for the period of the 1980s. However. This picture of only a minority of strikes being official was true for the period 1960–1980 (Jackson 1983: 198– 200). in the absence of the breakdown of strikes by the state of strikes into official and non-/un-official from 1981.e. . the lower costs being more sustainable over the longer period. This concurred with the observation of the Labour Research Department (1992: 48) and Simpson (1993: 296) that. Thereafter. which in the current situation make the accom- plishment of mobilising for such industrial action even more difficult. action that had immunity in tort). around 75% of all strikes were unofficial. even selectively. These pertain to the longer period of time which industrial action short of a strike. But the Department of Employment (1989: 1). in an exercise for the Green Paper for the Employment Act 1990. some 95% of strikes were assumed to be unofficial – this figure being derived from the Donovan Commission for the period 1964–1966 (RCTUEA 1968: 97). In addition to the common challenges of mobilising for collective industrial action per se in a period of labour quiescence and increased legal regulation. these sets of observations concerning volumes may be explained by industrial action short of a strike needing to overcome some additional hurdles. that this situation was somewhat reversed. its relative prevalence may relate to the costs of such action being less front-loaded. when voluntary overtime is not worked en masse).94 Collective Expression of Workplace Grievances in Britain significant and on a similar kind of par with those of strikes but not representing any evidence of a displacement effect. it was assumed.. particularly with the restrictions on what constituted lawful industrial action (i. generally speaking and outside sectors like transport. takes to have a significant impact upon an employing organisation with regard to creating bargaining leverage. Yet despite these difficulties in mounting industrial action short of a strike. Unofficial strikes Traditionally. recorded that for the two years 1987 and 1988.

based on newspaper reporting. as the only method of an immediate and effective response to managerial action. the number of incidences of industrial action per survey is low. and in some ways surprising. given that a strike which is lawful and retains immunity requires a postal ballot and can take up to 35 days to organise. that Taylor (1994: 230) then asserted that ‘Unofficial strikes are all but a memory of a by-gone age’ and Edwards (2001) observed that ‘unofficial. sharp actions – indeed. Gregor Gall and Sheila Cohen 95 Nonetheless. This is attribut- able in the main to the decline of unofficial strikes in the Royal Mail (see Gall 2003). Yet the fall from 2001 onwards is all the more notable in that usage of the Employment Act 1990 to selectively dismiss the organisers of unofficial actions has neither widely nor successfully been used so that such a negative demonstration effect has not been established.7 also includes action short of a strike. workplace-led action being a rarity’ are both unfounded. the continued.6 would seem to be somewhat contra- dicted by Table 6. seldom has the contribution of unofficial strikes been significant to the annual totals and this was true for the period 1990 to 2010. First.7 displaying data from the Trade Union Trends surveys (TUC 1995–2003). Turning to the issue of the displacement effect. through a ballot). . some 35% of all strikes were unofficial (with just five years being below 20% and seven above 35%). prevalence of unofficial strikes per se after the introduction of the Employment Act 1990 may be taken to suggest that where perishable disputes exist and workplace unionism remains sufficiently resilient.g. the pro- portions varied widely on an annual basis with a clear decline recorded towards the end of the 2000s. and third. indicates – on the one hand – that the number of unofficial strikes has fallen markedly if unevenly. After 2001. centralised union bureaucracies are not effective in capturing and recording small.6.2 Nonetheless. This is not surprising in that unofficial strikes have always largely been short. second. Table 6. Table 6. their purchase is often based on this where the element of surprise is crucial. the actual discrepancy may be much less than would initially seem to be the case for several reasons. one salient impact of the Conservatives’ employment laws has been to increase the relative potential for unof- ficial strike action to be taken. And. However. In terms of the number of workers involved. in terms of the days not worked. the scale of extant unof- ficial strikes reported in Table 6. short and localised instances of industrial action where national union involvement is absent (e. a significant decline took place in the number of unofficial strikes. while on the other. and notwithstanding the significant fall in the number of unofficial strikes after 2001.

842 58% 1999 93 45% 47.087 4% 1997 78 36% 65.500 2% 2007 38 27% 29.023 20% 85.193 41% 1998 82 49% 47.940 9% 49.267 4% 29.827 26% 2004 47 36% 9.173 43% 81.827 32% 1995 91 39% 48.125 1% 15.642 3% 2008 11 8% 1.360 1% Source: Newspaper reporting – see methodology.687 0% 4.045 15% 2002 56 38% 39.621 7% 1994 99 48% 48.124 2% 3.552 6% 2006 24 15% 9.643 5% 45.338 14% 2010 16 17% 3.097 19% 46.147 41% 127.712 3% 8.104 21% 1996 116 47% 33.752 1% 63.765 1% 2009 33 34% 26.338 11% 25.457 50% 96.195 15% 1991 57 15% 19.766 3% 1992 101 40% 28.345 17% 2001 114 59% 77.307 26% 2000 162 80% 36.893 28% 89.6 Unofficial strikes in Britain 1990–2010 Year Number of % of all strikes Known number of % of all workers Known number of % of days unofficial strikes workers involved involved in strikes days not worked in not worked in unofficial strikes unofficial strikes in all strikes 1990 190 30% 136. 96 Table 6.250 4% 2003 43 32% 62.001 33% 63.922 48% 88.240 46% 279.250 6% 9.531 51% 162.244 1% 2005 17 15% 5. .778 3% 41.275 9% 1993 76 36% 17.

analysis of unofficial strikes needs to be mindful of sectoral dimensions. There is then little sense in which unofficial strikes can be said to have comprised a displacement effect vis-à-vis official strikes. Transport and communications are such examples. and political economy. and as with ‘cut price’ action. it is also the case that unofficial strikes are more potent and have more purchase in sectors where the employer’s operations are immediately and substantially affected by the action. This raises an important issue about the relationship between different forms of collective and industrial action. This suggests that rather than see the other forms of collective industrial action as singular and competing alternatives to official strikes.7 Trade Union Trends surveys – industrial action by status Period % No. Following the observations above concerning ‘cut price’ action. of cases % % % Affiliated of industrial official unofficial unknown membership action action action status reported for which data exist 1995 58% 30 80% 20% 0% 11/95–4/96 68% 63 94% 6% 0% 5/96–8/96 70% 96 93% n/a n/a 9/96–2/97 68% 40 85% 15% 0% 3/97–8/97 66% 37 85% 5% 10% 9/97–4/98 88% 82 88% 4% 8% 6/98–5/99 61% 34 80% 15% 5% 6/99–5/00 68% 34 82% 18% 0% 6/00–5/01 76% 47 94% 6% 0% 6/01–5/02 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 6/02–5/03 74% 98 47% 0% 53% Source: TUC (1995–2004). Not only did their number not rise to take up any sense of slack from official strikes but they fell significantly and they fell roughly in line with the annual frequency of official strikes. Gregor Gall and Sheila Cohen 97 Table 6. of the . it may be better to look upon them hav- ing a rather more complimentary and inter-locking relationship. Finally. Just as some sectors are more prone to – and dependent upon – working overtime and the like which – all other things being equal – increases the potency of over- time bans and work-to-rules. This then focuses attention upon the changing nature. it appears that when the overall level of strike action (based as it is mostly on official strikes) falls so too do others forms of industrial (but not necessarily collective) action.

6.. . Again. Balloting Although (voluntary) balloting for industrial action before 1980 was more widespread than is usually acknowledged (Undy and Martin 1984). it does indicate that the level of ballots after 1993 has risen considerably. Before examining it. thus. Royal Mail is a case in point here with its loss of monopoly and privatisation. Whilst the number of ballots for industrial action has regularly exceeded the total number of strikes (i.8 and 6. (1996) pre- viously noted the use of the legally prescribed balloting procedure for lawful industrial action as a means of engaging in mobilisation to create bargaining leverage. it is not as easy as saying the total number of ballots for strike action minus the total number of strikes provides for even rough figures of how many ballots were used as just bargaining chips.1. using (non-implemented) ballot mandates as evidence of bargaining chip activity is problematic as their usage in this way is not necessarily separate from the implementation of the mandate. Put simply. Elgar and Simpson (1993: 103–104. may have been used as a bargaining chip only – is not a straightforward task. Although the data was far from being complete and inclusive.10). Indeed. Undy et al. working out what proportions of ballots with mandates for industrial action per annum were not implemented – and.98 Collective Expression of Workplace Grievances in Britain labour and product markets in those sectors. both official and unofficial) per annum since the early 1990s (see Tables 6. the decline in the frequency of unofficial strikes may reflect not just changes in the existence of workplace unionism capable of exercising the strategic leverage afforded by operations highly susceptible to disruption but also whether the disruption still wields the bargaining influence it once did. for some employers will prove to be more resistant than others and the threat of action may have less purchase than the action itself. This situation arises because of the inclusion in the statistics of ballots for both strike action and industrial action short of a strike as well as ballots of just industrial action short of a strike. However. 1996) and Undy et al.e. and the signifi- cant existence of unofficial strikes. (1996: 219) recorded that ACAS data from 1985 (the year following the Trade Union Act 1984 which began the process of compelling ballots) to 1993 showed the number ranging from 253 at the lowest to 359 at the highest. Therefore. the Trade Union Trends surveys (TUC 1995–2001) provide a sufficiently detailed breakdown to allow a deeper understand- ing to begin to emerge.

053 because of an NUT school strike where each school was balloted separately. 99 . Note: The surveys were six-monthly for the first three years before becoming annual. the total number of ballots was actually 2. but this would unduly skew the figures so the dispute is entered as comprising just one ballot.8 Balloting incidences and outcomes Year Number Ballots Ballots for Ballots for ‘Yes’: ‘Yes’: ‘Yes’: Overall Mandate of ballots for strike strike and industrial ballots ballots for ballots for ‘yes’ ballot implemented action industrial action for strike strike and industrial outcome action action industrial action action 1995a 494 45% 57% 36% n/a n/a n/a 66% 25% 1995b 423 36% 41% 24% 69% 73% 82% 74% 46% 1996a 559 40% 45% 15% 83% n/a 90% 81% 37% 1996b 609 48% 27% 24% 73% n/a 81% n/a n/a 1997a 615 54% 30% 15% 77% 73% 89% n/a n/a 1997b 700 46% 35% 18% 74% n/a 78% n/a 27% 1998 464 31% 48% 22% 79% n/a 83% n/a 40% 1999 983 51% 42% 7% 95% n/a 91% n/a 32% 2000 690 13% 24% 63% 81% 87% 91% n/a 54% Source: TUC (1995–2001).Table 6. For the year 2000.

where they conduct a (voluntary) ballot about whether they should conduct a mandatory ballot for industrial action. 464 (1998). around the same proportions found by ACAS in the ballots it organised in 1991 and 1992 (Undy et al. For the period 2002–2010. Using these figures. Moreover. data from the now main (but not sole) bal- loting organisation.068 during the period January–June 1997 (of which the 152 UBS ballots had an 81% ‘yes’ vote) and between July 1997 and May 1998: 1. (see Table 6. Data from DLA also indicates unions seeking to use the threat to ballot after having declared a formal dispute (Table 6. Three observations can be made of the aforementioned data. 1. the number of ballots for strike action that deliver ‘yes’ votes runs somewhere in the region of 50% above the number of actual strikes. for the period July–December 1996. and 257 UBS ballots had a 75% ‘yes’ vote). for instance. it is pertinent to note that unions have also begun to deploy in the last decade the tactic of a consultative bal- lot. 983 (1999) and 690 (2000). while this increased to 1.10). In this regard. both organisations ran 770 ballots in total (of which the 142 UBS ballots had an 83% ‘yes’ vote).100 Collective Expression of Workplace Grievances in Britain Table 6.759 ballots were run (of which 1.502 ERBS ballots had an 80% ‘yes’ vote. the only year in which the break- down was possible. less than half were commonly exercised. 1996: 223).8 is an understatement of the actual numbers of ballots. suggesting a tactical choice of only balloting where ‘yes’ votes were likely to be achieved.8. 18% of employer respondents indicated they had received a threat to ballot while 15% of employer respondents had expe- rienced a ballot. With these mandates gained. In 2004. Thus. for data from the two major balloting service providers (Unity Balloting Services [UBS] and the Electoral Reform Balloting Society [ERBS]) indicates that the whole union movement ran a much higher number of industrial action ballots. Notwithstanding these caveats.315 (1997). the number of ballots per annum from Table 6.168 (1996). the levels of ‘yes’ votes were similarly high in comparison with those recorded in Table 6. 1.9) indicates that balloting for both strikes and industrial action short of a strike remained roughly as high (where the average was 874 per annum) and with similarly high returns for mandates for action. The first is that there is a reasonable basis to suggest that the balloting process is being used as an important part of the armoury by which unions . The overall level of industrial action ballots indicated by Table 6.8 was 917 (1995).8 indicates for the period 1995–2000 high levels of ballots returning ‘yes’ votes. Electoral Reform Services. indicating certainly not an increase and a peak in 1997 but where the average was 923 per annum.

which may or may not involve the implementation of the mandate depending on particular circumstances. The second is that it is unclear why and when the use of ballot mandates is successful in gaining bargaining objectives. Given that this concerns delimited periods of time. 2002–10 Year Total Ballots for % votes Ballots for % votes for number strike action for strike industrial industrial of ballots action action short action short of a strike of a strike 2002 806 738 83% 537 97% 2003 899 825 83% 637 95% 2004 952 919 97% 756 94% 2005 815 775 95% 606 93% 2006 1.10 Balloting and threat of balloting. Gregor Gall and Sheila Cohen 101 Table 6. and both. 1996–2004 Year Experience of ballots or threats Number of respondents of ballots for industrial action 1996 26% n/a 1997 23% 220 1998 44% 230 1999 66% 220 2000 54% 249 2001 57% 252 2002 n/a n/a 2003 63% 370 2004 33% 300 Source: DLA (1996–2004). Table 6.9 Ballots for strikes and industrial action. just for industrial action short of a strike.341 1. it is maybe more convincing to see the use of ballot mandates as an overall process of mobilisation. attempt to create leverage over the employer.290 84% 579 93% 2007 767 713 89% 583 95% 2008 834 786 84% 598 93% 2009 579 561 82% 435 94% 2010 578 555 88% 411 91% Source: Labour Market Trends/Economic and Labour Market Review (various). The third is that it is not apparent that balloting as a means of leverage . Note: Ballot options vary from ballots just for strike action.

it can seek the involvement of ACAS to undertake collective conciliation.300 mark per annum until 2006 when it they fell below 1. employer power to resist ACAS involvement has also increased. Collective conciliation After the declaration of a formal dispute with an employer. and particularly strike action. Nonetheless. it is not unexpected that as one has experienced some decline so too has the other. given the intimate link between balloting for (official) strike action and (official) strikes as a result of legal regulation. the percentage of requests from unions has fallen in absolute and relative terms across the whole period (albeit some of these requests are likely to have been channelled into persuading employers to make joint requests and soliciting direct ACAS intervention given that ACAS intervention is more likely to be accepted by the employer where there is not a unilateral request from the union side). This. . indicat- ing that collective conciliation on its own has not been subject to any displacement effect – and this observation does not appear to be any less correct for the fact that collective conciliation will be seldom used on its own to express and resolve grievances. a period from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s may show some evidence of a displacement effect being in evidence but this cannot be stated categorically. a union has a number of options open to it in prosecuting its interests in the dispute. means that the fall in union requests is still likely to be sharp. it may have been expected that their willingness and need to use ACAS has increased3 but. most requests for collective conciliation will predate industrial action. Therefore. Indeed. Table 6. by the same token.102 Collective Expression of Workplace Grievances in Britain has experienced the result of the displacement effect as this would have seen far greater numbers of ballots per annum for strike action as the number of strikes declined. are weapons of ‘last resort’.11 shows the number of requests for collective conciliation per annum and the proportions of requests which are initiated by a) unions.000 per annum. nonetheless. That said. Indeed. the picture is more complex for although the number of ballots has fallen from a high point in 2006. as unions’ power has waned. it stabilised around the 1. it would appear to have risen to that point notwithstanding the deficien- cies in the available data. given the dominant perspective amongst both unions and employers is that industrial action. While the total number of requests fell consider- ably between 1981 and the late 1980s. Moreover. b) jointly with employers and c) by ACAS itself. At any stage up to and including industrial action (as well as after).

457 36 50 3 1987 1.301 32 41 17 1999 1.321 35 43 11 1996 1. The context of these four heuristic .281 32 41 16 1998 1. Conclusion This chapter put forward four basic propositions.211 31 49 8 1994 1.164 33 54 3 1990 1. mandated ballots for official industrial action ascending vis-à-vis official industrial action.569 40 46 2 1985 1.306 35 40 14 1997 1.313 31 47 13 1995 1.260 32 54 5 1991 1.789 37 48 4 1984 1.533 34 40 16 2000 1.302 32 53 4 1988 1.123 30 42 14 2006 952 31 42 10 2007 949 26 36 17 2008 917 29 39 8 2009 966 29 38 10 2010 915 27 39 12 Source: ACAS (1980–2011). and collective conciliation ascend- ing vis-à-vis official strike action.500 30 40 17 2001 1.386 37 48 6 1992 1.091 53 30 3 1982 1. ‘cut price’ action ascending vis-à-vis official strike.371 31 47 10 2003 1. Thereafter. Note: The year 1999 covers 15 months.865 42 41 3 1983 1.472 30 44 14 2002 1.245 28 47 11 2005 1. Gregor Gall and Sheila Cohen 103 Table 6. unofficial strikes ascending vis-à-vis official strikes.11 Collective disputes received by ACAS Year Collective % requests % joint % ACAS request conciliation by union employer-union request request 1981 2.353 26 49 9 2004 1.207 36 51 7 1993 1. albeit not calendar years.163 32 54 4 1989 1.475 40 46 2 1986 1. the years run to twelve-month duration.

there is not even the sense that the four alternative means level out in their declining incidence while the frequency of official strike declined. is likely to disincline them from taking industrial action. is necessary to gain a more rounded picture. it seems as if. Added to this is that the depressed state of union members’ con- sciousness. discontinuous official strike action (such as one-day strikes) has become predominant in unionised workers’ industrial armoury. particularly in regard to the balloon and iceberg phenomena. in terms of the displacement effect. far less able than unionised workers to articulate col- lective grievances and then organise collectively to express and resolve them. less purchase. So.104 Collective Expression of Workplace Grievances in Britain propositions has been not just that overall strike activity – but par- ticularly official strike action by the three measures of the number of strikes. workers involved and days not worked – has declined but also that brief. Of course. The reasoning behind this conclusion is that for each of the four alternatives to have registered some measure of a displacement effect would have seen not necessarily such extant declines (as opposed to actual increases). has the slack of workers’ col- lective grievances being taken up by these other means of collective expression and resolution? Certainly. But the incomplete nature of the available data does not allow for more detailed or definitive conclusions to be made. partly as a result of the depressed state of union member- ship itself. inter alia. data on absence and quit rates. . Moreover. That said. This is based upon the legitimate and reasonable premise that non-unionised workers are far. The hardening of employer attitudes towards indus- trial action over the period may help explain why the softer means like ballot mandates and ‘cut price’ action have. in general. to use Sapsford and Turnbull’s (1994) balloon and iceberg metaphors. the conclu- sion reached above was perfectly predictable well in advance – and that the four propositions were not very heuristically productive – simply because the halving of union membership from 13m in 1979 to 6. there are a number of issues that warrant further considera- tion in order to more fully assess the available data. Moreover. the balloon is losing air and the ice- berg is melting. First. there is no evidence that any one particular means on its own has experienced a displacement effect.5m in 2010 would necessarily and inevitably lead to a commensurate reduc- tion in all means of expression and resolution of grievances. In the context of this chapter – and without examining absence and quit rates inter alia. the cumulative evidence from considering each of the four alternative means would also seem to provide for a fairly clear negative response overall to the question posed.

so although such cut price action may be less costly and less risky compared to strik- ing. Acknowledgement The research to develop the data set on unofficial strikes was carried out by Sheila Cohen and funded by a Nuffield Foundation grant for which the grant holder was Gregor Gall. Third. 3. The only data that does exist comes from the DLA employment law surveys which record unofficial industrial action short of a strike at 2% in 2003 and 2004 (2% also for unof- ficial strike action in 2003 but 1% in 2004). the rela- tionship between strike action (predominantly official) and the other means should not – except in the case of unofficial strikes – be viewed as being quite so uncomplementary. 2.000 work- ers and the loss of 1. Especially in a period of weakened union power. Gregor Gall and Sheila Cohen 105 Thus. protected industrial action applies equally to industrial action short of a strike as well. Linked to this is that the more extensive and complete data on the alternative means of grievance expression and resolution for the whole period under consideration would allow for a more detailed longitu- dinal investigation whereby the impact of the separate Acts could be assessed. Union willingness to use collective conciliation may also have increased for it involves lower costs for union members (even if its purchase is less). no substantial data exist by which to examine the preponder- ance of unofficial industrial action short of a strike.387. As a result. There was a slight revival in 2011 with 184 strikes involving 1. it would seem logical that if strikes decline then so too would these other means (especially ‘cut price’ action and collective conciliation).536. Short of this. representing 52 days not worked per 1.000 workers. . it has been assumed that their impact has been steady and cumulative. Unfortunately. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Nuffield Foundation to undertake this work.000 days not worked. the propositions may have been based on rather erroneous or exaggerated expectations for a displacement effect. there is no reason to necessarily expect that it would not also have been affected by the impact of these aforementioned legal changes. the official strike might be buttressed ever more by these other means so that where strikes are still used they are not used on their own but alongside other means. the tightening up of restrictions on what constitutes lawful. Notes 1. Second.

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industrial relations (IR) in China in the last three dec- ades have experienced a period of contested institutional transformation and legislative experimentation. More generally. For example. rural migrant workers voted with their feet en masse in protest against exploitation. amongst other conditions. 2011. Lee 2007. more frequent and more aggressive (Chan 2001. Roche and Teague 2011). If industrial conflicts in western economies have increasingly been expressed in less radical. Gries and Rosen 2004. they turned to the legal channels to seek justice following the enactment of the Labour Contract Law (LCL) and the Labour Disputes Mediation and Arbitration Law (LDMAL) in 2008. In the late 2000s. In 2010. Perry and Selden 2010). In the 1980s and 1990s. then expressions of labour discon- tent in China are becoming bolder.7 New Dynamics of Industrial Conflicts in China: Causes. emboldened workers organ- ized their own strikes to demand higher wages and better working con- ditions in foreign-funded manufacturers. Expressions and Resolution Alternatives Fang Lee Cooke Introduction The industrialization and marketization of the contemporary Chinese economy since the 1980s has been accompanied by a rising level of con- flicts between the workers and employers in both the private and public sector. more indirect and more individualized forms due to their changing political and economic climate (Bamber et al. This period saw the abandoning of the old social 108 . in the mid-2000s. The materialization of these labour rights has been aided. by tightening labour markets since the mid-2000s. the reform of the IR system was marked by the dismantling of the former centralized state-planned system and the transition to a more market-based employ- ment relationship.

In view of the changing institutional context and the new dynamics of IR in China. strikes. Fang Lee Cooke 109 contract. millions of workers have been displaced. In the 2000s. Overcome by growing performance pressure and motivated by personal gains. What official labour-dispute resolution mechanisms exist and how effective are they? . The growing income gaps1 and the declining proportion of wages as a percentage of GDP (Chen 2010) are indicative of the marginalization of grassroots workers’ welfare in China’s economic development. this chapter examines. This inequality has become a threat to politi- cal and social stability. broadening the coverage of collective bargaining beyond the enterprise level. in expressing their discontent with the employer? 2. to address this growing inequality. Workplace welfare has been rolled back. The political ideology – ‘building a harmonized society’ – promoted by Hu and Wen’s government since the mid-2000s is an aspirational response. through structural and cultural lenses and drawing on examples from firms in different ownership forms: 1. This has been attempted through expanding and realign- ing union functions. if less so an administrative achievement. and seniority-based reward has been replaced by performance-based pay. life-long employment has been replaced by contract- based employment. riots. What mechanisms do the workers use to organize the collective actions in view of the institutional constraints of the All-China Federations of Trade Unions (ACFTU) to do so? And what have been the reactions of the government/state to these industrial actions? 3. which was a consequence of the radical state sector reform. and improving the legal framework through the introduction of new laws to extend labour protection. What are the main sources of conflicts at work? What are the forms (e. This has led to a diverse range of employment modes and exploitative employment practices characterized by casualization and informalization (Cooke 2012. suicides and others) that Chinese workers are using.g. therefore. collectively and individually. they create opportunities for (private) employers to pursue profit in a hard- nosed manner at the expense of workers’ rights and interests. Friedman and Lee 2010). the develop- ment of the IR system was characterized by institutional building and expansion. local governments tend to prioritize economic growth as this has become the key measure- ment of their performance upon which their rewards are based. In the marketized economy.

713 299.110 New Dynamics of Industrial Conflicts in China Types of conflict While not all labour conflicts turn into open disputes.330 Social insurance 97.464 339.284 251.953 225.590 650.462 95.892 147. of collective labour disputes 12. of workers involved 653. .876 Termination of labour contract 12.061 247. This is confirmed by smaller- scale studies. and that nearly half of the disputes were about wage levels being too low.379 No.702 43. Table 7. of cases accepted in the current year 350.424 33.793 255.119 Lawsuit partly won by both parties 133.784 21.472 1.436 221. Liu and Yuan’s (2005) study of 36 privately owned enterprises in Zhejiang Province found that remuneration of workers was by far the most common cause of labour disputes.077 627.328 1.709 No.280 By result of settlement Lawsuit won by employing unit 49.971 Others 71.695 – – Relief of labour contract 67.214. For example.777 502.530 No.731 – – Change of labour contract 4. also see Cooke 2008).696 – – No.922 Collective labour disputes 271.598 Source: Compiled from China Statistical Yearbook 2010 (National Bureau of Statistics of China 2010: 885).464 684.125 Cases mediated 151.013 274.283 185.880 13.084 83. Poor working conditions was the second major cause of conflict (at 20%).719 689.030 622. This is evident in the officially recorded labour disputes statistics (Table 7. of cases left from previous year 25.902 237.182 693.1 Labour disputes and resolutions.581 126. of cases filed by workers 325.1.714 By means of settlement Mediation 119.864 265.211 80. 2007–9 Items 2007 2008 2009 No. of cases by cause of disputes Remuneration 108.1. and in the issues of discontent that have led to the rising number of labour protests and strikes organized in recent years.779 No.955 276.463 Arbitration lawsuit 149. disputes over remuneration made up over one- third of the cases filed for resolution.016. of cases settled 340.543 290.565 139.601 No.470 Lawsuit won by workers 156. As per Table 7. terms and condi- tions remain the main cause of conflicts in current IR in China.

logistics and so forth. In order to maximize profit. and for man- agement to communicate and bond with the workers in a more relaxing environment. including unlawful actions such as non-signing employment contract to avoid legal respon- sibility. work- ers should work no more than 44 hours per week. achieves its fast-speed supply of high-quality products through intensive pace of work on standard- ized mass-production lines. According to Xu (2011). In reality. They are not allowed to leave their post without someone else replacing them. often without adequate overtime payment as specified by law. entertainment was seen as an important mechanism for workers to relax and socialize. chronic wage arrears. Overtime should not exceed 36 hours per week. lack of social security contribu- tions from the employer (statutorily required). In order to increase efficiency. 2010: 517). suppressing workers’ wage levels. In a string of high-profile strikes in 2009–2010 in foreign-funded manufacturers (see below). laundry and other services. employers violate workers’ legitimate rights and interests through proprietary prerogative. demands for wage increases and better working conditions. reducing welfare benefits and work-related injury compensation. They have a designated time and place for meals and sleep. lack of entertainment/leisure activities. Foxconn. Foxconn provides free accommodation and meals. Foxconn’s machines operate round the clock and workers work a 12-hour shift. and poor health . includ- ing shorter working hours. Without these socializing lubricants. This military type of disciplined management turns workers into machines and they become a mechanical part of the factory (Xu 2011). and poor management attitudes were also sources of employee dissatisfaction with the employer and causes of labour disputes. According to Liu and Yuan (2005). labour–capital rela- tions became more tense and deteriorated. In particular. the majority of workers in the private sector work far longer hours. as evidenced in the sharp growth of the number of dispute cases filed for arbitration in 2008 and 2009. As there is little room to reduce the cost of materials. According to the Labour Law of China (enacted in 1995). export-oriented manufacturing plants adopt a low-price competition strategy to win orders from international clients. have been the main issues for bargaining. labour is the main area where profit can be squeezed through increased productivity. a Taiwanese-owned elec- tronic component manufacturing firm. Fang Lee Cooke 111 The reform of the official labour disputes resolution system marked by the enactment of the LCL and LDMAL in 2008 provided workers with a timely venue for ‘legal mobilization’ (Friedman and Lee. long working hours. For example.

Forms of expressions and resolutions Labour conflicts may be issue-specific as well as more generalized and on-going. appeals.000 collective actions took place in 2009. compounded by the military management style. Nor does the state-controlled ACFTU have the right to organize industrial actions. struggles (Lee 2007. and particularly since the mid-2000s. Labour protests and strike actions A key feature of Chinese IR since the 1990s. Material interest. to seek justice. Workers are beginning to feel a greater sense of wealth entitlement and are demanding a larger share of profits through increases in wages. Attention on labour disputes in China has primarily focused on the formal labour disputes as officially recorded on the one hand.g. but also a current political ideological demand to maintain stability. As the problem of skill shortage exacerbates. is believed to have led to thirteen suicides in Foxconn in 2010 (e. violation of legal rights. in both the public and private sector. Wu and Xu 2010). informal/formal. passive/active. . These events are officially referred to as ‘mass inci- dents’ to disguise or underplay their disruptive and antagonistic nature. and on spontaneous collective actions organized by workers. For example. According to the ACFTU. rather than class. these are primarily economic. nevertheless. Watts 2010). strike actions are dealt with by the local governments pragmatically as and when they emerge in the absence of legal guidance. However. violation of contracts. Wei and Xu 2011). Instead.g. go-slows. and con- tingent upon the nature of the discontent and opportunities that exist for expression and obtaining satisfactory resolution (see Table 7. the absence of opportunity for self-fulfilment. fighting for a living wage and basic working conditions) for the grassroots work- ers. nearly 10. It is clear that labour conflict in contemporary China involves largely rights-based disputes (e.112 New Dynamics of Industrial Conflicts in China and safety protections (Cooke 2008. is not the only cause of workers’ grievances. including strikes.2). They may be expressed in various forms: open/hidden. individualized/collectivized. demonstrations and so forth (Lu 2010). This euphemism is not only characteristic of the confrontation-avoidance tendance and harmony-seeking nature of the traditional Chinese culture. there is also a trend of moving towards interest-based disputes. inten- sive work pressure and low wages. The right to strike is neither denied nor granted in the Chinese labour laws. has been the increasingly public and high-profile protests and strikes undertaken by the workers. bonus and benefits (see below). on the other.

The abandoning of the state commitment to their employment and welfare in return for their loyalty and obedience abruptly ended this social contract of mutual dependence (Morris et al. self-employed businesses large privately owned enterprises. Hyundai in Beijing. protests. (mobilization of demonstrations. organizational goals. They are mostly urban residents who have been employed by the state for their whole working lives. official/formal voice petitions. Toyota in Tianjin. 2001). on-going. And these strikes have yielded positive results – all employers have agreed to a substantial pay rise of 20–40% after rounds of negotiation (Watts 2010). strikes. Non-compliance with Non-compliance with hidden.2 Forms of conflict expressions adopted by workers Characteristics Individual Collective Overt and direct. Fang Lee Cooke 113 Table 7. road blocking Disguised. episodic. The latter are . appeals to walk-outs. absentia. These include. The former tend to be a bit older than the latter. Panasonic in Shanghai. legal channels collective resignation. go-slows. Brother in Xi’an. theft (no use of voice mechanism) Predominant location Small privately owned/ State-owned enterprises. and Carlsberg in Chongqing. Causes of protests and strikes differ between the two main groups of workers: those from the state-owned enterprises and those from the privately owned and foreign-funded enterprises. for example. According to the ACFTU. labour authorities and sit-ins. containment mechanisms) of government buildings. sabotage. organizational goals. Complaints to Legal actions. a quar- ter of the Chinese workers have not had a pay rise in the past five years (Wasserstrom 2010). foreign- funded enterprises 2010 marked the turning point of the labour–capital power relation- ship as a result of a string of high-profile strikes organized by workers themselves in a number of foreign-invested plants in various major cities. issue-specific management. Higher wages and better work- ing conditions were the main demands. Honda in Foshan and Zhongshan. collective absentia job quit without notice. slow work pace.

labour protests in the sunbelt were collective actions from workers employed by privately owned and foreign-funded enterprises where wage arrears. They have not been indoctrinated by the Communist Party education to the same extent as the earlier generation of state-owned-enterprise work- ers. industrial action usually takes place as organized events following the failure of negotiations to reach an agreement. Increases in mass incidents in recent years expose the incapability of the enterprises. poor terms and conditions. The high-handed repression did not calm the aggrieved masses but provoked them to take more radical actions. In Western countries. excessive overtime and hire-and- fire at will have been the main causes of grievance. Compared with their parent generation. Lee (2007) contrasts labour protests in the rustbelt (the heartland of state-owned enterprises) and the sunbelt (new economic develop- ment zones). They are not directly against the state but are against the (globalized) capitalists. they are not accustomed to hard work and harsh treatment. By contrast. and exert an enormous amount of pressure on unions and government to deal with the situation rapidly to avoid contagion. including greater desire for social acceptance. self- development and career achievement. industrial actions in China in recent years have taken the reverse order where strikes and protests took place without any forewarning and prior to negotiation attempts for dispute settlement. as noted earlier. they are more con- scious of their rights and more confident and vocal in expressing their needs. union and government by surprise. compensation and social security provision. As the generation of the one-child policy brought up with great care by their family. They may be less well educated and less experienced but are certainly more mobile than their counterparts in the state-owned firms. By contrast. Their grievance was directed at the state as their (former) employer. and are more ready to fight for it (Wu and Xu 2010). unions and government . with disastrous political damage to their reputations (Chan 2001). These spontaneous events often take the enterprise. including physical force. They have different expectations of work and life than their parent generation. Inexperienced local governments and union officials have been reported as having taken harsh measures.114 New Dynamics of Industrial Conflicts in China mostly young migrant workers in their late teens and early twenties. The former involved collective actions from state-owned- enterprise workers who have lost their livelihoods as a result of the radical reform in the state sector in the 1990s. They protested by besieging government buildings and pleading to have their jobs back. to crush strikes and protests.

measured by the quality of the slogans and banners used for demonstration and the bargaining strategy (Wu and Xu 2010). and the kill- ing of employers to express their discontent and rage. involved hun- dreds and thousands of participants and became increasingly organized and well prepared. Jilin City and beating to death the gen- eral manager. Participants were also becoming more confrontational. found that a typical form of workers’ resistance was ‘collective inaction’. absentia and low efficiency were typical. They were iso- lated. and escalate into larger-scale social actions (Wei and Xu 2011). over 1. Taiyuan and Nanning. Actions from one striking workplace would soon be modelled by others. in Liu’s (2003) study of five ex(-)state-owned enterprises in four cities including Shanghai. and the imprisonment of a senior government official in charge of the ownership reform of Lin Steel Works in Henan Province (Lu 2010). lack of motivation. For example. preventing and resolving disputes (Wu and Xu 2010).000 state-owned textile workers from Baoding City marched to Beijing along the national highway (Lu 2010). Extreme forms of actions Aggrieved workers may also take on more extreme forms of actions including suicides. fragmented and somewhat passive actions. she found that the type of collective inaction behaviour observed by Lee (1998) hardly existed in part as a result of the shift to performance-related pay that was accompanied . attracting widespread debate and global media attention. Changing patterns of action in the state sector Within the state sector. had largely disappeared by the late 1990s. Shenyang. Lee (1998).000 workers from the Wuhan Boiler Factory (state-owned) blocked the road three times. in 2010. As noted earlier. Indifference. The more extreme events included: the stoppage of seven blast furnaces in the state-owned Tong Steel Works. This form of covert resistance that existed in the 1980s and 1990s. Fang Lee Cooke 115 in detecting employee dissatisfaction. thirteen young Foxconn workers committed suicide. For example. These events often erupted without warning. changing patterns of resistance from those who have kept their jobs has emerged. imprisonment of enterprise managers. however. Other events proved to be highly destructive to public life. in her study of the Chinese workers in state-owned enterprises. from the non- violent resistance style adopted in the earlier protests to engaging in physical clashes with the police and government officials. non-cooperation. aided by social media. and over 1.

collective actions commonly took the form of petitions. whereas during the socialist planned-economy period. The inability of the government to admit to the divergence of its political course from socialism towards (state) capitalism has enabled workers to mobilize the socialist discourse. namely exit and voice. Those who chose the voice route might take action in one of the two. often covertly .116 New Dynamics of Industrial Conflicts in China by work intensification due to the radical reduction of staffing levels. They left their state employer in order to seek better opportunities. By calling for the return to the socialist values as the pretext of their protest. they cleverly steer clear from a course of head-on political collision with the government. Those who chose to exit were those who were marketable and able to develop new careers. They had more serious and wider repercussions. were mainly those who had relatively low levels of educational qualifications. technical skills and other competences and therefore had little labour market mobility. Liu’s (2003) study revealed two other forms of actions. disputes. New dynamics of labour–management conflict in the private sector Within the domestic private sector. workers rejoiced when there was no work (as their wages and jobs were secured whether they worked or not). rather than ordinary workers. which the state had created to rule the country. to justify and thus disarm suppressive force on their actions from the government (Weston 2004). as remarked by managers interviewed by Liu (2003). as noted above. strikes. the removal of job and income security meant that workers were now happy when there was work to do. Workers interviewed by Liu (2003) showed their fear of being punished by the state appara- tus if they went against the state (e.g. protests and demonstrations. or both.2 a diverse range of expressions of workers’ discontent and power-wrestling with proprietors. Families and friends became the only accessible mechanism for aggrieved workers to voice their grievances (Liu 2003). or obedience and co-operation. In a manager’s words. It is interesting to note that not all collective actions have been organized in a confrontational manner. those who chose this option of inaction. strikes and protests). According to Liu (2003). In addition to this choice of inaction. Workers felt lucky to have a job and looked forward to having more work in order to raise their income. These were mild forms of action that had little negative impact on the sta- bility of the firm or society. Individuals may complain to their superiors or publicly at the workplace. They were mainly managerial workers and professional staff. forms: individual or/and collective actions. By contrast.

employers also reported difficulty in securing workers’ commitment and that they had to think of all the tricks to keep workers happy. I have a team of 15 or 18 workers. in their aforementioned study. As the restaurant CEO remarked: The [workers] feel … entitled to a bigger share of your profit. If they can’t get it from their wage. has been revealed. An owner CEO (interviewed by the author in January 2012) of a large privately owned restaurant in south- east China also reported that theft was a serious issue. the CEOs interviewed felt that resentment of control and jealousy of the proprietor’s wealth were part of the reasons. We now have too many supervisors and they are doing the same waitressing job [as before] but for higher pay and more benefits. Liu and Yuan (2005) also found that slack attitudes. but the other way round. They will turn up to work when they want to and . While the true motives of sabotage and theft behaviour may never be known. For example. It is a game. they take it secretly. If you don’t meet their demands. six days per week) due to the physically demanding nature of the job. Workers in this firm were relatively well paid (performance-related) with an extensive range of workplace benefits. the owner CEO of a large privately owned vehicle component manufacturer in east China reported many of its shopfloor workers (mostly young males) display a low level of organizational citizenship behaviour and a high level of negligence. low efficiency. material waste and go-slows were the main forms of (covert) actions adopted by the workers surveyed to express their dissatisfaction with the management. This ranged from leaving the water tap running and lights on. As an owner-manager of a decoration busi- ness revealed (interviewed by the author in January 2012): Now it is not about workers being afraid of the boss. A waitress will need to be pro- moted to a supervisor position after 2–3 years. employees used hot-water flasks to steal rice and smuggled them out of the restaurant. However. We have no choice but to meet their demand[s] because it is difficult to recruit staff and we need our waitresses to be nice to the customers in order to win repeat businesses. to doors kicked open and glass windows smashed (see Cooke (2012) for more detail). they will leave. They also demand pay rise[s] and promotion frequently. For example. They are very unreliable. and on a day-to-day basis. Working hours were not long (eight hours per day. Fang Lee Cooke 117 and subtly. work tasks were repetitious and uninteresting. Similarly. In small privately owned businesses.

It is all about money … One day. Our business is based on short- term contracts with tight deadlines. It was not a serious injury and no stitches were required. especially in smaller businesses. We take them out for dinner regularly … But this can only keep them working for us a bit longer. When I rang them in the afternoon and told them that I have decided to raise their bonus. We lend them money when they have financial difficulty. They usually choose the most critical moment to bargain with you for higher pay. In spite of the lack of unionization and formal mechanisms of collective bargain- ing. he yelled. ‘Go and have a chicken hot pot and bring me the receipt.118 New Dynamics of Industrial Conflicts in China may be absent without telling you. a worker cut his finger a little with a hand saw. Existing Chinese IR studies have often highlighted the powerlessness of the Chinese workers vis-à-vis capitalist/management control.’ Another small business owner (IT retail) narrated a similar story (inter- viewed by the author in January 2012): My shop employs six workers and we operate seven days a week. Under no illusion of long-term loyalty from them. Recruitment . There is no loyalty in them at all. I lost a lot of blood yesterday. They did not sound sick at all. ‘Boss. four of them [the technical ones] phoned in for sick leave one after another. My business has not been doing well the last year and I am actually earning less than my workers. On one Friday. workers appear to be able to gain the upper hand in controlling the labour–proprietor relationship. they all said they would be well enough to come back to work the next day. Their wage is already very high and as the owner of the business we are finding it harder and harder to make a living. owners deploy paternalistic management styles to develop emotional ties with their workers in exchange for temporary co-operation. The next day when he came to work. The evidence above suggests employ- ers of small and micro-businesses are increasingly dependent upon the goodwill of the workers and are often held at ransom by their key employees. I took him to the hos- pital and paid his medical bill. What do you think I should do?’ I had no choice but to say. I had to give in because weekend is the busiest time when we can make some profit. We rely on their goodwill and we try to keep them happy by bonding with them and be[ing] nice with them when they have family or personal problem[s]. Little attention has been paid to the workers’ (growing) capability to seek greater control and reward.

Why do workers opt for radical actions to seek justice? It is clear that labour conflicts expressed in the form of spontaneous collective actions in China have become more destructive and violent in recent years. Similarly. Liu and Yuan’s (2005) study showed that 84% of the workers surveyed would choose to leave their employer if disputes are not resolved. Their suppressed . employment relations in these businesses were characterized by a high level of turnover. They had. voluntarily and involuntarily. So the largely transactional nature of employment relations suggests that the traditional Chinese culture which values trust. More noticeable. Where accumulated dissatisfaction is unresolved. They do so for several related reasons (Wei and Xu 2011). including unlawful acts. But not all workers in the domestic privately owned firms are able to flex their muscls with their employers in a covert or overt manner. over 7% said they would do some- thing to give the boss a hard time prior to their departure. and many still have. While many of the workplaces were neither ‘a big happy family’ nor ‘a sweatshop’ as perceived by the work- ers. in the wave of marketization and individualized materialism. if not abandoned. workers tend to choose exit as the common mechanism to end their grief. For example. Fang Lee Cooke 119 difficulty has been a key factor that swings the bargaining power in favour of the workers. particularly those in export-oriented foreign- funded plants. Few workers had worked for their employer for more than three years at the time of the research. First. Some employees were not fully aware of their terms and conditions until the issue came to the fore. have opted for the high-cost radical actions directly without following the official dispute-resolution procedures to seek settlement in a more civilized way. Workers. if only temporar- ily with the current employer. loyalty and reciprocal relationship has been marginalized. The small size and diverse nature of the private businesses mean that workers’ solidarity is far more difficult to achieve in this sector. little bargaining power in determining wages and conditions vis-à-vis management hegemony. much of the dramatic economic development of Chin since the 1980s has been achieved through the willingness of rural migrant workers to take up employment with harsh terms and con- ditions as the only alternative to unemployment/under-employment. Cooke’s (2005) study of 24 small and micro privately owned businesses revealed that owner- managers typically determined the employment package unilaterally.

official dispute resolution. local governments.’ Fourth. [nor] the power of the official … unions have seemingly done anything to reduce labour conflict or increase adherence to the law’. while emerging and improving in principle. also see Howell (2008)). This endurance-eruption mode of conflict expression appears to be common in developing Asian countries whose labour regime was shaped by an autocratic political system as well as a high level of cul- tural paternalism. in spite of the decline of collective dispute cases filed for labour-dispute resolutions as officially . ill-equipped with bargaining skills and unsupported by unions in most workplaces. more aware of their rights and more ready to demand them. Eager to fulfil their own agenda. expensive and time-consuming to pursue. with many hurdles to jump through that involve hierarchies of organiza- tional management and labour authorities (Wu and Xu 2010). This partially explains the trend of a rising level of radical collective actions. Only 29% reported that their collective agreement was developed based on negotiation between the workers and the employer that took into account the enterprise’s characteristics and workers’ needs. Xie’s (2011) study of union chairmen. they are embold- ened to resort to collective action to draw the attention of superior lev- els of government to right local wrongs. Cooke 2011). Third. is difficult. Nearly 10% were unfamiliar with the concept. HR managers and other managers of 71 enterprises of various ownership forms revealed that only 41% were familiar with col- lective negotiation. only to find that the local state often colludes with employers. workers are generally the weaker party in workplace negotiation. such as in Indonesia (Ford 2012). As Friedman and Lee (2010: 518) argued: ‘When workers are encouraged to seek legal and bureaucratic redress.120 New Dynamics of Industrial Conflicts in China grievance developed into anger and was eventually unleashed in a vol- canic manner. employers refuse to negotiate and workers are afraid to negotiate (Wei and Xu 2011. As Friedman and Lee (2010: 530) argued: ‘none of the series of recent laws that are supposed to strengthen workers’ legal rights. the increase of radical collective actions. Only 14% believed that collective wage negotiation played an effective role in protecting workers’ rights and interests. their offspring generation is much less accommodating.g. whereas over 60% felt that collective negotiation was a formality task to satisfy the higher author- ity. employers and employ- ment agencies may also collude to create space for employers to avoid legal responsibility and dilute the impact of the labour protection laws (e. While the earlier generation of the rural migrant workers were more willing to tolerate exploitative employment practices. being more highly educated. Assuming a superior position. Second.

the authorities have verged on the supportive side. suggests that workers are actually becoming more aware of the impact of their collective power outside official channels. In short. collective actions protect individual workers from being vic- timized. 2006). Since the mid-2000s. branding them as move- ments attempting to undermine social stability. Initially nervous of their political implications. It is important to note the changing. or more precisely. Another reason for the government’s tacit support of strikes has been the pres- sure it has been facing to increase wages in order to address the widen- ing income inequality and to stimulate internal consumption demand to offset drops in exports as a result of the 2008 global financial crisis (Cooke 2012). Fifth. aggrieved workers may eventually turn their anger towards the government because of the inaction or poor actions of local governments in intervening in disputes. mobilize social support and force rapid government intervention for settlements in their favour. but also signals the . During the strikes. in Friedman and Lee’s (2010) words. Having high-profile public protests is believed to be an effective way to seek prompt inter- vention from the higher-level authority (Wei and Xu 2011) and. the government tended to clamp down upon collective actions. the rising volume of highly public and confrontational labour unrest in the Chinese IR landscape not only indicates the dete- rioration of employment relations in many sectors. Strikes are now seen more as economic dis- putes than political threats to the government. tactics have been used by the workers to prevent their leaders from being identified. Whilst strikes in foreign-funded enterprises were likely to result in victimization of strike leaders. In spite of the initial grievance being against their employer. Fang Lee Cooke 121 recorded. particularly in the state sector (Chen 2003a. claiming that the workers’ demands were ‘reasonable’ (Milne 2010). In the past. they were less likely to be repressed harshly by the local authorities due to the government’s willingness to indulge nationalist sentiment. This was shown in the enactment of three major labour laws in 20083 and the Social Security Law in 2011. softening. In the string of strikes in foreign-funded plants in 2010. They are taking these radical actions as a deliberate strategy to raise public- ity. stance of the central government towards mass incidents in recent years has provided the necessary condition for workers to make this choice of actions. to rectify another local wrong. the government has become more concerned with the deteriorating nature of employment relations and workers’ terms and conditions. strikes may not have been without cost to those who organized them.

It is to this issue that we now turn.4 these achievements have only been made pos- sible with the support of other key institutional actors. The (in)efficacy of official labour-dispute resolution channels The official labour-dispute resolution system in China has only been devel- oped in the last two decades with the promulgation of the ‘Regulations on Enterprise Labour Disputes Treatment’ in 1993.122 New Dynamics of Industrial Conflicts in China opportunities that have been made available for workers to choose this route as a result of the emerging political tolerance of industrial disputes in the contemporary Chinese political economy. and the LCL and LDMAL. 2004. Brown 2006. The emphasis on consultation and mediation results from government hopes to resolve labour dis- putes in an efficient and peaceful manner in line with its ideological objective of building a harmonious society (Cooke 2011). suggests that effective bargaining can only take place where workers play an active part in it. the success of the worker-led collective bargaining. While the labour militancy demonstrated in the string of strikes. The notion of ‘collective consultation’ was introduced in China in the early 1990s. Taylor et al. and for those . In many ways. Lüthje 2011. scholars and other pressure groups (Xie 2011). especially the Honda (Nanhai) case.5 The tripartite consultation system has been promoted by the government as an important mechanism for the government. The reality has been that few enter- prises have established the tripartite consultation system. including the active lobbying by the government and unions to broker deals. and the involvement from media. facilitated by worker-elected representatives rather than state/enterprise- appointed union officials. unions and enterprises to strengthen social dialogue and co-operation in coordinating labour relations in response to the new dynamics of industrial relations during the period of economic transformation (Clarke et al. Nonetheless. mediation. highlights the growing mobilization of labour activism in fulfilling workers’ demands and the impact of worker-led collective bargaining. the Labour Law in 1994. with the support of state institutions and other social actors. after the Trade Union Law 1992 authorized unions at the enterprise level to conclude collective contracts with employers. arbitration and litigation. The system consists of consultation. the gov- ernment’s continuing involvement in dealing with labour disputes reflects the institutional inefficacy in dispute resolution and the low level of confidence of the workers in this system. 2003).

Employers are left to make a choice as to whether they ‘have the conditions’ to set up a committee or not. Chen 2003b. The inadequacy of the role of the unions in dispute resolution.. there is no specific legal requirement for establish- ing a mediation committee at the enterprise level. legal position and power. collective consultation is a bureaucratic process in which the two main parties in IR (i. The labour-dispute mediation mechanism is multi-layered and aims to provide workers with several channels to seek settlement in a co- operative and constructive manner. In state- owned enterprises. Many workers are not even aware of what has been agreed upon in their collective contract (Cooke 2012): so much so that the signing of the collective contract/ agreement is often no more than a formality that has little impact on regulating the behaviour of both parties. Liu 2011). The absence of an independent third party in the committee is common. is noticeable. it remains more of a formality than an effective mechanism (Liu 2011). how it is to operate. Collective agreements are often no more than the minimum labour standards as specified by the local government based on the labour laws. The ACFTU’s role is. by and large.e. Directed by the government and organized by the Party-led unions. and if so. However. local govern- ments have been found to force labour-dispute cases back down to the workplace. In addition. 2004. role in improving workers’ rights and conditions strategi- cally and operationally (Chan 2010. Employers are told to resolve the dispute internally ‘for the sake of building a harmonious society’. there exist some loopholes in its design. unions play an extended management role (Warner 2008). Second. union officials are unable to conduct their mediation work independently. Cooke 2012). Fang Lee Cooke 123 that have. They are incentivized to help achieve organizational goals and . First. Its legal position in labour-dispute resolution is to play a mediation role rather than an organizing role to defend workers’ rights and interests (Wu and Xu 2010). Choi 2008. if modest. Institutionally subordinated to the Communist Party’s leadership. employer and employees) are not the main driving forces (Clarke et al. rights-based rather than interests-based. although resource constraints to handle the rising number of cases may have been a main reason for this (Cooke 2011). and in regulating IR more generally. a problem exacerbated by the deficiency in legal competence of the mediators whose rulings are often perceived as being unfair and challenged by those involved (Cooke 2011). Dai 2009. Victimization from the local authority may occur as a penalty for defending workers. media- tion bodies external to the enterprise lack authority. despite their positive.

size) they work for. the socialist unions’ primary task is to maintain labour discipline and peace keeping (Pringle and Clarke 2011). union officials make up only one of the three representational parties. within the formal industrial relations system. with the other parties being labour and economic authority representatives. In arbitration committees. As shown in Table 7. despite their leg- islative position in these procedures and processes. workers often turn to the government directly for intervention. and by workers in foreign-funded manufacturing plants in protest against exploitation.124 New Dynamics of Industrial Conflicts in China may. In addition. radical collective actions are not encouraged or endorsed as a norm.1. tend to side with the management when dealing with disputes (Dai 2009). In mediation. while the Chinese labour laws were silent in terms of the legal right to strike. Gallagher 2005).g. arbitration committees are located in labour authority departments. mediation made up less than 40% of the labour-dispute cases settled. but have appeared relatively recently in China. Some of the forms of conflict expression are not necessarily new to other parts of the world of work. In the case of the latter. In collective disputes. the rising level of workplace conflicts and emerging forms of expression in China. Self-organizing and self-representation then seems to be the inevitable alternative for the workers. Strikes and other similar forms of collective actions are more likely to be taken up by workers in the state-owned enterprises against their economic and social dislocation. bypassing the unions (Choi 2008. Finally. Conclusions This chapter began by charting the changing dynamics of the industrial relations context. media- tions mainly exist in name rather than reality. Unions’ capacity in dispute mediation and arbitration is further undermined through the hollowing out of their role. The opportunity for – and ability of – Chinese workers to take collective action to assert their rights and advance their interests is contingent upon their demographic profile and the type of businesses (e. ownership form. most enterprises do not have a labour-dispute mediation committee. and the committee chair role is assumed by the labour authority representative. the incidences of labour activism since 2008 suggest that the younger generation of Chinese workers have become more vocal and organized than their parent generation of rural migrant workers. This ‘collective bargaining by riot’ directly challenges the low-pay labour . therefore. As a subordinate organiza- tion of the Communist Party.

grassroots union officials have limited power and resources to play an effective role in dispute resolutions. In China. The struggle is shifting from a fight for a living wage to a fight for a larger share of the wealth. While violation of social and psychological con- tract has been a major reason for the lack of engagement of the work- ers with their employing organization (Yuan and Li 2010). the government launched ten action plans aimed to improve the living standard of its citizens. . includ- ing the target of an average annual increase of at least 13% in the mini- mum wage (Yangcheng Evening News 17 March 2011). Operating largely outside the workplace. The issues of disputes are not just rights-based. the existence of which is dependent on the extent of social justice rather than wealth (Yan 2010). and that makes an attempt to create institutional mechanisms through which reconciliation of fundamental differences may be sought. Not only are state institutional actors inefficient. and the rise in labour disputes on the other. The non-adversarial approach to labour-dispute resolution is characteristic of the Confucian value that emphasizes social harmony. In the twelfth Five-Year Plan (2011–2015). the simultaneous growth in the protection for workers through the widening collective bargaining coverage and legislative provision on the one hand. For example. It is clear that the Chinese IR system is moving from a unitarist approach to a pluralistic perspective that recognizes the different inter- ests and levels of bargaining power between the labour and capital. work- ers in smaller domestic private firms are less able to take such collective actions. The continuing involve- ment of the Chinese government in dispute resolution is characteristic of the developmental state in which the centrality of the state is a defining feature of its economic and other related development. but also employer associations under- developed. and workers continue to turn to the state directly for unmet expectations. workers are believed to contribute to the tense labour relationship due to their lack of accountability towards the organization (Wen 2010). mechanisms and resolutions of labour conflicts (Lipsky and Avgar 2004. The quality of the institutions and the role of institutional actors in an IR system influence the forms. but are moving towards being interests-based. they are more likely to opt for various forms of covert resistance or to exit. or under the control of management/proprietors within the workplace. Mahony and Klaas 2008). persistent labour shortage and strike actions have forced some local governments to raise their minimum wage level. is indica- tive of the inefficacy of the institutional mechanisms designed by the state actors to regulate contemporary IR. By contrast. Instead. Fang Lee Cooke 125 regime upon which much of China’s competitive advantage has been hinged.

126 New Dynamics of Industrial Conflicts in China

The ability of workers to organize and participate in strikes is indica-
tive of not only their awaking awareness of the power of collective
action, their psychological strength and financial ability to take action,
but also arguably the increasing tolerance of the political system of
economic conflicts. Tacit political endorsement has emerged, if only
on an ad hoc basis, within the broader environment of institutional
curtailment. If poor terms and conditions have been the essential pre-
conditions for collective action, then the shift of government attitude
from repression to concession (in the state sector) and facilitation
(in the private sector) towards self-organized labour activism has been
one of the institutional conditions that contribute to strike victories.
Nevertheless, victorious strikes remain a small part of the IR reality,
magnified by media publicity and the enthusiasm of labour movement
optimists. In view of foreign capital’s engagement in aggressive regime
shopping, often using the threat of exit to force regulatory conces-
sions from the host governments, it remains unclear the extent to which
these high-cost industrial actions may have deterred foreign firms from
investing in China, thus retarding its long-term competitiveness and
economic growth. Equally, without the right to form autonomous
unions with sustainable resources and leverage, the prospect of workers’
self-organizing on a continuous basis may remain opaque in the foresee-
able future.

1. According to a study conducted by the All-China Federations of Trade Unions
in 2009, the monthly wage of over two-thirds of the workers felt below the
national average wage (2,152 yuan). Meanwhile, the income distribution gap
between frontline workers and senior managers of state-owned enterprises
was widened from 6.72 times in 2006 to 17.95 times in 2008 (cited in Liao
et al. 2010).
2. The domestic private sector consists of two major types of businesses: pri-
vately owned enterprises and self-employed businesses. The latter are very
small private businesses that employ no more than eight members of staff.
3. These are the Employment Promotion Law, the Labour Contract Law, and the
Labour Disputes Mediation and Arbitration Law.
4. Honda (Nanhai) raised wages three times in 2010 as a result of the collec-
tive bargaining between the workers and the company. Workers employed
Professor Chang Kai, the Beijing-based most influential industrial relations
scholar in China, as their expert adviser to guide them through the negotia-
5. The term ‘collective consultation’ rather than ‘collective bargaining’ is pre-
ferred by the state as a more constructive approach than ‘bargaining’ as it con-
forms to the Chinese culture of non-confrontation and conflict avoidance.

Fang Lee Cooke 127

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Egyptian Workers Rediscover
the Strike
Anne Alexander


For millions of people worldwide who watched the uprising against
Mubarak unfold in Tahrir Square on television and through social media,
it is probably the mass occupation of public squares which is the form of
collective action most associated with the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.
Yet the five years or so before the downfall of Mubarak also witnessed
an equally important change in workers’ repertoire of collective action:
namely, the rediscovery of the strike. This chapter argues the shift in
workers’ tactics was a reflection of deeper changes in the relationship
between the state, capital and labour since the mid-1970s, and had pro-
found consequences both for the Mubarak regime and its opponents. The
pivot of these changes was Anwar Sadat’s turn from the Soviet Union to
the USA, which was in turn prompted by the crisis of the Nasserist experi-
ment in import-substitution industrialization. Sadat’s policy of ‘opening’
(infitah) began a long-drawn-out process through which the Egyptian
ruling class attempted to withdraw from its side of the Nasserist ‘social
contract’ without triggering a major explosion of protest. By the late 1980s
economic stagnation and the looming prospect of a default on loan repay-
ments to the USA opened a period of much more aggressive liberalization
and the extension of neo-liberal policies to large areas of the economy.
In the Nasserist era, Egyptian workers were asked to forgo the right to
strike in return for a commitment from the state to provide jobs, housing,
education and healthcare through the public sector. In the period of
neo-liberal reforms the state’s role in the redistribution of wealth down-
wards was dramatically reduced, but its repressive functions increased.
Thus in its final years, the Mubarak regime was an increasingly complex
amalgam of institutions and practices inherited from the Nasserist era


the Textile Workers’ League. independent workers’ organizations played an important role in organizing strikes and in the wider political move- ment against the monarchy and the British presence. In its analy- sis of the development of the workers’ movement during the Nasserist era. 2012b). independent unions led . strikes were a key weapon in Egyptian workers’ social and political struggles. 2011. and coalesced during the final crisis of the monarchy over the winter of 1951–1952 in a peak of protest which would not be surpassed again until 2011. including leading figures in the Property Tax Collectors’ Higher Strike Committee (later the Real Estate Tax Authority Union). the Mubarak regime’s continued dependence on the repressive functions of the corporatist ‘unions’ (which Nasser created) at the same time as aggressively strip- ping them of their role in the redistribution of wealth through its neo- liberal reforms meant that the post-2006 strike wave uniquely targeted both elements of this unstable compound. The primary sources for this chapter are a series of interviews car- ried out between 2008 and 2012 with worker activists involved in strike organizing and building independent trade unions (full details in Alexander 2010. it engages primarily with the work of Beinin (1989. Waves of strikes over the rising cost of living and unemployment intersected with a mass movement against the large British military presence. they played a crucial role in further under- mining the ETUF’s structures in the workplace. In particular. As the strikes were organized almost entirely outside and in defiance of the official Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF). Beinin and Lockman 1988) and Posusney (1997). Moreover. when workers’ organizations were generally led by non-worker ‘patrons’ from the liberal nationalist Wafd party or rul- ing class mavericks like Prince Abbas Halim. Development of Nasserism From the end of World War Two until the early 1950s. rendering them impo- tent at the crucial moment during the uprising of 2011 when Mubarak attempted to use them to mobilize the appearance of a ‘popular’ counter- revolution against protesters in Tahrir Square. Anne Alexander 131 of the 1950s and 1960s combined with new policies promoted by the clique of neo-liberal reformers who dominated the governments of the last years before the revolution. the Independent Union of Workers at Manshiyet al-Bakri Hospital and a number of unions affiliated with the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU)which was founded during the revolution of 2011. 2012a. In contrast to previous decades.

Within a few years.132 Egyptian Workers Rediscover the Strike by worker activists grew rapidly. It was. The leadership of the new confederation was approved by the regime. Strikes had previously been seen as a legitimate and necessary tactic by broad layers of Egyptian society. As Beinin (1989: 86) noted. The single officially sanctioned union federation assisted in the repression of workers’ protests and strikes. nationalization of large sec- tors of the economy and financial system and the elaboration of a new political system. unlike in the USSR itself. as much of this was organized directly through public sector workplaces. Nasser finally agreed to a founding meeting taking place in 1957. The incorporation of workers’ organizations into the state played a pivotal role in the political economy of Nasserism. he launched Egypt onto a trajectory of state capitalist economic development which would see a dramatic shift towards import-substitution industrialization with the creation of new heavy industries. the Free Officers sought to repress them on the grounds that strikes against their newly formed regime would play into the hands of ‘imperialism and feudalism’ (Alexander 2007). Having vigorously opposed the creation of a national union confederation. indus- trialization was not accompanied by the systematic driving-down of urban workers’ living standards (Waterbury 1985: 65). Al-Bishri 2002. the word ‘strike’ literally disappeared from the political discourse during the early years of Nasserism. The role of the working class in the Nasserist system was shaped by a number of different factors. the state began to take a pro-active role in shaping the union movement. By the mid-1950s. Nasser had emerged as undisputed leader of the officers and president of the republic. particularly after 1945 (Beinin and Lockman 1988. The seizure of power by junior army officers in 1952 dramatically changed the context in which workers’ collective action took place. Both ideologi- cally and practically. At the same time. From the start. mobilized workers to meet produc- tion goals and controlled their remaining legal channels for political expression through control of nominations to the various representa- tive bodies set up by the regime (Posusney 1997. also a key partner in a limited redistribution of wealth which the Nasserist regime chiefly achieved through investment in workers’ social welfare. this system of social welfare was made conditional on workers’ economic and political quiescence. Firstly. Alexander 2007). Workers’ wages rose significantly during the first phase of state-led industrialization between 1960 and 1965 (Mabro and Radwan 1976: 144). education and housing combined with subsidies on basic consumer goods and fuel. however. and . particularly when they were directed against the British. Beinin 1989).

as the officially sanctioned unions came to control a large proportion of the nominations to the representative bodies of the regime. It is in this light that the oppo- sition of some union leaders to the economic liberalization policies of Nasser’s successor. The integration of the union leadership into the wider Nasserist bureaucracy did not preclude some or even the majority of them occasionally acting as a relatively coherent bloc to protect their own interests against attempts to redistribute material resources and political power within the ruling class. but rather on their effectiveness in policing workers’ discontent. as Waterbury and Richards (2008: 189) noted the ‘Achilles heel’ of Nasser’s import-substitution pol- icies became quickly apparent – Egypt’s inability to earn enough foreign exchange to prevent a balance of payments crisis. It was a policy designed to maintain peace on the shopfloor and make unions watchdogs of productivity. the leaders’ positions did not depend on their ability to maintain independent organization and wrest concessions from employers or state. However. large sections of private capital were nationalized. their role in the Nasserist system was much closer to that of other members of a class of state administrators and managers than to a union bureaucracy. Anne Alexander 133 later leaders were to be appointed directly by the state (Posusney 1997: 62–63). provided another source of finance for projects such as the construc- tion of the High Dam at Aswan. is best understood. Although some union leaders had played roles in the independent unions which had emerged in the 1940s. including funding from the USSR. Despite notable suc- cesses in other respects. There was also a corresponding political impact. Infitah and the long crisis of the Nasserist state The first Five Year Plan (FYP) of 1960/1961 set ambitious goals for the rapid economic transformation through industrialization and increased agricultural productivity. the first Five Year Plan proved to . From the mid- 1960s. The incorporation of unions into the state lay at the heart of the regime’s relationship with the working class. The bureaucratic apparatus that managed the unions on behalf of the state developed in parallel with the wider state bureauc- racy which managed the public sector enterprises. Having failed to provide enough capital to meet the state’s needs for this project. 50% of seats in the National Assembly were reserved for workers and peasants. including the creation of a million new jobs and an annual rate of GDP growth of 6%. Foreign loans. Sadat. With union dues collected by compulsory deductions from wages.

reorganized the public sector and extended privileges to the Egyptian private sector (Waterbury 1985: 70). The new economic orthodoxy held that retrenchment and austerity would not be enough to restore profitability. State-run industries would suffer a similar fate. Sadat’s ‘turn’ from East to West was a pivotal moment in Egyptian history. However. Thus. reformed the Egyptian banking sector. such as health. and turned them into machines for generating profit. By the mid-1960s. although the language of infitah’s supporters still echoed the rhetoric of the previous era. whereby the more profitable elements would be directly . which in turn precipitated the abandonment of Keynesianism in favour of the neoclassical and neo- liberal schools of economic thought. The goal of these policies was to attract external finance to Egypt. Compensation agreements with foreign investors for the first wave of nationalizations in 1956 further drained foreign currency reserves. However. initiated steps towards multiple exchange rates. enforcing longer working hours and slashing spending on welfare all played a part in making the poor pay for the crisis. The second FYP was abandoned as the government failed to raise sufficient investment capital and instead found itself having to negotiate with international lenders for loans to close the widening gap between imports and exports. infitah was a set of meas- ures which liberalised and partially re-privatised foreign trade. they were to be supplemented by concerted efforts to reconfigure the balance between the extractive and redistributive functions of the state for the benefit of a new coalition of state and private capitalists. The policy of infitah (‘the opening’) was a shift from a trajectory of state capitalist development in partnership with the USSR towards a new set of economic and foreign policies which broadly followed the lead of the USA. Sadat embarked on a series of reforms which aimed at opening the economy to Western investment.134 Egyptian Workers Rediscover the Strike be unsustainable (Beinin 2010: 12). the logic of their reorientation marked a more profound change. neo-liberalism in Egypt cannibalized the mechanisms which states of the previous gen- eration had used for the redistribution of wealth. The conditions attached to Sadat’s application for a junior partnership with the US ruling class and its allies would be set by the global shift in economic policy prompted by the end of the long boom of the 1960s and the crisis of state-led development. primarily from the Gulf and the West. educa- tion and welfare systems and public infrastructure. Cutting wages. Nasser had already embarked on an austerity programme which forced down workers’ wages and increased working hours. At the level of practical policy. encour- aged private sector imports.

Sadat therefore used Egypt’s strategic value as leverage to gain access to massive US sub- sidies. Some of this transformation was achieved on a short-term basis through ‘asset stripping’ operations where those in closest proximity to the state could make fortunes by purchasing public property cheaply (or as brokers for purchases by regional and international capital). Thus. In other areas. infitah was a protracted process which proceeded through several stages. Crucially. including one by Cairo bus workers in 1976. despite a general and long-lasting consensus that there was no other viable strategy. sanitation and social care). by the end of the 1980s. thus. it was likely there would be winners and losers. Neo-liberal reforms also provided new forms of state subsidy to private capital. infitah also necessarily ran the risk of igniting resistance from below in the form of protests and strikes. the neo-liberal turn rested on a longer-term perspective based on the marketisation of public services (particularly health. The protests erupted against a backdrop of increasing social and political tension. The seriousness of this threat was made obvious to Sadat in 1977 with the explosion of the ‘Bread Uprising’. The ruling class sought to put off for as long as possible the need to ‘bite the bullet’ and risk further social explosions. Naguib (2011: 5) noted none of these strategies involved shrinking or rolling back the state for neo-liberals were as heavily interventionist as their predecessors: The policies of neo-liberalism were never about dismantling or even reducing the role of the state in the economy but rather about increasing the role of the state as facilitator of capitalist profit-making at the expense of the working class. including bread. decay and eventual closure. Infitah necessarily involved a rebalancing of the relative economic and political weight of different sections of the ruling class and. for example. Egypt was perilously close to . There was. This created an even more inti- mate relation between state and capital. a spontaneous wave of mass protests and riots in response the removal of some subsidies on basic goods. at the urging of the IMF. intense debate and occasional conflict within the ruling class about tactics. by facilitating the aggres- sive reshaping of urban landscapes for the selective benefit of private construction companies through the building of new roads to gated communities (Mitchell 1999). education. while the rest faced neglect. therefore. This combination of limited liberalization and the expansion of private and foreign capital combined with a new subsidy regime worked for a while but. including a rise in street dem- onstrations and strikes. Anne Alexander 135 sold to private capital.

136 Egyptian Workers Rediscover the Strike defaulting on interest payments on the US loans agreed in the 1970s (Alexander 2009). giving the international lenders’ insistence on the imposi- tion of a programme of structural adjustment much greater force. economic crisis and shifts in the geopolitical balance intersected. promises without obligation. While infitah represented a public declara- tion by key sections of the ruling class of their intention to abrogate the Nasserist social contract. capital and labour. The Mubarak regime’s support for the US-led assault on Iraq following the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was essentially traded against a write-off of much of Egypt’s ‘Paris Club’ debts. Once again. In particular. the ETUF leadership – sections of which had previously expressed opposition from within the regime to neo- liberal economic reforms – supported the Economic Reform and Structural Adjustment Programme (ERSAP). the aggressive assertion of US hegemony in the Middle East and the final collapse of the Soviet Union further narrowed the regime’s space for manoeuvre. With hindsight. The changed geopolitical circumstance was one factor behind the achieve- ment of a greater level of consensus within the ruling class about the need to impose economic reforms which were likely to ignite serious social discontent. ERSAP put this declaration into effect. it is easier now to see how infitah was part of a global reorientation of economic strategy. the bargain struck between state and people was essentially a negative one. Here. distribution without production. ERSAP was an extension and deepening of infitah which resulted in a qualitative shift in the relationships between the state. However. Announced in 1991. freedom without responsibility’. Structural adjustment: the state withdraws from the Nasserist social contract In his analysis of the first ten years of infitah. which did represent an ideological and practical break with the policies adopted by states worldwide during the previous genera- tion. Waterbury (1985: 69) argued the Nasserist social contract was ‘centered on the commitment of the state to provide goods and services to the public in exchange for politi- cal docility and quiescence’. representing ‘the charter of Egypt’s soft state’ while infitah merely attempted to locate new sources of external income with which to fulfil its commitments. and Waterbury (1985: 69) quoted approvingly complaints of the authors of the Egyptian Five Year Plan of 1978–82 that ‘the end result is a society lacking disci- pline or supervision. .

the time it took for the workers’ movement to recover from the profoundly debilitating effects of Nasserism was both a reflection of the Mubarak regime’s increasing use of authoritarian methods to control dissent. It is fruitful to think of Nasserist social contract as a balance between different kinds of ‘bargains’ struck between the state. The ideology of autarchic state capitalist development was not a reflection of the actual practice of the Egyptian state. Indeed. State commitment to redistribute wealth to workers by this means was. conditional on both positive and negative behaviour. The ideology of production under Nasserism was from the start strongly shaped by a nationalist agenda in which the idea of workers as partners in national development came to play an increasingly important role (Beinin 1989). The ideol- ogy of the public sector found expression in workers’ choice of tactics for their protests. The state’s self-proclaimed role as the direct organizer of the extraction of surplus value from workers through the creation and management of state-run industries was balanced by its commitment to redistribute some of these profits back to workers both directly and indirectly. For urban workers. and more often involved ‘work-ins’ or other forms of action which not only allowed production to continue. Anne Alexander 137 It is also problematic to couch the Nasserist social contract in passive and negative terms. which even at the height of Nasserism was forced to strike a balance between mobilizing internal and external resources (Waterbury 1985: 65). and an expression of the long decay of what Naguib (2011: 3) calls the ‘relative consent’ between ruled and rulers created by the Nasserist social contract. capital and labour. thus. That direct US aid to Egypt in the form of dona- tions of wheat under Public Law 480 continued to flow throughout the Nasserist period (with the brief exception of a short interruption during the 1960s) underlined that both in its state capitalist and neo-liberal moods. which until the mid-2000s very rarely took the form of strikes. the attraction of Nasserism lay in its promise to tilt the balance between the extractive and redistributive functions of the state in their favour. the Egyptian ruling class has been relatively successful in using its geo-strategic value as leverage to gain access to these external rents.1 The primary bargain between workers and the state was that a public sector offering secure (if relatively low-paid) employment and welfare benefits in the form of housing and healthcare would form the core of national economic development. rather than only avoid disrupting it. Workers were expected to actively participate in economic development. particularly in relation to the specific contract between workers and the Nasserist state. but actually emphasized .

Thus. The analysis of the Nasserist social contract advanced here is based on the understand- ing that the ‘offer’ made by the state was never one which workers could refuse without facing direct and brutal repression. workers were also expected to give up political and union organi- zation outside the frameworks created by the state itself. rent controls and forced nationalizations. even when the state honoured its side of the agreement. The most important of these was made with society at large. In addition to refraining from striking. workers never benefited as much from the arrangement as the Egyptian ruling class. but also between the state and private capital. whereby the state committed to provide a wide range of public goods. who had played a leading role in nurtur- ing independent workers’ organizations and recruited widely from the 1940s generation of worker activists. the Nasserism created other social contracts. A large part of Nasserism’s mass appeal was connected to the application of coercive measures to private landlords and capitalists through the redistribution of agricultural land. including a minimal level of universal health care and education. the rela- tively consensual aspects of the relationship are important in explaining why it took so long for traditions of independent collective action and trade union organization to revive. The idea of the Nasserist social contract as a bartering of social peace for bread makes most sense when applied to the commodity subsidy regime which provided cheap food and fuel for the poor. A pivotal role in the drama was played by the left. a modern social infrastructure.138 Egyptian Workers Rediscover the Strike notions of workers’ self-sacrifice for the good of national economic development (Bassiouny and Said 2007). and high levels of employment in the public sector. The majority of Egyptian Communist activists.3 . In addition to the specific contract imposed on workers by the state. However. in return for Egyptian citizens’ rejection of forms of political expression and organization outside those directly organized by the state. Forswearing the use of strikes and independent organization were crit- ical components of the social contract but it was a Faustian pact struck between parties with vastly unequal access to the means of coercion. agreed to dissolve their independ- ent organization despite suffering severe repression.2 The power of the Faustian pact lay not only in the balance between consent and coercion in rela- tions between the state and workers. Beinin (1989) makes a persuasive case for seeing the articulation of a distinctly ‘workerist’ version of Nasserism by the left and worker activists as playing a crucial role in embedding Nasserism within the workers’ movement during the early years of the regime. which gave the impression that the state really was acting in the interests of the poor against the rich.

Some of the wealthy were managers of state capital and some of them were private capitalists. a clear legal and pol- icy route to privatization had been mapped out. Although the outright sale of SOEs was at first slow. Further privatizations between 1999 and 2004 raised the level of formal state divestment further to nearly 200 companies out of 314 (OECD 2010: 4). Nevertheless.9% of GDP in 2005–2006 and 2006–2007. which took office in 2004. Anne Alexander 139 ERASP represented an assault on the poor. altered its external relationships. at the head of the armed forces or in the boardrooms of private enterprises. which cannibalised the Nasserist mechanisms of redistribution and turned them into mecha- nisms that either directly or indirectly. The SOEs were grouped into sector-wide ‘Holding Companies’ which were given the legal right to dispose of state assets by sale to the private sector. Between 1996 and 1999.2m. Privatization receipts accounted for 2. the Bank of Alexandria and the part-privatization of Telecom Egypt (OECD 2010: 4). and other state institutions was around 5. enriched the wealthy. as it took place in a regional and global environment which favoured the intensification of trans- national connections between state and private capitals. The government was the largest employer and the combined size of the government work- force including all public sector companies. Structural adjustment reconfigured the internal com- position of the ruling class somewhat and. The government sold or partially divested from fewer than 20 companies out of 314 between 1991 and 1995. The most important legal instrument in this process was Law 203 of 1991. acceler- ated the privatization programme once again.5m. local and national gov- ernment. whether they were located in the upper levels of the state bureaucracy. those employed in military-owned industries (but not the armed forces). which identified 314 state-owned enterprises (SOE) as targets for privatization. expanding its operation outside the framework of Law 203. privatization speeded up and the government also pursued other reforms more aggressively whereby the state sold its controlling interest in 65 companies and a minority interest in a further 16. or around 37% of aggregate employment. The World Bank (2000: 1–2) identified two phases in the privatization programme between 1991 and 1999. The centrepiece of the structural adjustment pro- gramme was the privatization of the public sector.5% and 1. largely accounted for by the sale of a big state-owned bank. the process benefited Egyptian capitalists as a class. The government of Ahmad Nazif. At the beginning of the privatization programme official estimates gave the size of the total labour force as 15. The workforce employed by the SOEs targeted for privatization by Law 203 numbered slightly more than 1m .

In addition to the loss of wages and non-wage benefits to directly affected workers and their dependents.000) (Privatization Coordination Support Unit 2002: 40). policies of ‘benign neglect of basic welfare programmes’ (Tadros 2006: 240) – which has led to a relative dete- rioration of publicly funded services. Since the 1991 reforms. state divestiture to the private sector (222.7 to 42. public sector employment carries with it access to important non-wage benefits. By 2001.000 employees). Expenditure on private education in an effort to offset the impact of the deteriorating quality of publicly funded education rose signifi- cantly during the 1990s. as well as far greater job security (Said 2004). when the gap began to widen. correlating with the second and third accelerations in the privatization programme. Transfer of employment out of the public sector affected the workers concerned and their families negatively in a number of ways. This drop had been accomplished by a variety of mechanisms. Across both the education and health sectors neo-liberal reforms followed a similar pattern – namely. By 2005. including health benefits. real wages in the public and private sectors were approxi- mately equal and continued to rise in a relatively synchronised fashion until 2000. the cost to the poor of access to health and education has risen dramatically. retirement pensions and shorter working hours (which allow employees the time to take on a second job). and the greatest share of this increase was . while the percentage covered by social insurance dropped from 54. Bassiouny (2009: 11) noted the overall dramatic rise in job insecurity and declining access to social insurance across the workforce during the 1998–2006 period.000. whereas the public sector wage index had increased to 180 (Hassan and Sassanpour 2008: 13). the work- force which remained in the Law 203 companies had been reduced to around 453. including restructuring before privatization through an early retirement scheme (affecting 167.1 to 42.140 Egyptian Workers Rediscover the Strike (Privatization Coordination Support Unit 2002: 39). the index of private sector wages stood at 120 against a baseline of 100 in 1995. the imposition of cost-recovery mechanisms (which in turn led to the institution of user fees or their increase) and various schemes introducing forms of direct privatiza- tion.000 employees) and attrition of the workforce through retirement (148. and ‘increased their vulnerability to exploitation by exposing them to a wide range of ‘hidden’ and informal fees’ (Tadros 2006: 237). the neo-liberal assault on the Nasserist system of universal health care and education had a negative impact on far wider layers of the poor. Between 1998 and 2006 the percentage of the workers with an employment contract fell from 61.2 (Bassiouny 2009: 11). Moreover. In the mid-1990s.

In 1995. and candidates for senior offices were no longer obliged to pass through the lower levels of the bureaucracy before seeking election (Bassiouny 2009). The Egyptian govern- ment passed legislation in 1992 (delaying implementation until 1997) which removed restrictions on land ownership. In the case of the ETUF. which kept rents below market levels in around a third of Egypt’s rental housing stock (Bush 2002. including sugar. and increasingly aggressive interventions by the ruling National Democratic Party in its elections. 22 of whom were members of the National Democratic Party (Charbel 2006). Studies from the late 1990s and early 2000s found poor families reporting that between 20% and 50% of total household income was taken up by the costs of education (Tadros 2006: 241. and the results were formally annulled following the overthrow of Mubarak in 2011 (ITUC 2011. The interaction of economic liberalization with political deliberal- isation created a new. hybrid regime which retained the repressive attributes of Nasserist corporatism at the same time as it attacked the . Langhor 2000). The appointments to its National Council in 2006 brought into post the heads of 23 sector-wide ‘General Unions’. the 1990s saw a tightening of authoritarian control from above through reforms of its structure. Neo-liberalism and the ETUF Neo-liberalism had a paradoxical effect on the repressive functions of Nasserism. Alexander 2012b). economic liberalization was accompanied by a general process of deliberalisation in the political sphere (Kienle 2000. Other elements in the neo-liberal reform programme included the elimination of subsidies on some consumer goods. Anne Alexander 141 among the poor. and worked systematically to undermine the rent control system. cooking oil and dairy products (Sharp 2005: 11). Hartmann 2008: 60). The term of election for ETUF officials was extended from 4 to 5 years. retired members were allowed to continue in post. thereby reversing the 1952 Land Reform. structural reform increased the weight of the higher levels of the bureaucracy which was dominated by the ruling NDP. On the one hand. The taxation and tariff systems were changed to the benefit of corpo- rations and high-earners so that income and corporation taxes were slashed by Ahmad Nazif’s government and restrictions on imports cut (Enders 2008). The ETUF’s 2006 elections are widely regarded as having been the focus of a system- atic campaign of fraud and intimidation by the ruling party. US Embassy in Cairo 2008).

and 2. the architects of the neo-liberal pro- gramme proposed a new exchange between workers and employers. This exchange was framed as an act of self-sacrifice by workers. Moreover. while the neo- liberal attack on the idea of the public sector undermined the federa- tion’s efforts to contain workers’ discontent through the old formula of appealing to their sense of pride in the national economy. a process spurred on by the ETUF’s unwillingness to protect them from the effects of privatization (Alexander 2010). Other restrictions included the banning of strikes in a wide range of ‘essential services’. the combination of deepening authoritarian control and neo-liberalism was inherently unstable. However. as the formal recognition of the right to strike in the 2003 Labour Law was set in the context of tighten- ing authoritarian control of the ETUF. which was explicitly aimed at making it easier for employers to dismiss workers (General Authority for Investment 2009). At a formalistic level. The assault on the public sector workforce through the privatization programme directly cost the federation hundreds of thousands of members. where collective bargaining agree- ments are in force. The strike wave was accompa- nied by workers’ first steps in creating independent rivals to the ETUF. neo-liberalism also weakened the ETUF both organizationally and ideologically. which continued afterwards.142 Egyptian Workers Rediscover the Strike redistributive functions which had played a central role in maintaining its social and political stability. . falling to 3. However. ITUC 2011). and during periods of compulsory arbitration (ITUC 2011). but played an active and important role in supporting its reforms. There was a rapid decline in its membership before the onset of the strike wave in late 2006. in reality. A key term of the Nasserist social contract was that workers should refrain from halting ‘the wheel of production’ through strikes. Yet. as the neo-liberal reforms them- selves undermined the very mechanisms on which the government was relying to contain rising levels of workers’ discontent.5m in 2003. Membership stood at 4. It formally endorsed Law 203 after its passage through parliament in 1991. Similar contradictions can be seen in operation in relation to the right to strike. trading the workers’ right to strike against the employers’ right to hire and fire at will. Legal strikes could only take place with prior notifi- cation and with the approval of two thirds of the NDP-controlled ETUF General Council. the ETUF was not a passive observer of the neo-liberal turn. whose refusal to use this collective power in the interests of national develop- ment was rewarded by the state with secure employment and political recognition. and supported the enactment of a new Labour Law in 2003. this exchange was in practice in one direction only.9m by 2011 (Bassiouny 2009.8m in 2006.

It is likely that some strikes will . such as Al-Dustur’s Mostafa Bassiouny. However. In addition to the commercial media. the conditions for the upsurge in workers’ collective action were shaped by the reconfiguration of the relation- ship between the state and capital ‘from above’. Anne Alexander 143 The strike wave: nature and consequences The eruption of the biggest and longest strike wave in Egypt for around half a century after 2006 represented the working-out of these contra- dictions. While the opposition press did report on strikes. the growth of internet use and the advent of websites such as the video- sharing website YouTube provided an outlet for activist and ‘citizen jour- nalist’ reporting on strikes. Despite the huge expansion in the information about strikes since the mid-2000s. The media reports on which much of the figures here are based incon- sistently report numbers of participants. there remain a number of significant problems with the data. even if they were frequently attempting to defend the benefits it had offered. as almost no strikes were recorded officially by the Egyptian government. On the one hand. the extremely small circulation of these newspapers and the weakness of opposition groups in general meant that their sporadic reports on workers’ collec- tive action rarely. the upsurge in workers’ protests was chroni- cled by labour correspondents working for the independent press. until the early 2000s and the growth of a privately funded press. if ever. Before the 2011 revolution. the only source of information about workers’ collective action was the media. Analysing the dynamics of strike action in Egypt through any kind of quantitative analysis has always been extremely difficult. NGOs such as the Land Centre for Human Rights (Markaz al-Ard) and the Sons of the Earth Organization (Awlad al-Ard) began to publish regular reports which collated data from media reports. the strike wave represented workers’ de facto abrogation of the Nasserist social contract ‘from below’. On the other. Within a few years the media landscape had changed significantly. in that the neo-liberal onslaught on the public sector also weakened the ideological and mate- rial hold of Nasserism over large sections of the working class (Bassiouny and Said 2007). the absence of strikes from official data mirrored their absence from the largely government-controlled media. reached a mass audience. Thus. categorised different types of collective action and analysed evolving patterns of workers’ protests in different economic sectors and over time. for independent news- papers accounted for around 25% of readers by 2007 – up from 3% in 2003 (Diehl 2007). the duration of the action and the demands of the workers involved.

was dramatically larger than in previous dec- ades.1 Strikes and all forms of workers’ collective action. it is possible to draw some conclu- sions from the mass of data available about the dynamics of the upsurge in workers’ collective action. of participants (000’s) – strikes 600 500 400 300 200 100 0 Figure 8. The ‘underground’ nature of strike organi- zation means it is very likely that many strikes will have simply not been reported at all. as opposed to other forms of collective action. First. there is incontrovertible evidence that the scale of workers’ protests. . in terms of numbers of episodes of action and participants.1 shows a significant rise in the numbers of workers taking strike action in 2007. Figure 8. These difficulties notwithstanding. wrongly categorised (as a strike rather than a demonstration). of participants (000’s) – all forms of protest Estimated no.000 workers at Misr Spinning in al-Mahalla al-Kubra marked another turning point and triggered a dramatic qualitative shift in the nature of workers’ protests. and a shift towards longer and better-organised strikes in contrast to the brief explosions of protest which characterised the period before the Misr Spinning strike. 2004–8 Source: Beinin (2010: 16). The principal features of this transformation were the increasing adoption of strikes as opposed to other forms of protest dur- ing the course of 2007.144 Egyptian Workers Rediscover the Strike have been over-reported (for example a strike lasting two days reported as two separate episodes of collective action). in contrast to the years immediately Estimated no. Bassiouny and Said (2007) argued that the December 2006 strike by 24. and the number of participants exaggerated or underestimated. Estimations of the scale of all forms of workers’ collective action between 1998 and 2008 show a huge upturn in the number of episodes of action and the number of participants after 2004 (Beinin 2010: 16).

Although this ‘recognition’ of negotiators was grudging and generally restricted to the duration of the strike. and the recently privatized Indorama textile mill in Shibin al-Kom in February 2007 (Workers’ Coordination Committee 2007). A combination of factors allowed a generation of workplace activists to gain a qualitatively different experience of strike organizing to their colleagues in previous decades. which enabled worker activists to gain valuable experience in negotiations. and then to other sectors of the economy. Anne Alexander 145 Table 8.1 indicates that the frequency of forms of industrial action (sit-ins. Table 8. 2004–11 Year Sit-in Strike Demonstration Static rally Gathering Total 2004 90 43 46 n/a 87 266 2005 59 46 16 n/a 81 202 2006 81 47 25 n/a 69 222 2007 197 110 43 n/a 264 614 2008 253 122 60 n/a 253 609 2009 126 84 42 n/a 180 432 2010 209 135 80 83 23 530 Sources: Beinin (2010: 16) for 2004–2009 and Awlad al-Ard (2012: 1) for 2010. involving groups of workers with little tradition of col- lective action or organization. The strike wave began in Misr Spinning in al-Mahalla al-Kubra in December 2006. lobbies of union and government officials. including strikes. strikes) preponderated over other forms of collective action towards the end of the 2000s. spreading to Kafr al-Dawwar. The decision of state officials to negotiate directly with strikers’ elected delegates in an attempt to resolve disputes broke the ETUF’s monopoly as workers’ representatives. strikes and protests spread from the public to private textile sectors.1 Numbers of episodes of workers’ collective action. sit-ins. and workers developed a wide range of protest tactics. workers’ protests and strikes were erupting in other areas of the textile sector. Two processes of generalization were at work in the pattern of work- ers’ collective action between 2006 and 2010. . The willingness of the independent media to report strikes. By April 2007. it marked a highly significant shift in tactics by the authorities. preceding or following. Longer strikes dem- anded more sustained organization than had been possible in the past. and work- ers’ recognition of the importance of using this channel to spread news of their action. street demonstrations and petition campaigns (Alexander 2012a). Some workplaces experienced repeated episodes of collective action. brought new opportunities to learn skills in managing relations with the media (Koubaissy 2008). which were honed and adapted over time. Firstly.

therefore. The second process of generalization. Beinin and El-Hamalawy 2007). light and heavy engineering and general contracting (including cement and brick-making). By the end of 2007. they re-opened them for others. food production. new patterns of strike activity and other forms of workers’ protest were well-established across a large number of economic sectors. workers’ collective action played a positive role in building wider opposition to Mubarak. even penetrating the military-owned factories which operate under martial law (ITUC 2011). A report by Egyptian Workers and Trade Union Watch (EWTUW) compiled from media sources in the last two weeks of October lists collective action by workers in textiles and garment production. was the evolution of demands and campaigns which targeted government policy directly. commercial establishments. and self-organised collec- tive action in general. strikes in particular.4 In this case. have been adopted by workers across a similarly wide range of economic sectors. The 2008 textile workers’ protests in al-Mahalla coalesced with a new upsurge in pro-democracy activism around the call for a general strike on 6 April to support the . Striking workers. rather than responding to problems within a specific workplace or institution. electrical-goods manufacturing. Workers at Misr Spinning in al-Mahalla al-Kubra organized protests and called a strike demanding a rise in the national minimum wage in early 2008. female workforce. Even those parts of the economy which the govern- ment had sought to remove completely from the Nasserist model of state-capitalism. it was also drawn into the strike wave (Morsi 2008). job insecurity and a largely unskilled. The workforce at the Mansura-Espana garment factory near al-Mansura occupied the factory and went on strike in April 2008. hospitals. not only claimed the streets as a stage for their own protests. were affected by workers’ protests and strikes (EWTUW 2007a). transport (including port workers employed by the Suez Canal Company and Cairo Metro train drivers).146 Egyptian Workers Rediscover the Strike including a strike by 2. building. energy. but extremely important. sleeping over on the shop- floor in order to pre-empt management efforts to close down the plant (EWTUW 2007b). tel- ephone manufacturing. which was less widespread. Although the garment industry has traditionally been characterised by low pay. schools and civil servants (including a national strike by property tax collectors) (EWTUW 2007a). the Free Zones. hotels.700 workers at the privately owned Makarem Group factories in Sadat City and another by 6. Over the following years.000 workers in privately owned Arab Polvara (EWTUW 2007b. The post-2006 strike wave erupted at a moment when the security forces had achieved a degree of success in forcing pro-democracy activists of movements like Kifaya off the streets.

Anne Alexander 147

demand for a rise in the national minimum wage. A Facebook group,
which was set up to mobilize a solidarity movement for the 6 April strike
call, rapidly attracted around 80,000 members, demonstrating the wider
political resonance of workers’ demands. Although the planned strike
by workers in the Misr Spinning plant was aborted through the inter-
vention of the security forces in the mill, the events triggered a popular
uprising in the town, which was in many senses a ‘dress rehearsal’ for
the 2011 Revolution (Alexander 2012a).
The strike wave was also an incubator for the first successful attempt
to establish an independent union outside the ETUF since its creation
in 1957. A national strike by property tax collectors succeeded in forcing
the Ministry of Finance to transfer the Property Tax Service from local
to central government, thereby raising employees’ salaries by over 300%.
The strike was organized through a network of elected workplace and
regional strike committees, which were represented at a national level
by the Property Tax Collectors’ Higher Strike Committee. The strike’s
victory in 2008 did not prompt the dissolution of the strike commit-
tee, but instead began a process of consolidating a new organization,
which in late 2008 declared itself as the Real Estate Tax Authority Union
(RETAU). The new union’s founding congress was attended by around
4,000 activists from across the country (‘Uwayda 2008). The property
tax collectors’ success was followed by the foundation of independ-
ent unions representing teachers, health technicians and pensioners
(Alexander 2012b). Strikes in 2009 played a direct role in developing
networks of activists in the postal service and the Cairo Public Transport
Authority, who would successfully found independent unions in the
wake of the 2011 Revolution (Alexander 2011, 2012b).
A similarly complex dynamic between the extension of neo-liberalism,
the deepening of authoritarianism in ETUF and the rising tide of work-
ers’ collective action can be observed in relation to independent union
organization. A number of important strike leaders lost their elected
positions at the lowest levels of the ETUF in the rigged union elections
of 2006. Kamal Abu-Aita, one of the organizers of the 2007 property
tax collectors’ strike, a founder of the tax collectors’ independent union
and first president of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade
Unions is a case in point.5 Leading activists in the 2006–2007 strikes at
Misr Spinning in al-Mahalla, and Indorama in Shibin al-Kom were also
defeated in the 2006 union elections (DuBoc 2009). In both these cases,
strikes accelerated the decline of the ETUF-affiliated unions. Activists
in al-Mahalla organized a campaign of mass resignations from the
General Union of Textile Workers (GUTW) in the wake of the December
2006 strike. The leaders of the 2007 property tax collectors’ strike were

148 Egyptian Workers Rediscover the Strike

successful in recruiting more than 40,000 members to the new inde-
pendent union during its first few months, despite a campaign of physi-
cal and legal intimidation against them by the ETUF-affiliated union.
The ETUF leadership went to considerable lengths in a failed attempt to
undermine the new union. For example, they won over Makram Labib,
one of the activists in the 2007 strike, to leading a newly formed ETUF
affiliate, which aimed to recover the membership who had defected to
the independent union (Al-Nagar 2009).
On the eve of the 2011 Revolution, the ETUF had then been seri-
ously weakened by the combined impact of the neo-liberal reforms, the
strike wave and in small number of cases by direct competition with
the emerging independent unions. Its decline was most apparent in the
inability of the regime’s last-ditch attempts to use the ETUF to mobilize
a semblance of popular support for Mubarak during the 18-day uprising
in February 2011. However, the shell of the federation survived the rev-
olution intact and it was able to later reconstitute itself with an infusion
of Muslim Brotherhood cadres, meaning that in the short to medium
term at least, the ETUF is likely to retain some of its significance.


The rediscovery of strikes by Egyptian workers is crucial to understand-
ing the 2011 Revolution. As this chapter has outlined, the conditions
which made that rediscovery possible arose out of the realignments
within the relationship between the state, capital and labour as a result
of the neo-liberal turn by the Egyptian ruling class. Paradoxically, it was
neo-liberalism which ‘freed’ Egyptian workers from Nasserism by abro-
gating the social contract from above. However, as they confronted the
neo-liberal looting of the Nasserist state through their strikes, Egyptian
workers also freed themselves, not only from the ideological constraints
which Nasserism had placed on workers’ collective action and organiza-
tion, but eventually from Mubarak’s dictatorship itself. At present, it is
too soon to say whether this liberation will be temporary or permanent.
The continuation in power of the core of the Mubarak regime, and the
attempts by his generals to ban strikes and restrict workers’ rights to
organize, suggest that there are still many battles to come.

1. My understanding of the relationship between ‘the state’ and ‘capital’ here
follows Harman (1991), who argues it is mistaken to see them as either

Anne Alexander 149

entirely separate entities or as entirely fused. Rather, the state is simultane-
ously an expression of the basic contradiction in capitalist society between the
interests of capital and labour, and the primary means by capitalists as a class
to maintain their economic and political domination over workers as a class.
2. Even in this case, however, it could be argued that it was not Nasser’s institu-
tion of the subsidy but Sadat’s reinstatement of the scheme in the wake of the
1977 Bread Intifada, which properly fits such an analysis.
3. That the Nasserist state did dispossess some private capitalists and landlords and
redistribute a greater proportion of the national wealth to workers and the poor
than its predecessors does not contradict the idea that its managers were still
acting in the collective interests of Egyptian capital in their attempt to create the
most favourable environment possible at the time for capital accumulation.
4. Textile Workers’ League activist, interview, Cairo, 28 March 2008.
5. Kamal Abu-Aita, interview, Cairo, 29 March 2008.

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9 Direct Action in France: A New Phase in Labour–Capital Conflict Sylvie Contrepois Introduction The world over. As a result. Thus. paradoxically. citizens of France are seen as having a strong tradition of radical class struggle. Paradoxically. it seems. For example. Sidney Tarrow and Hanspeter Kriesi treat. Following this logic.’ More recently action has been taken that was successfully aimed at attracting media attention. analysing the Autumn 2010 mobilization against new retirement laws. The “boss-nappings” of 2009 and 2010 and the blockage of oil refineries during the protests in the fall of 2010 were presented as such by the media. Ancelovici (2011: 122) 152 . were taken as vestiges of the direct action strategy developed at the beginning of the twentieth century. as well as some other spectacular actions largely covered by French and international media. For example. feature amongst the least unionised workers in the world. such as small farmers bringing sheep to town. Ancelovici (2011: 132) observed: ‘Social movement scholars often associate radicalism with the use of particular modes of action. some commentators have argued that French workers are today re-engaging with their radical roots in a context where they. or workers brandishing Lejaby lingerie during their demonstrations against redundancy – a giant patriotic brassiere in the national tricolour of red. it is seen as being very alive but also being very out of date. the diffusion and intensifica- tion of disruption and the increasing use of violence as an indicator of radicalization. respectively. The recent radicalization of a number of local and national conflicts within France. white and blue which they had made. which became famous when workers decided to block France’s twelve oil refineries. the growth of certain forms of labour contention since the 1990s in France could be interpreted as the sign of a renewal of labour radicalism.

observation and documentation (see Contrepois 1999. from Lojkine’s (1996) arguments it becomes apparent that workers’ inter- vention in management and worker’s control are likely to become the modern form of capital–labour struggle. Yet. Finally. Both interpreta- tions can be supported by strong evidence. We have also learned from Le Crom (1995. contemporary radical actions are better characterised as components of a new phase in capital – labour relations. We know from Groux and Mouriaux (1992: 49–65) that expansion and decline of union membership is more likely to follow cycles. by cross-checking research conducted at local and national level. whereby French unions were recently empowered by the 2007 and 2008 laws. Labbé and Croisat 1992. oral testimonies. the institutionalization of unions. their division and separation into different organizations and the decline of individual commitment to collective action were identified as crucial factors with clear effects (Touraine 1996. while some isolated radical actions have attracted most media attention. who analysed different key moments in the institutionalization of unions. Rather. According to him. Different forms of direct action can be observed throughout the whole period (Sirot 2002) and they have always been linked together with institutional action. 1998). Rosanvallon 1988). . In these. Such works helped to build the historical model suggested in this chapter. around three key phases. 2001. resulting from the dialectic relationship between capital and labour. using archives. it seems unproductive. 2010). the reorganization of the employ- ment relationship. to reduce contem- porary forms of direct action to old fashioned echoes of a distant past. they have served to hide a deeper evolution of French industrial relations. Such a perspective cannot exist without necessarily going beyond the most famous analysis of the decline of union and collective action during the 1980s and 1990s. and increases in collective bargain- ing activity and individual formal complaints can be substantiated. But Groux (2010) gave a quite different interpretation. The sharp decline of union membership and labour conflicts. as can be the ideological void left by the disappearance of Communist praxis. if not difficult. giving more weight to collective agreements in law and helping explain the greater moderation of France’s union confederations. that institutionaliza- tion has had ambiguous effects regarding unions’ power. Sylvie Contrepois 153 expressed his scepticism: ‘If there is any radicalism left in France. it resembles in some respect what Craig Calhoun has called the “radical- ism of tradition” […] In France the use of contentious modes of action is fostered by the institutional and political weakness of unions rather than being an expression of labour power’.

Phase 1: difficult birth Although writers have carefully analysed the context in which the first confederation.154 Direct Action in France The first phase began in the nineteenth century. while some older forms were also developed in modern ways. In the same way. The latter were often described as ‘anarchist’ and ‘revolutionary’ organizations. ending during World War One. The third phase. overlapping in some respects. Unions intervened mainly in the field of employment relations (wages. Despite their growing public legitimacy. These three periods can be considered as successive layers. these strategies were very diverse and different reformist currents had a significant influence. suggesting that the process of institutionalization was not a complete one. was created in 1895 (Groux and Mouriaux 1992. beginning after World War One. such a periodization can fruitfully underpin efforts to contextualize contemporary events in the light of French union history. working conditions. . proud to remain outside of all kinds of institutions. the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT). In other words. stepping up their demands in fields where they were previously only entitled to consultative rights. some conflicts. and the autonomy of union was not fully established after World War One. Lefranc 1937. This second period ends at the beginning of the 1970s. like the 1936 and 1968 general strikes or the miners’ strike in 1947. Lojkine 1996). from the early 1970s onwards. This situation produced new forms of direct action. disciplinary. For example. The main challenge for workers was to build their unions as independent actors and organiza- tions. The second period. career development and collective representation). In spite of such imperfection and fluidity. was domi- nated by the institutionalization of unions in the field of employment relations. The first mutual aid associations and then unions appeared over this period. They developed direct action strategies. as well as after the 1960s. some important steps of institutionalization took place before 1914. But. has seen a growing and contested union penetra- tion into the fields of economic strategy and management. unions began to be more active. were particularly hard and long. some attempts to penetrate the fields of economic strategy and management can be observed in the World War Two French Resistance programme. as we will see below. whereby they were progressively recognized as the official workers’ representatives and their actions were constrained by the legal framework. the period before 1914 in France is often described as a period of glorious revolu- tionary unionism.

on the other. on the one hand. in 1864. Their role was restricted to social welfare and they were obliged to appoint honorary members among the local notability. The 1884 law stated. This situation shaped most of the arguments that took place between reformists. for example. . some of them developed into political and union activity. business and agri- cultural interests of workers’. According to Soubiran-Paillet and Pottier (1996: 29). In 1791. and its application was limited to industry. thus. some embryonic organi- zations reappeared briefly in the early nineteenth century. that union members systematically excluded political goals from their union stat- utes in application of the 1884 law. and anarchists and revolutionaries. focusing on workers’ demands. Nonetheless. unions and collective action were mainly illegal. this workers’ quest for autonomy resulted in a lasting separation between the management of social wel- fare and collective action. the Chapelier Act made all forms of collective organization ille- gal. it is useful to deconstruct this picture. Both laws were very restrictive and aimed at channelling workers’ voices (Le Crom 1998. of course. which is often interpreted as the official rejection of parlia- mentarianism and political action in favour of direct action and class struggle. in 1884. Even if they were opposed to these laws. it was particularly difficult for workers to fully develop their own inde- pendent organizations. Soubiran-Paillet and Pottier (1996) indicated. industrial. public services and civil servants. the French government began to regulate workers’ voices in a very restrictive way. for example. they became instruments for the control of workers. excluding railway workers. during the creation and early devel- opment of local trade union branches and federations. the status of their organizations. Although their main purpose was to set up social welfare for their members. Sylvie Contrepois 155 The principal document quoted is the famous CGT Amiens charter from 1906. After a period of sharp repression. New types of worker organizations then appeared. deliberately excluding political interests. legally acknowledged unions. First of all. When analysing today’s situation. leading to severe repression. Soubiran-Paillet and Pottier 1996). workers could not fully escape their effects and had to adjust their practices and. it is important to keep in mind that during the whole period. One. Rosanvallon 1988: 98–100. But in 1852 a law was passed and the government began to regulate their activities. the other. In such a context of limited rights. Two other important laws were passed during the second half of the nineteenth century. established the right to strike. that the aim of union action was ‘to study and defend the economic. As Dreyfus observed (2001). They were mainly mutual aid associations.

800 companies with a total workforce of 85. tanning. admin- istrative and industrial centre from the Middle Ages but today is in decline. printing and engineering were the main activities. From the end of the 1990s. Corbeil and Essonnes began to be industrialized in the twelfth century. for example. they were sharply repressed. therefore. While textiles and tanning disappeared before the end of the nineteenth century. A shift then occurred towards engineering with firms like IBM. paper making and engineering remained important until after the World War Two. were almost invis- ible. Up to the early twentieth century. significant research has been conducted in the Corbeil-Essonnes and Évry areas. aircraft engine manufacturer Snecma.600. Some traces of labour conflicts could be found in local tribunal archives from the very early nineteenth century. appeared clearly to have developed a cooperative relationship with local employers. in 1835 (Contrepois 1999). Corbeil-Essonnes was a regional economic. The Généthon. Hewlett Packard and Digital.156 Direct Action in France Findings from fieldwork are particularly useful here in order to better understand unions before 1914. milling. During the 1848 revolution. with companies of national and international importance located in the area. These were mutual aid associations for the provision of sustenance in case of illness. Altogether. containing 7. Attracted by grants available in the new town. was built as a new town at the end of the 1960s. At the heart of a mainly agricultural region. These two adjoining urban areas are located some 30 kilometres to the south east of Paris. some of these companies went to Évry and its satellite towns. as soon as it was founded by the social Christian businessman. Ernest Féray. about three hundred Corbeil and Essonnes work- ers blocked the Royal Road (today the National Road) to delay the arrival of military troops in Paris. The Chantemerle workers’ asso- ciation. It was the first saver at the local Caisse d’Epargne (Savings Bank). Several workers who encouraged their colleagues to refuse an underpaid job in the Chantemerle textile com- pany in Essonnes in 1822 were fined or sent to prison. and then paper making. the Société des amis réunis (Friends Reunited Society) may have had union activities. One of them. the new hospital and Évry University with its institute of biology are symbols of this latest development. these new technologies gradually were replaced by bio-sciences and genetic research. Évry. these two urban areas have more than 160. by contrast. milling. textiles. Although these conflicts were expressed through individual actions and. Some animosity broke out against . by contrast. printing. Over the past twenty years.000 inhab- itants. The first attempts to create workers’ organizations date back to this period. Repression was not the only treatment that workers faced.

thousands of peo- ple were killed during the repression of Paris barricades (Bianchi 1999: 252–253). At the same time. and the Regional Prefect’s annual reports indicated that most of conflicts did not require administration intervention and ended with amicable agree- ments. with the workers wanting to burn down his castle. But. The CGT. only ten were affiliated to it (suggesting the CGT and unions were stuck between a rock and a hard place as the CGT would not get stronger without more affiliates. in 1891. In this context of alternation between sharp repression and employers’ paternalism. A first local occu- pational organization appeared in the Corbeil-Essonnes area. Several were founded in local companies from 1899. it participated in the creation of the Société générale des ouvriers chapeliers de France. at the hat- making company. According to the data available in local and national archives. was still weak and was not capable of providing effective support for local initiatives. head of the Chantemerle textile factory. By 1885. the minutes of the local authority did not mention any union presence. Out of the 21 unions founded in the period between 1885 and 1910. obtained the removal of this local barricade after long informal collective bar- gaining. the Essonnes hat-makers’ union collected funds in order to send some of its members to the universal exhibition in Philadelphia. when requested by their Parisian colleagues. It was only at the turn of the twentieth century that a manifest union presence developed. the Essonnes hat makers refused to strike in order to obtain an increase in their wages (which were very competitive with those in Paris (Vial 1941: 314)). Sixty five protesters were brought to court. In 1876. the local hat-makers’ union had disappeared. In 1879. However. the Commune de Paris encouraged workers from everywhere to find innovative ways of protest. like the hat makers. labour conflicts were quite rare at the end of the nineteenth century and were centred on wages and working conditions. supported by the local authorities. they were very fragile and some disappeared rapidly. The first reason for this fragility was the isolation experienced by most. the local mutual aid associations were prompt to conform to the 1852 law and to choose honorary members amongst local employers and notabilities. the paper making and Great Mills owner. Some twenty years later. Surprisingly. thirty kilometres from there. one of the first national occupa- tional union federations. of whom only twenty five were found guilty and imprisoned for five months on aver- age. . But Ernest Feray. created in 1895. the 1884 law was followed in France by a general decrease in unionization (Soubiran-Paillet and Pottier 1996). And. Sylvie Contrepois 157 Stanislas Darblay.

Its statutes did not mention affiliation to the CGT although some of the unions that created it were affiliated. Initially. Pierre Biétry. socio- demographic changes linked to Taylorism and the growing ideological pressure arising from the approaching World War One. in 1905 the local union requested a grant from the Town Hall to build a labour hall or labour exchange (Bourse du Travail). This local competitor union immediately affiliated to the National Federation of the French Yellows (la Fédération nationale des jaunes de France). the organization’s short existence indicated that from the very beginning there were conservative and liberal visions . in 1907 other local unions formed the Federation of Independent Trade Groups and Trade Unions of the Corbeil District. which had been founded in 1902 by the former Guesdist1 activist and trade unionist. the ‘union of Corbeil- Essonnes trade unions’. It was only in 1905 that seven occupational unions in Corbeil and Essonnes formed a kind of local organization. In their study. tougher government anti-union repression. its aims were close to those of the CGT. In fact. it grew very rapidly before disappearing very quickly in 1910. Nonetheless. Groux and Mouriaux (1992: 50–55) suggested several reasons for the flatten- ing out in the number of affiliations and the loss of activists – namely. being to ‘raise the moral and economic level of the workers’ and ‘strengthen the ties of solidarity and unity in a single block of all workers in order to fight against the exploitation of workers and to arrive at freedom in work through the socialization of the means of production for the exclusive benefit of the producers of national wealth’ – in other words. and that it would not allow honorary members. The yellows attacked socialism and supported class collaboration through profit sharing and advocated the purchase of shares in their companies by the workers.158 Direct Action in France and without being stronger more unions would not affiliate to it). For their part. the communist goal ‘from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs’. Local multi-occupational union structures were also in their infancy. Its ideology was based on the rejection of Marxism and class struggle. At the same time. however. This request was the subject of failed negotiations over many years. This local union federation asserted its independence from the employ- ers and local notables – its statutes insisted that it would rent an office paid for by member subscriptions. Their principal objective was ‘the emancipation of human beings through property’ (Trempé in Willard 1993: 348). corruption of leaders charged with creating a comfort zone of reliance on local state grants. Another complementary factor explaining the fragility was the crisis within the CGT following the Amiens Congress.

for example. finding them work…) or through the setting up of formal institutions. met in a café at Vigneux to wait for the return of a delegation they had mandated to negotiate a wage rise. most of these were constrained by the legal framework requiring the unions not only to deposit their statutes with the Prefect. Two to three hundred strikers. Of course. it becomes clear that union stat- utes were trying to introduce a kind of ‘collective conflict discipline’ for eight out of the twelve enacted rules concerned how members should conduct conflicts. This was the case. They wished to ‘take initiatives for fair reforms’ or ‘to pressure public authorities to vote in laws’. Correspondence and reports confirm. The same rather peaceful tone also characterises strikes. engineers and mechanics) explicitly sought to gain the intervention of the public authorities to promote their inter- ests. This strike. Few acts of worker violence were recorded including the historically significant labour conflicts. These views were far from being marginal. the unions and the municipal councils of Corbeil and of Essonnes formed their first alli- ance to secure the location of an industrial tribunal at Corbeil. but also at the Town Hall. in addition. This current reap- peared in other guises later on. . carriage makers. that there were frequent contacts with the local authori- ties. some accompa- nied by their wives and children. and 40% in the Corbeil-Essonnes area (Contrepois 2002). Beyond these strictly formal contacts. and then became one of the iconic events of French union history. was particularly savagely put down by the Clemenceau government. for example. since the yellows represented around 25% of union members nationally. known as the Draveil sand-workers’ strike. Seven of the union rule books referred to the necessity to attempt conciliation. 2001). Further. and the dominant theme was the search for concilia- tion before any strike took place. another kind of exchange was also sought by the unions. Analysis of the statutes of the twelve unions at the time shows that four of them (paper makers. many of their activities were subject to authorization: not just the right to demonstrate. Focusing on conflict management. which began to operate in 1902. The influence of the reformist trend was also of note. some 15 kilometres from Corbeil-Essonnes. training and educating them. in the 1908 strike of workers in the Seine sand quarries. Sylvie Contrepois 159 of what workers’ interests were and how to defend them (see also Hyman 1996. Thus. but also the possi- bility of meeting since they still did not have their own office and were forced to request the hire of municipal rooms in order to meet. whether through requests for support for the activities that they presented as being ‘public services’ (providing information to workers.

union actions that can be characterised as radical were quite rare. The main characteristic of the period before 1914 seems to reflect. such a picture makes it difficult to simply contrast a radical/revolutionary past with a moderate/conservative present. on the ground. … Collective bargaining was certainly relatively rare in France at the time. This bloody episode in French work- ing class history even today fuels the collective imagination about the revolutionary character of unions prior to 1914. They killed two work- ers and wounded several more. The revolutionary objectives flagged up by the CGT co- existed.’ As Ancelovici (2011) points out. more than anything else. the Draveil- Vigneux sand-workers’ strike was basically an ordinary strike about wages. and what gave it celebrity status was the shocking attitudes of the police rather than the activities of the strikers. the difficult birth pangs of an independent union movement.160 Direct Action in France The police used force to try to enter the meeting room. Pushed back by the workers and the café owner. and the more extreme views of its leaders about parliamentary politics and the role of violence were personal statements and did not constitute agreed CGT doctrine. … Despite the centrality of the strike to revolutionary syn- dicalist strategy. which leaves a significant place for liberal and social Catholic currents of thought. overall. Gallie (1983: 192–193) made a similar observation: ‘The CGT was in no sense commit- ted to an insurrectionary programme for achieving socialism. partly because of union struggles . with local unions often able to survive for only a few years. union activists agreed to work with and request support from the local state authorities. … The level of violence in France was not distinctive. before 1914. Indeed. Finally. However. Phase 2: institutionalization The place and significance of unions in society and the economy grew considerably after World War One. they then surrounded the building and opened fire on the crowd through the windows. at that time French unions were extremely fragile. there was little distinctive about the French strike pat- tern in this period that could be attributed to the influence of syndicalist ideas. A kind of union pluralism can thus be observed. Despite their rejection of parliamentarianism and the strong criticisms they made of the state. who limited them- selves to exercising their rights within the limits of the law of the day. In his comparison of French and British syndicalism. with pragmatic strategies emphasizing concilia- tion and negotiation. but this reflected the employers’ unwillingness to bargain and had little to do with the character of union ideology.

Despite the ambitious programme covering worker involve- ment in strategic economic decisions drafted by the National Resistance Council in 1944. 1936 and 1950. three Acts on col- lective agreements were passed in 1919. A body of legal measures was passed covering the freedom of association. . They were officially recognised through a 1966 decree. which workers were free to join or not join. During phase two. Freedom of association was increasingly seen as a collective right and not simply an individual one. the union movement became more diverse. providing both a support for union action and a restrictive framework for it. One of the consequences of this essentialist approach was that members could only act in their own name. the Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail (CFDT). and secured representation in many of the state consultative bodies (like the Economic and Social Council). The 1884 legislation had recognized unions as voluntary organizations. The areas over which collective bargaining may take place. more widely still. Initially. Throughout this period. were confined to the employment relationship and to union rights. The different existing currents prior to 1914 transformed themselves into five main confederations: the CGT. The Act of 12 March 1920 broadened the scope of intervention of unions by recognizing their right to act to defend their occupational interests. employee representation and the way representation should be decided. the Confédération Générale du Travail– Force Ouvrière (CGT–FO). From 1936. but only limited scrutiny of cor- porate management. These provisions were ambiguous. this covered workplace representatives. the situation was a little different since their Administrative Councils included employee administrators from this point on. This development was accompanied by the creation of rules covering collective agreements. The works councils were given the management of social activities. collective bargaining. however. to all workers. The two last laws provided mechanisms for extending signed collective agreements to all who worked within the same industry across the whole country or. the Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens (CFTC) and a managers’ union – the Confédération Générale des Cadres (CGC). finally. the unions secured access to management in a number of key organizations. however. the legal right for workers to be represented in the work- place was introduced. primarily in the area of social welfare (social security). then works councils in 1945 and. these institutions remained effectively confined to intervening on employment relations. In the nationalized large industries of the time. Sylvie Contrepois 161 and partly because of government policy. workplace union branches in 1968. At the same time.

like the miners strikes of 1947 and 1948. and take on massive proportions. with the holy alliance against the enemy during World War One. especially wages. and to the management of social bodies. Depriving workers of work through firing or vetoes on hiring through to blacklists established by the employers has replaced armed intervention quite effectively. mainly related to the formulation and enforcement of labour regulations. In general. Jean- Baptiste Campanaud. a carpenter at the Villeneuve Saint-Georges depot . it made possi- ble the creation of a substantial network of elected and appointed repre- sentatives within firms and public services. Moreover. training. An example is the Campanaud case concerning the Paris-Lyon- Marseille (PLM) railway workers that arose in February 1920. Struggles that can be described as ‘conflicts about power’ were. even if it was less visible than it had been before 1914. they generally led to nego- tiations and at least partial victories. Such public recognition facilitated the growth and development of federal and confederal trade union hierarchies.162 Direct Action in France Regardless of the size or their memberships. regional and national levels stood alongside the development of industrial relations conflicts. But this strength was relative. In particular (and until quite recently). strikes were much more frequent than before 1914. They left the idea of a strong and combative working class in the collective memory. or even their ability to win votes. reached a national scale. labour. housing. social secu- rity and contingency funds. And although these conflicts could start suddenly. as well as within the public bodies dealing with employment. nonetheless. including firm level. the division of labour between employers managing a business and a work- ing class having responsibility for producing the wealth seems to have been fairly widely accepted. The Corbeil-Essonnes and Évry regional archives clearly demonstrate this change of pace. This institutionalization of union action at local. these five confederations were officially entrusted with a number of tasks. they had a monopoly in negotiations and of workers’ representation at every level. Others resonated strongly in public opinion. The daily repression of strikes and union actions remained in force. Some. rare. A symptom of this situation was that all the conflicts recorded in the Corbeil-Essonnes and Évry regional archives related to the respect of union rights and various aspects of the employment relationship. and then the national effort at reconstruction in the aftermath of World War Two. like the strikes of 1936 and 1968. The two world wars certainly reinforced this view. and of candidacy in the first round of all workplace elections. Despite a language strongly impregnated with the theme of class struggle.

of course. inter alia. with its sharpening after the 1980s. and the victimization of union members and the limitation of the scope for bargaining on wages limited by law indicate. Sylvie Contrepois 163 (some 15 kilometres from Corbeil) and head of trade propaganda. the union movement remained largely excluded from strategic decision-making. problematic with the onset of a huge economic crisis during the 1970s and. Even their chil- dren were subject to political discrimination in their own working and professional lives. there were subordinate institutions.000 workers across the country. ending in failure and the dismissal of 18. with a break of several weeks. had requested a two-day leave from the company management to attend a meeting of the committee of the PLM joint-union that was taking place in Dijon. This leave was refused. At the centre of the demands there was. The strike spread quickly to the whole of the PLM line and then turned into a general strike. former miners went to court to try and re-establish their rights after having been fired in the 1947 coal strikes when around a hundred strikers were sentenced by the Criminal Court for ‘interference with the freedom to work’. Many sank into extreme poverty. This became. the requirement to respect union rights. designated as ‘bad French [citizens]’ and not reinstated to their jobs after the strike. continued. especially. they were also banned from working both in their profession and in the firms in their region. Such sackings have had serious consequences upon the workers’ lives (Contrepois 2010). Phase 3: late 1960s to the present The year 1968 put back on the agenda an issue that had to a large extent disappeared during the debates on the law setting up works councils in . that although unions became recognized institutions during this phase. With the exception of the nationalized firms.600 railway workers at the depot. This subordination did not create any major upsets as long as economic growth allowed a sufficient majority of the population to have secure employment which permitted rising living standards. but Campanaud rejected this. sometimes fail- ing to extricate themselves until several years later. arguing that the company had promised to give him all the facilities available for union representatives to do their work. The outcomes of the aforementioned railway workers’ and miners’ strikes. but there were also questions of the status of the railway workers and their wage scales. For example. Deprived of their social rights such as housing allowances. however. He was then disciplined and given a two-day layoff. This immediately triggered a strike of the 1. The strike. heating and the like.

On 29 September 1973.000 people took part in what became known as ‘the 100. The workers then seized the briefcase of one of the administrators present. we sell. they also learned that the management was proposing to freeze all wages. The workers then immediately occupied the factory. the industrial development minister appointed a medi- ator. Mallet (1969: 98–99) explained this development as a result of the stabilization of the work- ing class through the years of economic expansion. They remained there until February 1974.2 . 2001: 272–273). Despite pouring rain around 100. The late 1960s were marked by the emergence of workers’ demands to share in management and for workers’ control (Contrepois. The European Watch Company resumed watch-making at Lip and 850 workers were re-hired. On hearing this news several other workplaces in Besançon and in the region went on strike.000 watches was taken from the fac- tory and hidden by the activists. that of the ability of workers to intervene in the economy and in society (on economic issues). On 12 June 1973.164 Direct Action in France 1945: namely. during a special meeting of the works council.000 march’ and several employers started to help in exploring solutions and ended by finding someone ready to take the business over.’ On 2 August 1973. but despite this some 30 workers were arrested during the week of protests that followed. The workers then held the Director overnight to get more information. A general meeting of the workers on 18 June 1973 decided to restart production under workers’ control in order to ensure ‘a living wage’. On 29 January 1974. we pay ourselves. the management announced its intention to file for bankruptcy. a huge national march took place at Besançon. One of the most symbolic struggles from the start of this period was that of the Lip clock-makers at Besançon. Union members intervened to prevent a violent clash between workers and the police. Clandestine production then restarted. During the night the stock of 25. and discovered that the management expected 480 redundancies and planned to dispose of its engineering and associated activities leaving only the watch-making. Searching in the offices. The Lip struggle was then popularised with the slogan: ‘It’s possible: we make. The strike then ended. and on 15 August. the police then seized the factory and forced the occupying workers out. New mobilizations posed the issue of the kind of structural reforms that would be needed to guarantee the stability of the whole economy. the Lip delegation signed the Dole Agreements. whereby this cre- ated expectations for job security and workers began to be concerned with the economic situation of the firms and industries in which they were employed.

It still often refuses to sign agree- ments at national or industry sector levels. It was already known at the time that passenger transport numbers were expected to grow considerably and that Snecma could put itself into the ranks of the major engine producers to take advantage of this development. A first step into this market had already been taken through an agreement with Rolls Royce. insisting that the company begin manufacture of engines for aircraft built for mass passenger transportation. particularly in terms of intervention in fields that had until then been reserved for employer decision-making. its rate of signing company agreements is . As Groux (2010: 2) observed: Collective bargaining developed considerably after the 1970s. These changes took place alongside the development of company bargaining politics. But at the firm level. banking and insurance companies under state control. Snecma. This atmosphere of challenge to the conventional foundations of eco- nomic power favoured the 1981 election of a left-of-centre government within which there was a Socialist Party majority. and now for very many years. by the 1990s 75% were for the civilian market. The CGT was involved in this as the other major unions. French trade unionism can no longer be reduced to postures of protest. first at national level. In the Corbeil-Essonnes–Évry region. The Auroux laws. implemented from 1982. then at firm level. The workers’ campaign led to a reorientation of production. But the unions demanded a more systematic reo- rientation. intro- duced new rights for workers. so while 100% of its engines were for the military market at the start of the 1970s. the unions of the nationalized company which built aircraft engines. Works councils became designated recipients of a wide set of economic and employment data and had to be consulted about any restructuring proposals. Health-and-safety and working-conditions committees had to be systematically consulted on any proposed reorganization of work and were given the power to veto it. This campaign made a deep impact upon the workers’ strategic demands and still today is a point of reference in developing union proposals within the aerospace industry. and by which Snecma had been involved in producing engines for Concorde. A new wave of nation- alizations put the main financial. Sylvie Contrepois 165 Many other French strikes also challenged employers’ decisions over their industrial strategies and aimed to save jobs (Lojkine 1996). reacted to a major redundancy plan in 1970 with a tremendous struggle to get the firm to diversify production by entering the civil aviation engine market.

Despite this. The REPONSE survey focuses upon ‘establishments involved in conflicts’. absenteeism. which introduced a new way of assessing conflict with the REPONSE survey. from 25% to 6. go-slows. It lists the different forms of collective action – strikes of two days or more. tensions and incidents. It makes it possible to record forms of protest at the crossroads between collective and individual actions. Moreover. this has fallen to between 250. Against this background mobilizations became weaker and the outcomes of negotia- tions less favourable to workers. The sharpening of the economic crisis as a result of globalization has. however. the CFTC or the CGC. It argued that workers needed some strategic union responses to neo-liberalism in France – through state action – in order to compete fairly and success- fully as well as to protect workers from the worst effects of neo-liberal globalization and ‘the race to the bottom’. demonstrations. The bargaining practices of French unions are thus deeply embedded and often contrast with the image they are given by the media and by activist speeches. But by the mid-1990s. falling from a little over four million at the end of 1960s (Lefranc 1969) to around two million by the end of the 1990s. and considerably higher than the FO. Significant strike waves against the dismantling of public services took place in 1986. CFE-CGC: 38%. FO: 43. showed that conflict increased at firm level (Contrepois 2011). accepting most of the propos- als made by the employers and right-wing governments. The CFDT abandoned its support for workers’ control (autogestion) and adopted a more pragmatic attitude.5%. 1995 and 2002. The CGT partially renounced its commitment to ‘class struggle’ in order to join the European Trade Union Confederation. It still believed in opposition and resistance to capitalist globalization but no longer advocated socialism as the alterna- tive. such as refus- ing to work overtime and disputes filed with the labour courts.5% (Amossé and Pignoni 2006). In 2007 the CGT approved nearly 55% of the 20.170 agreements arrived at that year (CFDT: 61%. considerably weakened the unions. industrial conflict did not disappear. a level that has now stabilised. strikes of less than two days. During this period of time.166 Direct Action in France in second place. French union density has fallen to a quarter of what it was.000 JINT. The Ministry of Labour recorded 3m days not worked per year due to strike action (journées individuelles non travaillées pour fait de grève or ‘JINT’) in the private sector at the end of the 1970s. . Membership declined by more than half. the major union con- federations moderated their basic goals.000 and 500. the Ministry of Labour. petitions. CFTC: 32%). work stoppages. just behind the CFDT.

In these ways. its employees learned in the press that Danone was going to close 11 biscuit factories in Europe and 7 in France. One of the most symbolic conflicts over these issues was that of LU Danone. It was very successful but. the lower levels of profitability in the biscuit sector. with very wide support.000 jobs in Europe and 1. as were steps before the courts and the galvanizing of support from local authorities. Profitability was effectively at 7. this struggle is one of the most often quoted. Sylvie Contrepois 167 Examining the content and conduct of strikes. workers were trying to secure the postponement of these decisions by their employers and the operationalising of alternative solutions laid down by state officials. the first call for a boycott of Danone products was launched in the press. created a scandal well beyond the factory walls. Actions in public spaces were also used to bring the issue to public and press attention. whereby the economic rationale behind restructuring and plant closure plans has increasingly been challenged. As well as the massive job losses that contributed to the impoverishment of a growing part of the population. these conflicts are thus taking on a political dimension. security of employ- ment has become one of the major stimulants to taking action. thus. the factories were closed and many workers who could not be reclassified were laid off. Workers are now quick to denounce ‘stockmarket-driven redundancies’. despite this. the workers denounced the nonsense they saw in dismantling successful and profit- able businesses. On 14 February. The Danone workers immediately went on strike.9%. The reason given. On 10 January 2001.700 in France. They are claiming their share of . In challenging employers’ power. since it is considered particu- larly representative of the defensive strikes that have characterised the last two decades. Today. attacking and stigmatising the immorality and irresponsibility of the new employers. The social contract that implicitly bound the social actors. All means of delaying the implementation of redundancies were used by employees’ institutional representatives. and of which one biscuit manufacturing fac- tory is in the Corbeil-Esssonnes–Évry area at Ris-Orangis. particularly where workers mobilize and they engage also in intense institutional and legal actions. with the loss of 3. with the employees accusing the employers of prioritizing a purely financial logic to the detriment of the health and economic viability of the firm. They railed against the immiseration and desertification of the regions they lived in and against the fundamentals of the new division of labour which resulted – through relocation – in the concen- tration of productive activities in regions with lower labour costs. unions and employers together to service economic growth during the post-war boom has broken down.

2011). In front of the bus depot gates. Conclusion The historical perspective deployed in this chapter suggests that con- temporary radical conflicts do not have precedents dating far back in French labour history. in contrast. which at their outset were quite ordinary. next to Corbeil- Essonnes) who were on strike when this chapter was being written. to be partial owners – in . Thus. before 1914 workers saw their actions easily repressed under a highly restrictive legal framework. First. using employee institutions. this remains limited and gives them few opportunities to effectively express their views on economic developments. Société de Transport Autonome. have largely become the victims of successive economic crises and of the spread of neo-liberal policies. as were the workers of the Ormoy Independent Transport Company (the STA. Employees from the 1970s up to the present.168 Direct Action in France ownership. they hung up banners saying: ‘No to the sale of the STA’ and ‘This place is ours!’ In a context where the real decision-makers are becoming increas- ingly inaccessible. These conflicts combine forms of direct action with other forms of action. Thus. Ancelovici (2011) was right on this point – it really is a lack of power that is behind the radicalization of some of the conflicts that are woven around issues linked to the financialization of the economy and the dismantling of French manufacturing. and those of the decades from the 1920s to the 1970s were being increasingly drawn in – in a definitely conflictual way – to the protection of the French nation. they took their actions beyond the framework of the law (Contrepois 2010. If their organizations benefit- ted from a stronger institutional legitimacy than they did in the past. It is the violence and brutality of the social situation which stimulates the radicalization of several of the conflicts. the courts and the media. as a result. these struggles are rarely successful and usually at best lead to improved terms for redundant workers. for when the workers realised that their company management did not respect court decisions. the actors are in completely different situations from those occupied by their forebears. to the efforts of reconstruction and to the benefits of growth. Their violence and duration reflect the extent of the exclu- sion experienced by the workers who have devoted a period of their lives to the firms of which they feel. The example of Molex is a case in point. It seems that the propensity to radicalization is especially strong where the firms concerned are located in economically distressed areas where workers have little chance of finding other work.

405–12. Université d’Evry. pp. Palgrave Macmillan. in S. Jules Basile. (1999) ‘La barricade d’Essonne: 23–24 juin 1848’. Contrepois S. He refused all compromises with capitalist governments and opposed the reformism policy of other parties and groups. Sylvie Contrepois 169 least in a morale sense. in S. 121–37. Contrepois S. alias Guesde. (2001) Stratégies et pratiques syndicales au tournant du XXIe siècle. Genthon (eds) La République confisquée? 1848 en ‘Essonne’. It legitimizes the incursion by workers and their organizations into areas that previously they rarely entered: those of industrial strategy. France’ in J. (2006) ‘La transformation du paysage syndical depuis 1945’ in INSEE (ed. References Amossé. M. Thèse pour le doctorat de sociolo- gie (dir. 33/6: 642–53. (2002) ‘Naissance et développement du syndicalisme à Corbeil- Essonnes’. Contrepois S. 57–90. T. (2010) ‘Industrial decline. Contrepois S.). Visages d’une société. 247–63. The workers engaged in a further lengthy occupation and work-in in 1976 – see http://en. 2 volumes. was one of the founders of the French Workers’ Party (Parti Ouvrier Français. Bianchi S. CRHRE. (2011) ‘Labour struggles against mass redundancies in France: understanding direct action’ Employee Relations. This image has become increasingly sharp over the last twenty years. Paris. today’s senior managers and directors are described in the union press and popular leaflets as unscrupulous types who deny their responsibilities to their workers and who do not respect the law. Changing Work and Community Identities in European Regions. economic development and management. Ancelovici.) Données Sociales – La Société Française. Pierre COURS-SALIES). POF) in 1880. (1999) ‘Les sociétés de secours mutuels en Essonne de 1830 à 1855’. pp. Bianchi and M. communication aux Journées d’étude du Comité de Recherches historiques sur les revolutions en Essonnes (CRHRE). Di Folco (ed. 2. 21 et 22 novembre 1998. Contrepois S. Culture & Society. Creaphis. economic regeneration and identities in the Parisian basin. . Actes du colloque de Crosne. (2011) ‘In search of lost radicalism: the hot autumn of 2010 and the transformation of labor contention in France’ French Politics. Une contribution aux théories de l’action collective. and Pignoni. Contrepois and S. M. pp. Basingstoke. 29/3: 121–40. L’Essonne au milieu du XIXe siècle. S. Notes 1. Jefferys (eds). pp. INSEE.wikipedia. While the captains of industry of the past were respected and recognized for their involvement in the success of their companies. novembre 2001. Limours. Kirk. This radicalization is symptomatic of the evolu- tion of capital–labour relations.

Domat-Montchrestien. (2001) Liberté. A. London. Cambridge. (1992) La CGT: crises et alternatives. Trempé. Gallie. Seuil.170 Direct Action in France Dreyfus M. D. Mallet. De Witte (eds) The Lost Perspective? Trade unions between ideology and social action in the new Europe. (1969) Le mouvement syndical. Tome 1. Le grand refus. Groux. (1996) Le tabou de la gestion. R. Paris. Economica. P. (1996) De l’usage professionnel à la loi. Lefranc. Paris.ceras-projet. mutualité. Paris. Soubiran-Paillet F. Paris. Labbé. L’Harmattan. Avebury. 319–78. 1895–1914’ in Willard.php?id=4232 Groux. (1983) Social Inequality and Class Radicalism in France and Britain. class and society. (2010) ‘Les syndicats.-L. (1937) Histoire du mouvement syndical français. Editions de l’Atelier. Sage. Éditions de l’Atelier. Le Crom. Payot. G. Mutualisme et syndicalisme (1852– 1967).com/index. Paris. D. Touraine. (1969) La nouvelle classe ouvrière. volume 2. la loi. Fayard. Paris. Sirot. Editions de l’atelier. Cambridge University Press. . pp. (1941) La coutume chapelière: histoire du mouvement ouvrier dans la chapel- lerie. Vial. and Croisat M. S. J-P. R. Lojkine. Aldershot. L’histoire par les lois. (1996) ‘Unions identities and ideologies in Europe’ in P. Paris. (1995) La naissance des comités d’entreprise:une révolution par la loi? La documentation française. Calmann Lévy. De la liberation aux événements de mai–juin 1968. G. (1992) La fin des syndicats? Logiques sociales l’Harmattan. Paris. Paris. and Mouriaux. Verberckmoes and H. (1993) ‘La belle époque. G. Paris. le contrat et l’histoire’ Ceras – revue Projet n°315. Logiques juridiques. (1993) La France ouvrière. (2002) La grève en France. S. (2001) Understanding European Trade Unionism: between market. Hyman. C. coll point politique. J. Hyman. pp. Paris. (1996). J. Paris. Les chambres syndicales ouvrières parisiennes de 1867 à 1884. J. Paris. Odile Jacob. Des origines à nos jours. une histoire sociale (XIXème – XXème siècle). Paris. http://www. Paris. (1998) (ed. R. Rosanvallon. R. G.) Deux siècles de droit du travail. Lefranc. égalité. and Pottier M. Librairie syndicale. Editions sociales. (1988) La question syndicale. Pasture. Le Crom J-P. 60–89.

But. and some anthropologists. in addition – and sometimes as an alternative – to more orthodox strike actions. they clearly have roots in economic structure and the disjunctures between the rhetoric and practice of industrial relations. In the second part. the 171 . the cultural and structural arguments about violent industrial protest in Indonesia are mapped out with reference to major incidents of industrial violence in the 1980s and 1990s. drawing on concepts such as to run amok (mengamuk) and spirit possession (kesurupan). Many Indonesian authority figures. industrial violence continues to have a place in the repertoires of action of waged labour in contemporary Indonesia. while cultural (and historical) patterns may have a role in determining the contours of contemporary incidences of violent industrial protest. at a time when inde- pendent labour organizing was forbidden under the punitive labour relations regime implemented by Suharto’s authoritarian New Order (1967–1998). 1995). as the discussion that follows shows. but were particularly common in industrial areas in the late 1980s and 1990s.10 Violent Industrial Protest in Indonesia: Cultural Phenomenon or Legacy of an Authoritarian Past? Michele Ford Introduction Indonesia has a long history of violent industrial conflict involving riot- ing and wide-scale destruction of property. Despite dramatic changes to the industrial relations system. Violent actions taken by wage labourers on the plantations as a form of protest against their employers were recorded in the archipelago in the nineteenth century (Stoler 1985. including significant improvements in collective bargaining structures and in workers’ access to the freedom to organize. have described episodes of sudden and unexpected violent protest in cultural terms. In the first part of the chapter. Episodes of violent industrial protest con- tinued through the twentieth century.

Prabowo was speaking at a time of great violence. Roosa 2006) – had itself fallen amid violent protest in the wake of the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997–1998. to control and to manage’ (cited in Collins 2002: 582). massacred hundreds of thousands of leftists (Cribb 1990. the son-in-law of President Suharto and one-time commander of Indonesia’s controver- sial Special Forces: ‘Indonesians can very quickly turn to violence. In the early months of the post-Suharto period. Kammen and McGregor 2012. and the iron fist of state and military control over rent-seeking from businesses was replaced by privatized rackets run by preman (gangsters). not least because of the apparent incongruity of sudden outbursts of violent protest in cultures – most notably that of the majority Javanese – that place a high value on harmony and restraint in the expression of emo- tion. Jakarta. both communal and economic.172 Violent Industrial Protest in Indonesia chapter provides a detailed description of two very different large-scale incidents of industrial violence in the Batam free trade zone. anti-Chinese violence rocked the Indonesian capi- tal. The word “amok” comes from the lingua franca of this archipelago. in retaliation for those murders. not just in the . despite dramatic changes in the industrial relations landscape since the fall of Suharto’s New Order regime in 1998.3 Research suggests that communal conflict was responsible for the greatest number of deaths as a result of collective violence. violent protests are likely to continue to occur as long as more ‘modern’ alternatives (like lawful strikes and col- lective bargaining) are perceived to be ineffective. the first apparently a culturally motivated protest. has long fascinated Indonesians and scholars of Indonesia. as well as a number of other major cities. something we do not like. Several regions across the country subsequently fell victim to widespread inter-ethnic or inter-religious conflict. before going on to demonstrate that these incidents actually have a great deal in common. much of it communal.1 Cultural and structural explanations of violent industrial protest in Indonesia The question of collective violence.2 According to Prabowo Subianto. This is something that we are aware of. and some- thing that we would like to address. the second clearly linked to an industrial dispute over the wage determination process. Suharto’s New Order – which had seized power ostensibly to foil a coup attempt by communists during which six gen- erals were murdered and. The chapter concludes by arguing that. Some observers have found recourse in cultural explanations of this phenomenon.

00 10.4 963 9.0 Total 3.7 105 1.758 100. Kammen (1997) identified a significant number of instances in which workers threatened to use. Tjandraningsih (1995: 54) described cases in which women garment workers expressed displeasure with their super- visors not only by failing to follow orders. However.5 When personal attacks did occur. they were most likely to take place when workers had been taunted by a manager or a member of the security forces (Kammen 1997: 334). However.1 shows.3 State-community 423 11.142 59. (2008) in Indonesia’s fourteen most violence-affected provinces over the fourteen years between 1990 and 2003. (2008: 379).1 Collective violence in fourteen Indonesian provinces. in a detailed study of labour strikes in the 1980s and 1990s.6 In explaining these attacks. industrial violence is clearly an important element within it.4 Similarly.6% of all incidents of collective violence between 1990 and 2003.0 Economic 444 12. was far more common than the actual use of violence. 1990–2003 Category Incidents Percentage Deaths Percentage Ethno-communal 599 16.608 incidents of collective violence identified by Varshney et al. As Table 10. a vast majority (362 out of a total 444) of the incidents of economic violence identified by Varshney and his colleagues occurred in Java. communal conflict accounted for little over one sixth of the 3. Michele Ford 173 Table 10. employers.612 89. government officials and military officers to draw upon cultural explanations for outbursts of violence. the most populous – but also the most industrialized – of Indonesia’s islands.6 9. violence during an industrial dispute – something which. where they accounted for 15.00 Source: Varshney et al. Kammen’s analysis indicated most occurrences of industrial violence involved symbolic acts rather than serious attacks on people or property.7 Other 2. accounted for nearly as many incidents. the category ‘economic collective violence’. While this category is not limited to industrial incidents. or escalate.608 100. he argues. Many incidences of industrial violence are spontaneous. but with abusive language and anonymous letters threatening bodily harm. . immediate aftermath of regime change but over a much longer period of time. Significantly. although a much smaller percentage of deaths. it was not uncommon – as Prabowo’s mus- ings attest – for journalists.3 78 0.

a condition common among older women. Perhaps most famously. Ong (1987: 7–8. Invocations of the threat of Communism were used by government and military officials throughout the New Order period to justify tight control over the industrial relations system and to discourage independent labour activism. a 1992 case when a local district military com- mander in Tangerang criticized the strikers for having a ‘floating men- tality’ (mental ngambang) because they had not yet fully transitioned from an agricultural to an industrial mode of production. Among these were a 1989 case where workers at a South Korean ceramic toy factory were reported as having ‘run amok’ (mengamuk). The largest incident of collective industrial violence in contemporary Indonesia was the Medan riots of April 1994. are to be deciphered not so much as a noncapitalist critique of abstract exchange values … but as a protest against the loss of autonomy/ humanity at work … Spirit attacks were indirect retaliations against coercion and demands for justice in personal terms within the industrial milieu.8 However.000 workers .7 A second kind of culturalist argument. around 20. in which individuals experience sudden. uncontrollable seizures. Following strikes involving tens of thousands of workers. and a labour department official in East Java who described a series of strikes in 1991 as a mass outbreak of latah. which sits beside accounts of these psycho-social responses to the proletarian condition – but is per- haps more legible to scholars of Western labour history – is the claim that Indonesian workers are particularly easily manipulated by ‘third parties’ (pihak ketiga). repeating foul words as if in a trance. 220) claimed that the mass spirit possessions (kesurupan) that occurred in factories in neighbouring Malaysia were a form of resistance to the social dislocation caused by the women’s experiences of capitalist production: Spirit possession episodes.174 Violent Industrial Protest in Indonesia Kammen (1997: 255–257. in which women become violent and scream abuses. 319) documents the use of a number of such cultural constructs within Indonesian authorities’ explanations for the strike wave of the 1980s and 1990s. they became most vociferous immediately after incidents of large-scale or violent industrial action initiated by groups within the ‘alternative’ labour movement. notably hysterical outbursts on the part of first-generation female industrial workers in the Malay world. These assertions echo culturalist explanations employed by some scholarly observers to help explain elements of the Indonesian indus- trial relations system (Hess 1997) or specific aspects of the waged labour relationship.

then mobilized. Another massive and violent strike.9 In many of these. Several protesters were badly injured and a number arrested. then filled with demands for wage rises. serving a number of months of his sentence before being released in response to intense pressure from the US and elsewhere. commented: ‘Many people were brought together at the same time in the same place. occurred in the following year in West Java. labour activists were likened to communists or drew parallels between the destruction and unrest in Medan and methods used by the Indonesian Communist Party. including Dita Sari. Michele Ford 175 from 23 factories marched on the Provincial Legislative Council on 13 April to demand a resolution to the matters in dispute. when between 7. References to the role of ‘outside’ labour activists dominated official statements in the wake of the Medan riots.000 workers employed at Great River Industries garment manufacturer went on strike to demand the minimum wage. they marched to the office of the Governor while a second group of workers waited to hear a promised address by the Minister for Manpower and the Governor. they were met by riot police. The protest quickly descended into ten days of wide-scale destruction and anti-Chinese violence. who failed to stop them from forcing their way into the grounds of the parliament and ultimately into the building. Major-General Pranowo was reported to have said that the Medan riots proved the workers’ movement to be no longer ‘pure’ because ‘outside forces’ with ‘certain purposes and objectives’ had been involved (Republika 19 April 1994). The Minister for Defence and Security. the head of the Indonesian Prosperous Labour Union (Serikat Buruh Sejahtera Indonesia. When the workers marched on the local parliament building. workers began attack- ing passing cars and motorcycles and ransacking shops (Hess 1997). SBSI) – one of three ‘alternative’ (unregistered) trade unions that emerged in the 1990s – was arrested on charges of inciting the violence and subsequently imprisoned. General Edi Sudrajat. Joined by workers from 19 other factories on the following day. These accusations were used to shift attention from the initial demands of the strikers and in justifi- cation for the decisive action taken against unionists and labour NGO activists in the wake of the riots. According to General Feisal Tanjung: ‘The people behind that demonstration were born into ex-Communist Party families’ (Barata Week 1 May 1994). That’s the Indonesian Communist Party way’ (Kompas 29 April 1994). after which Muchtar Pakpahan. a former student activist and the leader .000 and 12. When the Governor did not materialize. which prompted similar assertions about the involvement of ‘outsiders’.

’ He went on to announce that the armed forces were planning to hold ‘dialogues’ with the workers to spread the message that workers should resist being ‘influenced by talk from outside’ (Surya 2 June 1996). mema- nipulasikan (manipulated) or menunggangi (ridden) the workers they claimed to be helping to act collectively in response to exploitation by their employers or oppression by the state. because they saw workers as alat politik (political tools) or komoditi politik (political commodities) to further their own political interests. these outsiders were accused of having memakai. condemned the outsiders. memancing (enticed). the most radical of the three ‘alternative’ unions of the New Order period. In its role as the guardian of national stability and industrial peace. non-worker activists were regularly accused of having menghasut (incited). President Suharto himself encouraged workers to focus on ‘national consolidation’ so that they would not be easily influenced by incitement from ‘third parties’ who ‘claimed to act for workers’ (Surya 2 June 1996). menggunakan. PPBI). public statements by officials also empha- sized the inability of workers to resist incitement by ‘non-workers’ who came from ‘outside the factory environment’. the then Commander of East Java’s Brawijaya Division. In their attempts to do so. Major-General Imam Utomo. However. menyusupi (infil- trated) and melakukan intimidasi (intimidated) workers in order to make them go on strike. officials argued. For example. Ford 1999). More generally. It was clear that PPBI. menggerakkan (mobilized). played a pivotal role in the protest against Great River Industries and in another round of strikes in Surabaya in the following year. mengeksploitasi (exploited). officials again emphasized the role of outsiders in such a way as to discredit the strikers and to shift attention from their demands. in this case. Sari was subsequently charged with inciting the violence. and decommissioned military personnel to ‘assist’ in the development of industrial relations procedures and institutions. Like Pakpahan before her. mempengaruhi (influenced). saying: ‘Thousands of workers who just want to do their work properly were forced to demonstrate or strike. These accusations were used to justify the use of what was known as the ‘security approach’ to industrial relations (Hadiz 1997. memperalat and memanfaatkan (used). Military intervention reached unparalleled heights in the early. along with functionaries from the New Order’s political mid-1980s when Admiral Sudomo was head . They had done this. the government encouraged bureaucrats. Significantly. during which dozens of workers were injured. during the New Order period. Golkar.176 Violent Industrial Protest in Indonesia of the Indonesian Centre for Labour Struggle (Pusat Perjuangan Buruh Indonesia.

the costs of which were ‘passed on to and borne by labor’. 1984. exemplified by the work of Hadiz (1997). as well as of rules and regulations issued from the ministerial level down. points to the failure of Indonesia’s industrial relations mechanisms to accommodate (or contain) workers’ demands. Reflecting more specifically on the relatively high incidence of industrial violence in the mid to late 1980s. The regime made extensive use of informal policies. the right to retrench striking workers despite the fact that it contravened legal provisions on retrenchment and dispute resolution. although the industrial . citing as evidence for this thesis the fact that that the use of violence during industrial strikes steadily declined after the right to strike was reinstated in August 1990 (Kammen 1997: 318–326). in consultation with the Department. 1985). Although subsequent Ministers for Manpower attempted to dispel the hard-line image of military involvement in industrial relations. The first. Similarly. The second. Kammen (1997: 30) noted the New Order’s decision to maintain ‘older political appara- tuses (the structures established at the beginning of the New Order)’ in new export-oriented industries – a decision that ‘created a disjunction between the economic and the political’.10 The kinds of cultural explanations used to explain worker unrest in this pivotal period have been countered by two overlapping but distinct structural explanations of the patterns of industrial relations in the New Order. Michele Ford 177 of the Command for the Restoration of Security and Public Order and later Minister for Manpower. the Director-General of Industrial Relations and Labour Standards issued a controversial regulation which gave employers. exemplified by the work of Kammen (1997). to circumvent pro-worker legis- lation. Evidence collected during this period suggested it was common for employers to go to the military for a quick- fix solution rather than persevering with the official system (INDOC 1983. calls on neo-Marxist theories about the emergence of working-class conscious- ness as a consequence of the process of proletarianization that took place within Indonesia’s increasing commitment to a neoliberal model of export-oriented industrialization. Kammen’s (1997: 191) analysis showed that up to 68% of strikes were subject to military intervention in some locations in the early 1990s. industrial relations practice during the New Order was characterized by deep contradictions. for example. In 1993. Reflecting on the wave of strikes in the 1990s.11 As Kammen suggested. Kammen (1997: 316) argued large-scale violence occurred ‘[i]n the absence of for- mal procedures through which to express and forward grievances and without the legal recognition of the right to strike’.

Law No. The provisions of the law were much less prescriptive than earlier regula- tions. Under the 2004 law. these mechanisms were the target for the massive restructuring of the industrial rela- tions system that took place after Suharto’s resignation in May 1998. trigger a mechanism through which the dispute is taken to formal mediation. This was followed by a suite of changes to the legal architecture of the industrial relations system. presided over by a local magistrate and two ad hoc judges. there is a renewed emphasis on bipartite negotiations at the firm level. The second ele- ment of the package was Manpower Law No. which covered a wide range of issues. While maintaining a seven-day noti- fication clause and outlawing strikes before negotiation processes were exhausted. which saw the ratification of four more ILO conven- tions and the passage of three major new laws between 1999 and 2004. one nominated by employers and the other nominated by the trade unions. as well as a range of tripartite institu- tions. in doing so effectively abandoning the New Order’s rhetorical and policy commitments to a single union. including industrial relations but also labour force planning. 87 on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize. One of the very first things his successor Habibie did was to ratify ILO Convention No.13/2003 also foreshadowed changes in dispute-resolution procedures under Law No. vocational training. permitting workers to organize not only on a sectoral basis but also according to occupation or on any other basis. If bipartite negotiations fail. If all of these processes fail.12 The first of the laws to be passed was Law No. the regulation of foreigners work- ing in Indonesia and wage-setting. under which as few as ten workers could form a union and multiple unions were permitted to operate in a single workplace. if refused. 13/2003. these mechanisms had little relevance in the day-to-day conduct of labour relations (Ford 2000). which abolished the central and regional dispute-resolution commit- tees that had sat at the centre of the New Order’s tripartite dispute- resolution process. disputing parties are offered arbitration or conciliation services which. 2/2004 on Industrial Disputes Settlement.13 The other major change that took place in Indonesia’s industrial rela- tions system in the post-Suharto period was the devolution of industrial .178 Violent Industrial Protest in Indonesia relations system included provisions for collective labour agreements and bipartite cooperative bodies. Law No. either party has the right to take the dispute to the newly convened industrial court. Along with restrictions on freedom of association. 13/2003 embodied a relatively strongly worded commitment to the right to strike. 21/2000 on Trade Unions.

along with a whole range of other responsibilities. decentralization has increased the importance of local government agencies. the underpinning philosophy of the IMS-GT was one of economic comple- mentarity. the Indonesian gov- ernment relaxed minimum capital investment requirements. in which Singaporean capital and Indonesian and Malaysian labour and land would be combined to facilitate cross-border regional growth (Sparke et al. In addition. lies in the Straits of Malacca to the north-east of Sumatra and directly south of Singapore. 2004). subject to the divestment of 5% to local ownership after 5 years. Batam was transformed in the 1980s and 1990s into a bustling industrial enclave. not only as interlocutors. Batam began to attract high levels of foreign investment under the IMS-GT initiative. allowed 100% foreign ownership. Under the agreement. The growing importance of the local scale has been enormously significant in reshaping the landscape of industrial conflict from one dominated by spontaneous factory-level events to one characterized by broader regional campaigns. An initiative of the Singaporean government in response to the rising cost of local labour and the movement of multi-nationals out of Singapore into more cost-efficient manufacturing sites in other parts of Asia (Lee 1991). Under Law No. Formerly a heavily forested. city or district administrations. Violent protest in Batam The island of Batam. experiencing a fifteen-fold increase in annual private . alongside employers. the Indonesia– Malaysia–Singapore Growth Triangle (IMS-GT) constituted the pivotal advance in the island’s industrial development. often targeted at least in part at local bureaucrats and politicians. as evident in the protests described below. 1998: 14). Michele Ford 179 relations functions. sparsely populated no-man’s-land. and agreed to calculate duty payments on the value of imported raw materials rather than on finished products made in Batam (Peachey et al. while at the same time pre- senting them with new challenges in terms of the range and complexity of tasks demanded of them. in Riau Islands Province. but also as targets of localized industrial pro- test. greatly empowering local union branches. to the local level. mini- mum wage determination and a range of other industrial relations func- tions became the responsibility of local parliaments and provincial. Although not the first attempt to establish economic coop- eration between Singapore and Indonesia on Batam. These changes have moved the locus of the majority of industrial relations processes from the national to local level. 22/1999 on Regional Autonomy.

who live in factory dormitories or in densely populated worker communities close to the factories.285 (Badan Pusat Statistik Kepulauan Riau 2012b).15 However. Although the IMS-GT was marred by numerous setbacks – most notably. it had reached 633. The 2010 census indicates that by that year the popu- lation of Batam had risen to 944. increasing to 105.000.820 by 1990. In terms of the proletarianiza- tion thesis.14 The island is now home to 26 industrial parks. As a consequence of Batam’s industrial development. Batam’s population was approximately 6.000 are employed in manufacturing (Badan Pusat Statistik Kepulauan Riau 2012a) in a community that enjoys one of the highest percentages of formal sector employment in Indonesia. which prompted many multi-national investors to downscale the level of their investment – Batam continues to be one of Indonesia’s most important centres of industrial production. not only because so many workers are in formal sector occupations but also because so many of them are new migrants.000.944 (Lyons and Ford 2007). What follows are accounts of two key incidences of industrial violence in recent years: the 2010 shipyard riots and the 2011 minimum wage campaign. Of a total workforce of just under 449. it is clear that Batam is a prominent site of industrial unrest. large numbers of migrants have moved to the island from elsewhere in Indonesia seek- ing work. which exported an average of USD 5. a significant proportion of which has involved some level of violence.16 The 2010 shipyard riots On 22 April 2010.180 Violent Industrial Protest in Indonesia investment in the five years up to 1993 (Peachey et al.73 billion worth of products per annum from 2005 to 2009 (Badan Pengusahaan Batam 2011). By the end of 2004.000 local and multi-national firms. is impossible to quantify the number of strikes that occur in Batam – or anywhere else in Indonesia for that matter – much less the percentage of them that have involved violence. along with Bekasi and Tangerang in the Greater Jakarta area. In the early 1970s. including the flag- ship BatamIndo Industrial Park at Muka Kuning and the shipyards at Tanjung Uncang. the economic and political uncertainty following the Asian Financial Crisis (1997–1998). some 186. thousands of shipyard workers ‘ran amok’ in the Drydocks World Graha (DWG) complex in Tanjung Uncang Industrial . In the absence of the kind of close study conducted by Kammen in the 1990s. the year in which the IMS-GT was formally established. Batam is thus a prime site for the emergence of a local labour movement. 1998: 1). These industrial parks are host to 4.

where they evacuated foreign employees and attempted to quell the riot. both of whom worked closely with local authorities to minimize the damage to community rela- tions. although some. the Police Commander and the chair of the Batam Free Trade Zone Authority. who took to the streets shortly after. which is run by PT Graha Trisakti Industri. In the early 1990s. the Indonesian Employers Association (Asosiasi Pengusaha Indonesia. Initial statements were made by a police spokesperson that Prabaharan could face up to four years in jail. APINDO) had sent a letter to its 13. Drydocks World. all of which are situated at Tanjung Uncang. which is located on the north-western coast of Batam. agitated for an extended criminal investigation. The incident sparked a flurry of activity. News of this statement quickly spread through the 8. The pro- testers tracked down the expatriate supervisor in the company complex. The spontaneous rally became violent.17 The chaos was triggered when Ghesa Prabaharan. The demonstrators subsequently gathered near the entrance gate and continued their pro- test. to workers elsewhere in Batam. there was a spate of strikes protesting .000-odd local workers employed in the shipyard and. Total losses were estimated at trillions of rupiah. Around 400 police officers rushed to the scene. damaging some 27 cars. Prabaharan was appre- hended and detained. and within a very short time the angry workers had destroyed or burnt two offices and another building. told work- ers that Indonesians were stupid. including members of the local parliament. However. in the process clashing with security guards. and within days of the riot. This was certainly not the first time that expatriate managers had come under fire. protesting in solidarity with the DWG workers. Drydock World Graha. is one of three yards owned by Dubai-based investor. ultimately an out-of-court settlement was reached. as did the Indian Consul General in Medan. There were no deaths but a number of Indian expatriates and local workers were hos- pitalized. Michele Ford 181 Park. a 27-year-old Indian expatriate working at DWG. A local Indian community leader made a public apology for the incident. The Chief Executive Officer of Drydocks World South East Asia met with several local officials including the Deputy Mayor. Other expatriate workers fled to Singapore. including six that were totally burnt out. through them.000 members stat- ing that PT Drydocks World had been at fault because it had dis- criminated against local workers and cautioning its members of the potential risks of engaging in discriminatory practices. The Ministry for Manpower and Transmigration dis- patched a negotiating team almost immediately.

Many shops closed their doors. Ahmad Dahlan. Hundreds of subcontracting workers went on a rampage after the incident. this time over the annual determination of the local minimum wage. who had also – according to the workers – forced them to work excessive overtime and ‘farted at them’ (an Indonesian expression describing the actions of someone who fails to show respect). electronics factories in the industrial parks of Batam became ghost towns.28 million (USD 135) per month. to com- plain about the unrealistic level at which the cost of living index – the tool used to determine the regional minimum wage – had been set for 2012. The riot was triggered by a security guard who beat a worker for wrongly parking his motorcycle. While many simply stayed away. it cost at least IDR 1. although the DWG riots were the most dramatic. the Federation of Indonesian Metalworkers Unions (Federasi Serikat Pekerja Metal Indonesia. Violence in the 2011 wage campaign Another major incident of industrial violence occurred in Batam in November 2011. Similarly. The march resulted in gridlock.3 million (USD 137). Another incident of industrial violence involving shipyard workers occurred in September 2011 at PT Nexus Engineering Indonesia.18 On one occasion in Bekasi. The proposed minimum wage was IDR 1. The protesters planned to meet Batam’s Mayor. they are not the only case of violent rioting in Batam in response to a perceived personal slight. severely damaging the shipyard’s facilities. On 23 November. leaving Batam City paralysed. a figure just below the government- calculated monthly cost of living of IDR 1. FSPMI) and the Confederation of Indonesian Prosperous Labour Unions (Konfederasi Serikat Buruh Sejahtera Indonesia.76 million (USD 185) per month to live in the city. KSBSI). located on the other side of the island in the Kabil industrial estate. The rally ended in chaos when the protesters clashed with police and damaged a number of properties located around .182 Violent Industrial Protest in Indonesia against abusive or disrespectful actions by Taiwanese and South Korean expatriates in the greater Jakarta area (Kammen 1997: 160). KSPSI). around 30. with members of the major electron- ics unions choosing not to turn up to work. a strike broke out after workers were repeatedly beaten by their Korean manager.000 workers gathered in a park and marched to the office of the Batam Mayor in a protest organized by the Confederation of All Indonesian Worker Unions (Konfederasi Serikat Pekerja Seluruh Indonesia. fearful of violence. Upon arrival the protesters discovered that Dahlan had fled to Singapore to avoid confrontation. According to workers.

Warning shots were fired. Similar clashes are common in areas of industrial concentration across Indonesia. police officers attempted to prevent the workers from forcing entry into the Mayor’s office. bipartite meetings had ended in deadlock on eight separate occasions. With the meeting in deadlock. With backup from the police unit of the civil service (Satpol PP). Having failed to meet the Mayor the previous day. Clashes erupted again when security officers dam- aged motorcycles belonging to some of the protesters. thousands of work- ers again gathered at his office on 24 November. As in the case of the shipyard riots. The situation was exacerbated when the Mayor fled to Singapore rather than facing the protesters on the first day of the rally. After a long. In an attempt to bring the temperature down. if the Mayor had handled the case swiftly. Police posts and public property were damaged or destroyed and twelve people injured. the Mayor agreed to send a letter to the Governor of Riau Islands Province recommending that the minimum wage be set at the official cost of liv- ing index figure of IDR 1. Tensions rose. Others blamed APINDO. the violence surrounding the 2011 minimum wage determination process was certainly not an isolated inci- dent. the riot would not have occurred. Michele Ford 183 the Mayor’s office.3 million. There has been a history of con- flict over the wage-setting in Batam. in contrast to . which unions felt APINDO had not honoured in the latest round of negotiations. Before the protest. has occurred on other occasions during the minimum wage negotiation period in Batam. albeit on a lesser scale. demanding that the minimum wage be set at the real cost of living. Thousands of disappointed workers rejected the recommendation. and violence. but the unions and APINDO had reached an agreement the previous year. exhausting process of negotiations. Some blamed the Mayor for not responding to the workers’ demands while unions had threatened to strike several days earlier if their demands were not met. this time spread- ing throughout the city. and the police and the protesters engaged in throwing stones at one another. One worker was shot by police attempting to contain the riot. the chair of KSPSI’s Batam branch. the police attempted to disperse the mass of protesters who were still occupying the Mayor’s office. and protesters set a Satpol PP post alight. Vice Governor Surya Respationo and Chief of Regional Police Raden Winarso met the angry workers and arranged a meeting between worker representatives and Mayor Dahlan. According to Saiful Badri. Where it differed from the 2010 shipyard riots was that.

in the lead-up to the riot. up to 97% of Drydocks World Graha workers were indirectly employed on salaries of just IDR 900. DWG and many other shipyards discourage workers from establishing trade unions. 102/2004 concerning Overtime and Overtime Wages. All of the 60-odd shipyards in Batam employ the bulk of their local workforce on a short-term contract basis through subcontractors under far less favourable conditions than their perma- nent local employees. they were told that they had to deal with the sub- contracting firm because the shipyards had no direct responsibility for the payment of their wages.184 Violent Industrial Protest in Indonesia the earlier incident. one subcontractor had failed to pay workers’ wages for a period of three months on the grounds that the shipyards had not yet transferred the funds. along with employers and local authorities – and. coming after accumulated pressure on local workers as a result of poor enforcement of labour regulations. the massive use of outsourcing workers was the real issue behind the industrial unrest in April 2010. According to the president of FSPMI. Although a racial slur was the trigger for 2010 shipyard protest. that slur was effectively the straw that broke the camel’s back. however. who in turn earn much less than their expatriate counterparts.000 (USD 95). Moreover. In addition. the trigger for the 2011 riot lay clearly in an interests dispute involving several unions. Another issue raised by workers was the question of paid overtime. Moreover. which stipulates that time worked beyond regular working hours should be recompensed. On closer inspection. more particularly. in a perception of bad faith on the part of both employers and local authorities. From cultural explanations to structural roots On the surface. particularly as they pertain to the practice of outsourcing and almost non-existent inspection regimes. which was sparked by a perceived personal slight. According to them. these two cases of industrial violence appear to have stemmed from very different causes. When workers demanded payment directly from the shipyards on the urging of the subcontractor. with no health insurance and no pension allocation. at the time of the riot. it becomes clear they had very similar roots. the vast majority of shipyard companies do not pay for overtime in contravention with Ministerial Decision No. The union estimated that. Workers attempt- ing to assert their collective rights are further confounded by the . This type of employment is not unique to DWG. workers complained that there were no written overtime agreements between the company and its employees. as stipulated by 2003 Manpower Law.

a message reinforced by the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs. where workers continue to engage in established modes of practice because of their familiarity rather than their effectiveness? There is some element of truth in the culturalist explanations insofar as they give insight into the ways in which the dynamics of particular incidents unfold – although perhaps less as a form of ‘innate’ cultural expression than in the sense of reflecting entrenched repertoires of action. However. there are a number of reasons to think that the incidence of industrial violence should have declined rapidly. then. but industrial relations processes have been restructured to include a much greater emphasis on collective bargaining and mechanisms for dispute resolu- tion at the firm level. do large-scale incidents of industrial violence. indeed. proletarian consciousness or institutional problem? If. continue to occur? Are indus- trial relations scholars too quick to dismiss the cultural explanations advanced by Indonesian officials and some anthropologists? Or is the persistence of violent industrial protest an example of entrenched rep- ertoires of action (Boudreau 2004). Michele Ford 185 complex relationship between contract workers. their subcontracting firm. Not only has independent unionism been reinstated. The National Police Chief General was quoted as saying that the conflict was ‘purely internal’. and the shipyard itself. Why. Hatta Rajasa. Cultural proclivity. It appears. more generally – as in the New Order period – attempts were made by officials and military officers to shift attention from structural issues. then. that cultural explanations for violent industrial protest are alive and well in Indonesia. such as those described here. as Kammen (1997) claims. who described the riot as an ‘internal incident’ and ‘not a problem caused by a regulation’ (Antara News Service 23 April 2010). which have evolved not only as a result of social and political constraints on freedom of expression during the New Order but also more specifically within blue-collar formal-sector workplaces and worker . The Minister for Manpower later acknowl- edged that outsourcing was. in the post-Suharto period. a factor in the 2010 shipyard riots (Kompas 21 May 2010). violent industrial protest is a consequence of the failure of industrial relations mechanisms to accommodate changes in Indonesia’s industrial relations landscape and not a product of Indonesians’ cultural proclivities. and ‘merely caused by insulting language’. as well as more inclusive higher-level dispute- resolution processes. if not completely disappeared.

The research on which this chapter is based is part of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project entitled ‘The Re-emergence of Political Labour in Indonesia’ (DP120100654). 5. Notes 1. For comparison. In such a situation. As the proletarianization thesis suggests. in the Indonesian con- text brings increasing complexity as a result of the expatriate presence. 6. remains a key weapon in a context where formal structures continue to fail to accommodate workers’ demands. this experience is heightened by a very high level of foreign ownership – which. see Teitelbaum (2010: 694) for statistics on violent protest in South Asia and Pun Ngai and Hulin Lu (2010) on the use of violence by sub- contractors in post-socialist China. 3. More important is the fact that spontaneous protest. In the Batam case. At the same time. 2. workers in Sidoarjo threatened to use black magic on a Taiwanese personnel manager if she was not replaced. is one . For example. In one case cited by Kammen (1997: 316). 4. see Welsh (2008) for a detailed discussion of a non-communal form of mob violence called keroyokan (ripping someone apart) and its cata- lysts and Colombijn (2002) for an historical perspective on contemporary col- lective violence. a biscuit and confectionary company. however. violent protests are likely to continue so long as the formal industrial relations system is perceived by workers to be unable to channel their demands. including its more violent manifestations. there is little evidence – even in an industrial centre like Batam – that workers identify primarily in class terms. Varshney et al. these repertoires of action emerge (at least in part) from the experience of industrial labour and the opportunities and challenges that it presents. 2008). It is important to note that some close empirical studies of violent conflicts suggest that collective violence is not as widespread as it seems (Collins 2002. Saptari’s account of the 1999 strike at PT Mayora. As Saptari (2008: 7) noted there is a very limited literature on Indonesian labour movement and labour protest in Indonesia. which sharpens workers’ sense of injustice. while in itself is often an indicator of better industrial relations practice. Despite dramatic changes in the industrial relations landscape since the fall of the New Order – which have undoubtedly improved the mecha- nisms through which workers’ interests are represented – Indonesia’s industrial relations system remains riven with inconsistencies and ongo- ing problems with implementation both within the workplace and at higher levels. Indeed.186 Violent Industrial Protest in Indonesia communities during and after that time.

These ad hoc judges serve a five-year term. The discussion that follows on the threat of outsiders draws heavily on Ford (2009: 77–80). For example. For a detailed account of strikes in the late colonial period. with many union officials undertaking law degrees so that the unions are not forced to rely on external representation. The SEZ Framework Agreement on Economic Cooperation outlines seven key areas that Indonesia and Singapore will cooperate in to ensure that business. Another less detailed account of a post-New Order strike is provided in Ford (2009: 1–3). 1986). See also Ford (2010). are required to hold a Bachelor’s Degree (in any field) and must have at least five years’ experience in the field of industrial relations. For a detailed discussion of the politics of the early stages of this reform. 17. For a discussion of the use of community figures to discipline workers. Kammen also identified some cases in this period in which military officers supported striking workers. the year in which the shipyard riots occurred. Over half of all strikes in the early 1990s occurred in the textile garment and footwear industries and other forms of light manufacturing – a dramatic change from the situation in the early 1980s. see Warouw (2008). Nan Indah Mutiara Shipyard). 10. see Warouw (2006). violent incidents were most common in large establish- ments. For a very different account of young women’s acculturation to the indus- trial workforce in Indonesia. Michele Ford 187 of the few in-depth academic accounts of individual strikes available for the post-New Order period. 15. with some observers claiming that the military had inter- vened to exacerbate the protests and to shift their focus to the Chinese community. Accusations about other kinds of ‘outside influence’ were made in the wake of the riots. The new industrial court system has seen a rapid professionalisation of legal advocacy within the trade union movement. The other two companies are are Drydock World Pertama and Drydock World Nanindah (also known as PT. in 2010. see Caraway (2004). see Ingleson ( . 11. and particularly in the metal and chemical industries (Kammen 1997: 148–40). Kammen (1997) describes a number of strikes that occurred in the 1990s in depth. footwear and timber. when strike intensity was highest in heavy industry. 9. Some statistics are available on the website of the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration. 8. Bintan and Karimun (the BBK SEZ). regulatory and labour conditions in the islands are favourable to investors. most often in textiles. After this time. 14. 12. they are wildly inaccurate. the statistics indicate that there were no demonstrations or strikes in Kepulauan Riau Province. 13. in an effort to re-invigorate the economies of the islands. Singapore and Indonesia announced the creation of Special Economic Zones in Batam. The accounts of the two incidents provided here were compiled from inter- views with trade unionists and newspaper reports. However.drydocks. 16. In 2006. Ong’s account and similar arguments made about young factory workers in Indonesia are just some of several reports of mass hysteria among young female factory workers in the 1970s and 1980s (Smyth and Grijns 1997: 15). See http:// www.

international pressure.188 Violent Industrial Protest in Indonesia 18. Hadiz.jsp (accessed 3 February 2012). Ford.bps. INDOC.php/site/tabel?tid=269&wid=210000 0000 (accessed 3 February 2012). Badan Pusat Statistik Kepulauan Riau (2012a) ‘Penduduk berumur 15 tahun keatas menurut wilayah dan lapangan usaha utama propinsi kepulauan riau’. Centre of Southeast Asian Studies. Leiden. Melbourne. available at http://www. INDOC (1983) Indonesian Workers and their Right to Organise: March 1983 Update. (1997) ‘Understanding Indonesian industrial relations in the 1990s’ Journal of Industrial Relations. (2002) ‘Indonesia: a violent culture?’ Asian Survey. followed by the Americans. London. 28/2: 59–88. Routledge. (2000) ‘Continuity and change in Indonesian labour relations in the Habibie interregnum’ Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science. Boudreau V.bpbatam. E.go. dan jenis kelamin propinsi kepulauan riau’. Trade unionists interviewed in Batam in 2007 confirmed that a similar hierarchy exists in Batam. with the South Koreans and Taiwanese very much at the bottom. 39/1: 33–51. Leiden. INDOC (1984) Indonesian Workers and their Right to Organise: March 1984 Update. . dae- rah perkotaan/pedesaan. (2009) Workers and Intellectuals: NGOs. Caraway. Ford. Collins.go. Cribb. 42/4: 582–604. and institu- tional design: explaining labor reform in Indonesia’ Studies in Comparative International Development.go. INDOC. INDOC (1985) Indonesian Workers and their Right to Organise: March 1985 Update. M. 41/3: 371–92. INDOC. Ford. New York. available at http://http://sp2010. aailable at http://sp2010. V. T. R. References Badan Pengusahaan Batam (2011) ‘Batam’s Economic Indicator [sic] Period 2004–2010’. Monash University. NUS/Hawaii/KITLV. (2004) ‘Protective repression. with the Europeans on top. Cambridge University Press.php/site/tabel?tid=264&wid=2100000 000 (accessed 3 February 2012). Ford. Badan Pusat Statistik Kepulauan Riau (2012b) ‘Penduduk menurut wilayah. M. (2010) ‘A Victor’s History: a comparative analysis of the labour histori- ography of Indonesia’s New Order’ Labor History. trade unions and the Indonesian labour indicator. (1990) (ed. (2004) Resisting Dictatorship: repression and protest in Southeast Asia.) The Indonesian Killings of 1965–66: studies from Java and Bali. (1999) ‘Testing the limits of corporatism: reflections on industrial relations institutions and practice in Suharto’s Indonesia’ Journal of Industrial Relations. 39/3: 28–49. (1997) Workers and the State in New Order Indonesia.bps. 51/4: 523–41. the Japanese and the Singaporeans. Interviews I conducted with workers in Bekasi and Tangerang in the late 1990s and early 2000s confirmed that there was indeed a hierarchy of prefer- ence when it came to employers. Leiden. M. Singapore. M.

Harris (ed. 1990–2003’ Journal of East Asian Studies. T. J. (1987) Spirits of Resistance and Capitalist Discipline: factory women in Malaysia. (2007) ‘Where internal and international migration intersect: mobility and the formation of multi-ethnic communities in the Riau Islands transit zone’ International Journal on Multicultural Societies. K. PhD thesis. 2nd ed. D. A. Leiden. Teitelbaum. I.. Sparke. (2006) ‘Community-based agencies as the entrepreneur’s instru- ments of control in post-Suharto’s Indonesia’ Asia Pacific Business Review. Michele Ford 189 Ingleson. Oxford University Press. M. (2008) ‘Creating datasets in information-poor environments: patterns of collective violence in Indonesia. and Grijns. A. Singapore. C. and Grundy-Warr. 64: 143–58. (ed. L. J. Singapore Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and Institute of Policy Studies. Roosa. M. (1995) Capitalism and Confrontation in Sumatra’s Plantation Belt. 12/4: 642–58. Ithaca. Ingleson. M. (1997) A Time to Strike: industrial strikes and changing class relations in new order Indonesia. (2008) ‘The politics of workers’ contention: The 1999 Mayora strike in Tangerang. (eds) (2012) The Contours of Mass Violence in Indonesia: 1965–1998. 1908– 1926. 47–56. J. (2006) Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th movement & Suharto’s coup D’état in Indonesia. Kammen. pp. K. (1986) In Search of Justice: workers and unions in colonial java. T. 29: 485–98. M. Lee. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. (1985) ‘Perceptions of protest: defining the dangerous in colonial Sumatra’ American Ethnologist. Tjandraningsih. 9/2: 236–63. Sidaway. (1995) ‘Between factory and home: problems of women work- ers’ in D.. Ong. International Boundaries Research Unit. and Grundy-Warr. Cornell University. West Java’ International Review of Social History. (1981) ‘Bound hand and foot: railway workers and the 1923 Strike in Java’ Indonesia. Pun Ngai and Huilin Lu (2010) ‘A Culture of violence: the labor subcontracting system and collective action by construction workers in post-socialist China’ The China Journal. Stoler. (2010) ‘Mobilizing restraint: economic reform and the politics of industrial protest in South Asia’ World Politics. Durham. Madison. Singapore.. Albany. Kammen. E. I. Warouw. 1870– 1979. (1997) ‘‘Unjuk Rasa’ or conscious protest? Resistance strategies of Indonesian women workers’ Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. 31: 53–87. 62/4: 676–712. . A. M. State University of New York Press. INDOC/FNV/INFID. C. NUS Press/KITLV/Hawai’i University Press. D. Stoler. Singapore. Tadjoeddin. Bunnell. R. Wisconsin. R. 53: 1–35.) (1991) Growth Triangle: The Johor-Singapore-Riau experience. Peachey. Perry.. 8: 361–94. Saptari. (2004) ‘Triangulating the borderless world: geographies of power in the Indonesia-Malaysia- Singapore growth triangle’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. and Ford. N. Lyons. 29/4: 13–22. 12/2: 193–207. University of Wisconsin Press.) Prisoners of Progress: A Review of the Current Indonesian Labour Situation. and Panggabean. Varshney. A. J. (1998) The Riau Islands and Economic Cooperation in the Singapore Indonesian Border Zone. Smyth. and McGregor.

8: 473–504.190 Violent Industrial Protest in Indonesia Warouw. Welsh. Ford and L. B. (2008) ‘Industrial workers in transition: women’s experiences of factory work in Tangerang’ in M. pp. Parker (eds) Women and Work in Indonesia. N. Abingdon. (2008) ‘Local and national: Keroyokan mobbing in Indonesia’ Journal of East Asian Studies. 104–19. . Routledge.

the assertion about the durability of cultural and structural factors imped- ing worker resistance makes it difficult to explain the emergence of new conflicts at work by the end of the 2000s. including the various types of misbehaviour and dissent in the workplace (Collinson and Ackroyd 2006). organized forms of worker resistance (such as strikes and collective disputes) and underplays other forms of conflict at work. Ost 2005. Following Gall and Hebdon (2008: 589). Critical labour studies in the first decade of transformation have focused upon the weakness of organized labour as the result of neo-liberal transformation and the legacies of communist and postcommunist unionism (Crowley 2004. Hardy and Kozek 2011. However. ever-present and ongoing dynamic of contemporary work’. it is based on the analysis of union-led. organized through unions or not. Meardi 2007a). The latter involved the rapid growth of strike levels in 2007–2008 and the development of a more assertive labour unionism in the public sector and some multinational companies (Hardy and Kozek 2011. First. this chapter undertakes to document and explain the sources and mechanisms of new conflicts at work in Poland in the sec- ond decade of transformation. Consequently. the general asser- tion of union passivity does not fully capture the reality of conflict at work in the course of capitalist neo-liberal transformation. Bohle and Greskovits 2006).11 Conflicts at Work in Poland’s New Capitalism: Worker Resistance in a Flexible Work Regime Adam Mrozowicki and Małgorzata Maciejewska Introduction This chapter explores the dynamics and emerging dimensions of conflicts at work in one of the new capitalist economies of Central and Eastern Europe. as demonstrated by a number of studies (Hardy 2009. Meardi 2000). including both latent and manifest forms. Second. conflict at work is understood as a ‘central. In accordance with the labour 191 . namely Poland.

This demonstrates how the mechanisms. an electronics factory located in Lower Silesia. the research has rarely explored the mecha- nisms of new conflicts at work in low-paid. much less attention has been paid to conflicts at work emerging at the intersection of state policies aimed at the increas- ing labour market flexibility (especially temporal and contractual) and the expansion of multinational enterprises making use of these new opportunities.g. Meardi 2007b). Hardy and Kozek 2011). Krzywdzinski 2010. including temporary agency workers and employees on fixed-term contracts. Hardy 2009). In this chapter. 1999). forms and limits of worker resistance intersect with managerial practices at . The relationship between conflict at work and flexible employment in Poland has seldom been addressed in extant studies. without paying much attention to the issue of flexible work arrangements and their impacts (see Czarzasty 2010. insecure. it is argued that the re-emergence of manifest labour conflicts in the late 2000s marks a new cycle of worker resistance. in one of 14 Special Economic Zones (SEZ). We also see the emergence of conflicts at work as a part of broader political and economic transformations. which directly reflects the state-led policies aimed at the flexibilisation of the labour market in the second decade of post- socialist transformation. which underlies capitalist–labour relations (Thompson and Ackroyd 1995: 615). we believe conflict at work is central to all capitalist soci- eties as it reflects the dialectic of managerial control and worker resist- ance against it. Industrial disputes in Poland in the 1990s mostly focused upon the consequences of restructuring and privatisation (Gardawski et al. non. Addressing this gap. while the conflicts at the beginning of the 2000s concentrated upon the issues of unionization of new multinational enterprises (Gardawski 2001.192 Conflicts at Work in Poland’s New Capitalism process theory.and weakly unionized workplaces dominated by highly flexible employment. labour-intensive. Despite notable exceptions (e. this chapter is then divided into two main parts. which are defined by increasing competitive pressures on nation states to seek new sources of competitive advantage in the global capitalist economy. The second part of the chapter presents a case study of the development of conflicts at work at Monitor. It then focuses upon available quantitative data to illustrate the dynamics of conflicts at work and explore the expansion of flex- ible labour arrangements in the 2000s. As a result. Research docu- menting an increasing labour assertiveness in the late 2000s has focused upon worker mobilization in the public sector and newly unionized multinational companies. beginning by discussing the claim of ‘labour quiescence’ in the 1990s to demonstrate the limitations of the concept and to explore the sources of an increasing labour assertiveness in the late 2000s.

Moreover. except for the year 1999. Adam Mrozowicki and Małgorzata Maciejewska 193 work and state. Structuralist explanations have focused upon the demobilizing impacts of privatisation.and local authorities-led policies aimed at attracting foreign direct investments to Poland. and the expansion of market and individualistic ideologies and pragmatic life strategies among workers themselves (Mrozowicki and Van Hootegem 2008). Although strike statistics do not fully capture the dynamics of con- flict at work (Collinson and Ackroyd 2006. unemployment growth. when higher number of strikes reflected the public sector workers’ protests against the government reforms aimed at marketisa- tion and liberalization of public services. Ost 2005) and the properties of changing structural. the number of strikes decreased thereaf- ter and remained relatively low in the years 1994–2007. The proponents of the culturalist (‘ideational’) approaches emphasized the limited traditions of unionism independent of state and employers. New partnership discourses and practices promoted after 1989 in Poland have also impacted. the decline of socialist heavy industries and the relocation of low-wage. labour-intensive light industry to Eastern Europe in the first phase of economic transformation (Bohle and Greskovits 2006). Dynamics and sources of conflicts at work after 1989 One of the remarkable features of Poland’s new capitalism was a relative quiescence of organized labour in the face of harsh neo-liberal economic reforms after 1989. it suggests that labour- intensive. institutional and organizational contexts (Bohle and Greskovits 2006). the decline in the number of strikes in the years 1993–2007 does reflect important developments in Polish industrial relations. export-oriented factories in the SEZs’ business-friendly envi- ronment can be considered as the laboratories of Poland’s new capitalism in which fresh types of conflict emerge along with new forms of employ- ment and work regimes. Thereafter. Accounting for the relative social peace during economic restructuring.1). and the years 2007 and 2008 (see Table 11. the level fell back considerably but not to the level of the early 2000s. The idea of maintain- ing ‘social peace’ during the period of economic transformation under- lay the creation of the tripartite social dialogue institutions. However. support granted by former anti-communist unions to market reforms (Ost 2005). According to Ekiert and Kubik (2001: 184) between 1989 and 1993 ‘protest [in Poland] was more frequent and became a more salient element of political transformations than in other Central European countries’. strongly . Gall and Hedbon 2008). existing studies have referred to the strategies of unions (Crowley 2004.

300 1997 35 14.900 2008 12.765 209.194 Conflicts at Work in Poland’s New Capitalism Table 11. The continuous importance of workplace conflict is also visible in the statistics of collective disputes and employee grievances registered by the National Labour Inspectorate (NLI). the labour quiescence thesis has important limitations.700 1991 305 221. Hardy and Kozek (2011: 383) argued that in the 1990s ‘the realities of workplace restructuring were met with fierce struggles to maintain con- trol and representation. among others via the Poland and Hungary: Assistance for Restructuring their Economies (PHARE) Social Dialogue Project (1992–1993).443 383.200 1994 482 211. as well as implacable opposition to redundan- cies’. the collective dispute being .pl supported by the EU.000 2004 2 200 2005 8 1.600 2006 27 24. www. union density fell from around 38% in 1987 to 15% in 2010 (Wenzel 2009: 540.200 1998 37 16.900 1999 920 27. currently around 20–25% (Gardawski et al. As the result of increasingly union-hostile institutional and economic environments.stat.000 1993 7.736 2001 11 1. 2012).000 2009 49 22.400 2010 79 13. the expansion of the rhetoric of social dialogue was accompanied by the decentralisation of collective bargain- ing and the decline in its coverage.500 1992 6. 1990–2011 Year Number of strikes Number of strikers 1990 250 115. combined with the growing discrepancy between union strategies and workers’ expectations.600 2007 1.362 730.100 2000 44 7. Wa˛dłowska 2010: 1).1 Strikes in Poland.400 2002 1 13 2003 24 3.700 Source: National statistics by Central Statistical Office.900 2011 53 18. However.100 1996 21 44.400 1995 42 18. Ironically.

the number of registered collective disputes declined from 203 (2002) to 165 (2004). a relative growth in the expression of grievance by other means’. First. a new wave of strikes was observed in the years 2007–2008. As observed by Ostrowski (2009). and the second biggest union. the Independent Self-governing Trade Union ‘Solidarity’ (NSZZ Solidarność) established a Union Development Office (DRZ).397). founded the Confederation of Labour. by quick economic growth in 2005–2008 and mass migra- tion abroad after the EU enlargement (Meardi 2007a. Increasing union assertiveness in the years 2007– 2008 can be explained by several factors. formerly the ‘official’ socialist confederation. The number of strikes in these years was higher than in their previous peak at the beginning of the transformation. Although the workplace conflicts have never disappeared from Polish industrial relations.770 cases) and in 2007 (24. all other things being equal. with unemployment rates oscillating around 18–20% of the economically active population.g. the number of individual grievances has remained relatively high: 32. workplace bargaining power of workers grew due to labour shortages caused. Mrozowicki and Van Hootegem (2008) and Hardy (2009). Contrary to the predictions of the continuous weakness of organized labour. The highest unemployment in the post-1989 Polish history was noted in 2002–2004. in 2006 (25.100 cases). both the private sector and the public sector employees started to formulate more assertive pay demands . with an explicit aim of organizing non-unionized workers. the emergence of unions in many multinational com- panies preceded the favourable economic conditions (in 2005–2008). Simultaneously. Individual grievances – noted by NLI – decreased in 2005 (30. power asymmetry and the perceived injustice at the work- place level. The conflicts over unionization of large multinational enterprises in some sectors (e.000 in 2004. automotive and retail) constituted a new dimension of conflicts at work at the beginning of the 2000s (cf.800 cases). In a more favourable economic climate marked by falling unemployment. Kaminska and Kahancova 2011). among other factors. but then grew again in 2008 (34. in 1992–1993. In the same period. then there is likely to be.000 grievances in 2002 and 30. the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ).1 As Gall and Hebdon (2008: 582) noted: ‘if workers are less able to strike. By the end of the 1990s. Adam Mrozowicki and Małgorzata Maciejewska 195 the first legal step to organize strike action in Poland (see also Towalski 2005). It was usually accompanied by bottom-up worker mobilization against low wages. Gardawski 2001). Polish unions have not remained passive even in the period of the highest unemployment and economic downturn.

the main union confederations were more likely to organize street demonstrations and protests against austerity measures. comprehensive union organizing campaigns in the private sector carried out by NSZZ Solidarność and the Confederation of Labour since the late 1990s created a mobilization potential in mul- tinational companies. However. the growing importance of the conflicts over working time might indicate the effects of the anti-crisis legislation. the conditions of conflicts at work in the late 2000s have proven to be different from those in the 1990s due to the effects of the global financial downturn that began to be visible in Poland from the end of 2008. the discourse of tripartite social dialogue had been sys- tematically challenged in the wake of economic crisis by the end of the 2000s as the neo-liberal Civic Platform government has proven to be largely disinterested in tripartite negotiations (Czarzasty 2009). which. They also brought to unions a new generation of more prag- matically oriented activists whose main motivation to join the unions was to improve working conditions at the company level (Krzywdzinski 2010). Indirectly. Third.900 cases in 2009 to 42. In 2010–2012. the great majority of these concerned pay (37%). Second. facing the weakness of the tripartite mechanism in alleviating the consequences of financial crisis. from 9% at the end of 2008 to 13.1). In spring 2012. In the same years. Unemployment again began to increase.196 Conflicts at Work in Poland’s New Capitalism (Meardi 2007a). extended the reference period for calculating working time from (maximum) four to (maximum) 12 months and introduced a 24-hour work cycle of flexible working (Czarzasty 2009).700 cases in 2010. One of the new problems tackled by the unions was low-paid flexible employment. the number of individual grievances grew from 34. This was reflected in the decreasing strike rates in 2009–2010 (see Table 11.5% at the beginning of 2012. such as hypermarkets or the automotive sector enterprises. contributing to a decline workers’ labour market bargaining power. In 2010. among other things. labour conditions (20%) and working time (18%). NSZZ Solidarność gathered almost 2m signatures against governmental plans to extend the retirement age to 67 for women and . The extended reference period increased employers’ influence on working time depending on companies’ situations. with the two latter categories systematically growing over recent years. Union confederations were strongly involved in the debate on ‘junk contracts’ – fixed-term contracts and civil law contracts which are not governed by labour law and exclude workers from minimum pay regulations and social security contributions (Pańków 2012). which in some cases created new sources of workplace conflicts. It translated into periodical work intensifica- tion interwoven with the periods of lack of work.

union mobilization did not affect the governmental decisions. by the anti-crisis legislation passed in July 2009. the number of workers permanently employed on civil law (freelance) contracts was estimated by the Ministry of Finance to be 800. In the years 1998–2010.7% to 27%. Simultaneously. Meanwhile.102 in 2010 (Ministry of Labour and Social Policy 2011) and around 534. In 2011. despite the expansion of these types of contracts in the 2000s (Trappmann 2011). Adam Mrozowicki and Małgorzata Maciejewska 197 men. has . denoting the type of labour flexibilisation extensively used in the late 1990s. which cancelled the maximum duration of a fixed-term contracts and. in both cases. the Trade Union Act 1991 has effectively limited the category of those eligible for union membership to employees. more recently. consequently.628 in 2003 (when the Act on Temporary Work was passed and the temporary work agencies began to operate) to 433. However. the expansion of precarious employment. Nevertheless. The issue of precarious work was also addressed in the union campaign to fix the minimum wage at 50% of the national average. to the problem of growing numbers of workers who are not included in the pension system at all due to the ‘junk’ nature of their employment. from 31. the extent of union-led forms of collective action. This was conditioned. From the perspec- tive of unions.000 in 2011 (Polskie Forum HR 2012). the debate on precarious work and junk contracts indi- cated a new dimension in conflicts at work. The flexible work regime. involv- ing the combination of flexible work arrangements and low wages. the share of the self-employed. which temporarily (until 31 December 2011) suspended (currently binding) legislation that allows for only two consecutive fixed-term employment contracts. by the liberalization of the Labour Code (in 2002–2003). economic and political measures enabling the expansion of flex- ible work and employment. the unionization of those employed on flexible work contracts is an expensive and time-consuming business which does not guarantee membership gains given their unstable employment relation- ship. was an important factor that limited the effectiveness of union representation and. excluding those self-employed or employed on the basis of civil (freelance) contracts. From a legal perspective. understood as a combination of institu- tional.000 (Grochal and Szacki 2011). among others. the share of employees on temporary contracts (including both fixed-term and civil law contracts) rose from 4. This initiative referred. The estimated number of workers employed by the temporary work agencies also grew quickly. has decreased from 35% (1998) to 23% (2008). The problems of flexible work contracts rarely featured in the mainstream unions’ agenda before the economic crisis. among other things.

198 Conflicts at Work in Poland’s New Capitalism tended to limit the trust of precarious workers towards unions which are seen as representing the interests of the privileged segments of the labour force (see Kretsos 2011). Trappmann 2011). an electronic assembly plant. the research aimed at exploring prob- lems. Thus. to address this gap.4%. on behalf of and for the use of the state and investors (e. 18. The Monitor case study Methodology and background The case study of Monitor.4% of full-time workers were union members. relied on the methods of participatory action-oriented research (Gatenby and Humphries 2000). 10% were members (Gardawski 2009:551). the next part of the chap- ter will explore to what extent the expansion of precarious and flexible employment in the labour-intensive workplace influences the mecha- nisms of workers’ resistance and struggle. Haraway 1988). worker resistance against the flexible work arrangements in Poland has rarely been analysed. while the figure for part-time workers was 3. from September 2011 to December 2011.g. According to the ‘Working Poles’ survey. showing how the state policies introduced at the end of the 1990s to attract foreign direct investments have also created new sources of worker discontent. The research was designed as an effort to overcome the limitations of the methodology of mainstream SEZ studies produced from a ‘top-down perspective’. The ethnographic studies carried out in Shenzen factories in China (Pun 2004. and worked on a production line for three months. Hardy 2009. It was conducted by Małgorzata Maciejewska while she was employed in the plant through a temporary work agency. in 2007. In the case study of the Monitor factory in an export-oriented SEZ in Lower Silesia below. With notable exceptions (Kozek 2011. the role of local authorities and the state in promoting the flexible work regime in SEZs is analysed. Fiedor 2007). in an assembly firm in Silicon Valley in the US (Pellow and Park 2002) and in maquiladoras in Mexico (Fernández-Kelly 1983) showed that research itself could become a political tool – firstly as an intervention in public and academic discourse and secondly as a part of a networking process for workers’ struggles. Drawing on the feminist and critical Marxist theoretical framework (Harding 1987. 2005). and among those in precarious employment (including freelance contracts and fixed-duration con- tracts). during a production peak. by producing . conflicts and tensions connected with foreign investments in the SEZ through analysing the experiences and strategies of the workers themselves. Thus.

methods and the possibilities of workers’ resistance in the labour- intensive system of global factories. the state and local authorities launched a legal framework and built a technical infrastructure (roads. in order to reconstruct the conditions in which the flexible. Below. They began their legal existence in the mid-1990s but became functioning production sites at the beginning of the 2000s. and in Poland the story was of the SEZs being a tool to fix the deep socio-economic crisis resulting from job loss during economic restructuring in the 1990s (Pilarska 2009). in turn. the con- text of the development of SEZs in Poland is briefly presented. The decade-long liquidation or restructuring of the state-owned enterprises resulted in huge job losses. SEZs were established in post-industrial areas marked by very high unemploy- ment rates. Next follows a discussion. In exchange for high . led to the deterioration of working and living conditions in the region. Adam Mrozowicki and Małgorzata Maciejewska 199 knowledge ‘from below’. of the specific mechanism which contributed to the evolution of the work-related con- flict at Monitor from non-organized. exemplified by Monitor. At present. The development of SEZs is part of the process of the Polish transition after 1989. there are 14 zones. As many studies on export-led industrialization point out. the conditions. the study created a space for building workers’ political visibility and agency. informal dissent to an overt and organized resistance via a newly established union. are dis- cussed. Export Processing Zones and Special Economic Zones was in most cases preceded by economic and indebtedness crises (Elson and Pearson 1981. At the outset. In order to rebuild the market. which. The key motivation behind the establishment of the SEZs in Lower Silesia concerned the decay of industry heavily related to the region’s natural resources. power and water supply) to attract capital into the SEZs. Bakker 1994. Halim 2008). low-paid work regime at Monitor was embedded. The ideo- logical background used to legitimize such investments was based on the assumption that global capital would create jobs and help to repair local economies. through a first-person account. One of its (unintended) outcomes was the formation of the first union in the factory. Mitter 1986. Core government motivation surrounds creating a special juridical and industrial environ- ment to overcome the crisis by attracting foreign investors. SEZs as laboratories of Poland’s new capitalism Foreign direct investments based in SEZs provide the basis for analys- ing of power dynamics between global capital and the working class in Poland. the worldwide development of Free Trade Zones. Consequently.

resembles a temporary city which could be disassembled as quickly as it was assembled. and when the final product is completed. Cross 2010). The Zone’s area of 400 hectares draws a workforce from an area of 3. the workers are forced to extend their working day up to 12–13 hours. However. I was one of 150 temporary employees performing a variety of tasks: visual inspection. The zones. it is preferable to see the zones as a structural continuity of neo-liberal changes. Operating as a coherent organism. Indonesia or Bangladesh. electronic tests and montage. Along the streets with Asian-sounding names there is no social or housing infrastructure. 90% of whom were women. Instead of looking for devia- tions and pathologies in the global flow of the capital. The Zone. Factory case study: first-person account The SEZ in which Monitor is located is surrounded by corn fields – the nearest village is several kilometres away. new investors in SEZs produce a new working environment. While components are imported from all over the world.200 Conflicts at Work in Poland’s New Capitalism reimbursements for investments and tax exemptions for nearly twenty years. this argument gives the impression that SEZs were only juridical gaps or unique geographical locations which stand in contrast to the rest of the country/region (Pun 2004. As a result of the ‘business-friendly’ legal framework. Assembled parts are imported to Poland from China. it is distributed over almost the whole of Europe and North Africa. are often seen as a land of ‘neo-liberal exceptions’ or ‘a country within a country’. Workers are transported to the Zone from the south- ern part of Lower Silesia. for they play a key role in shaping the wider economic and social landscape of the region. At the time. in which new conflicts at work can take place. with their new industries. Marked with toll-bars and fences. in which the unemployment rate approached 20% in 2011. composed only of factory floors. workers usually cross the borders of the Zone 30–50 minutes before their shift begins. the Zone symbolizes an isolated territory. the investors were expected to create jobs to reduce the unem- ployment rate. To arrive at their workplace and get back home. the firm employed 300 assembly workers. Having limited alternatives besides working in the Zone. the workforce is ‘imported’ from all over the region.500 km2 (from 8 districts of Lower Silesia). some commuting for as long as 4 hours per day by bus. where citizenship and workers’ rights are suspended (Ong 2006). mostly . and determine new forms of work and employment regimes. To meet the needs of just-in-time production. they often have to travel more than 160 kilometres each day. the Zone is a part of a global LCD TV production chain.

skills and wages in export-led industrialization were interrelated. agile and keen on working for low wages at a faster pace (Pun 2005. mainly composed of young women (between 18 and 30 years old). the majority performing quality control and assembling components – the most feminized form of labour in the factory. Care and house- hold duties double the amount of work. Elson and Pearon 1981). At the time. employment falls to 50%. Young and unskilled workers could easily be subsumed under the labour regime. Men usually worked as technicians on fixed contracts and earned a higher wage than women. The work was supervised by a production manager. labour- intensive work (Elson and Pearon 1981). During the down- times. shift lead- ers and their assistants (mostly men). Repetitious manual labour on the line. Those women on the line who had been hired directly by the company mostly had fixed-term contracts for one or two years. Being a mother has several consequences for women workers. Yet the situation of the regular employees was no better. Raising a child makes you more vulnerable to job loss because the management is not keen on prolonging contracts for women who have a history of taking sick leave . Next in the hierarchy were the Chinese managers sent to Poland to run the company. The work and production dynamic in the factory was ruled by two interrelated regimes – of gender and of flexible work. The linkages between gen- der. Most of the women workers had families with one or more chil- dren. Hired on a weekly or monthly basis. fewer than 20 had an open-ended contract. and some were the only breadwinners for their household. were preferred workers since they are seen as more submissive. Of the 150 production workers. The double bind of a feminized workforce and precarious flexible employment was the core axis of discipline and subordination in the factory. they earned the lowest salary (Euro 250–300). Adam Mrozowicki and Małgorzata Maciejewska 201 quite young. care work and working three shifts leave little time to think about resistance. under constant threat of being dismissed. Hiring a feminized workforce was a conscious management strategy. exhausting daily commuting. meaning the entire temporary work- force and part of regular one-year-contracted workers are dismissed. One hundred workers operated 14 production lines. while the rest were employed on the fixed-term contracts. At the bottom of the hierarchy was the workforce employed by temporary work agen- cies. Women. especially young women. The situation of temporary employees reflected the precarisation of the workforce in the labour-intensive workplace. ‘Quick’ and ‘nimble’ female bodies constituted the ground for arduous. the women would usually say that ‘you never know if you will have your job tomorrow or not’.

acting as a safety valve and part of the production-logic . Such often invisible transgressions and insubordina- tion took place all the time. the conflicts at work were suppressed by the flexible work regime. intentionally damaged the components or broke the product- safety regulations. One might ask. they made jokes. The regular workers had few or no relations with the temp workers. During the three months of research at the factory. and said that they did not feel the need to associate with them because ‘the temp worker probably won’t be here a week from now. smoked cigarettes during the shift. Flexible production and voiceless-ness as sources of dissent and friction The subordination of workers’ bodies and lives was incorporated at many levels in the factory-system. Their voices. Thus women have to be fully flexible and fit their lives into Monitor’s production rhythms. knowledge. ‘How is workers’ resistance possible in this kind of work regime. workers had no formal representation to the management. In addition. resisted being a part of the symbiotic. fragmented and precisely measured machinery of the line. They were expected to work hard but not to discuss the work or employ- ment arrangements. easing the pace of the work and the shop-floor discipline. But these moments of sharing were also an intrinsic element of the labour regime. to a greater or lesser degree. They complained about the tiring and boring work and the outrageous behaviour of management. each week resulted in new dismissals and the arrival of new recruits. where are the points of conflict which might spark off the workers’ anger. the workers.’ Precarious conditions of work deprived the workers of a common voice and shared knowledge. anger and frustration. otherwise they risk losing their jobs. and can this anger be articu- lated into collective action?’ Each day. which started at the level of micro- practices of labour discipline – the assembly line regime which bound their motions to the workstands2 – and continued through to the gen- dered division of work and fluctuations in production and employment in the course of the year. At Monitor. took sick leave.202 Conflicts at Work in Poland’s New Capitalism for themselves or their children. while the everyday experience of work built the basis for sharing common interests. The anger and frustration was suspended by the fear of losing one’s job and lack of tools for expressing the collective discon- tent. slowed down the line. The Polish supervisors and temp agencies embodied a buffer zone between the workers and the Chinese management. claims and requests were suppressed by means of disciplinary techniques.

thereby increasing the amount of work needed to fix them and re-inspect them. The plant was set up five years before the study took place. Initially. but since the flexibilisation of employment and the resultant increase of damaged products. The competitive pressure among the staff made it possible to reduce wages by Euro 100. Work at Monitor was intensified through changes in the production process. but after the implementation of new technologies and the improvement of production lines the bulk of the work was mechanised. An employee benefit fund consisting of employers’ contributions resulted in workers receiving vacation subsidies and holiday coupons. Initially. the terms of employment deteriorated and salaries began to drop. for when management introduced the worsening conditions. Adam Mrozowicki and Małgorzata Maciejewska 203 in the factory. After a time. When the workers became reluctant to work extra hours. including the suspension of the Labour Code regulations which allowed for only two successive fixed-term contracts. In addition. the constant rotation of temporary agency workers negatively affected the quality of production. saying that when the fac- tory first opened ‘things were not so bad’. Workers employed from the beginning recalled that flexible employment through the temp agency increased around two years ago. Over time. Using the crisis as an excuse. most of the components were assembled manually. therefore. the overtime bonuses were cut back to the statutory 50% and the workers had to work longer hours. the workers usually associated them with the onset of the economic crisis in Poland. As a result. they invoked the company’s poor financial condition. the number of people with one-year contracts increased. Meanwhile. the only new hiring was done through the temp agency. When questioned about these changes. As a result. the workers barely managed to meet the production rates. and gross salaries were higher (Euro 425–475). and was related to the factory’s history. the company also introduced the policy of ‘processing cost innovation’. Since the new temporary workforce had limited experience and skills. their wages. which meant a basic drive for the intensification of work through job cuts at the manual assembly work stands. Indeed. the employee benefit fund was dismantled and bonuses were cut. the economic slump and the requirements of flexible production. the management ordered workers to put in overtime. the extra work was also paid extra. the number of damaged components increased. Simultaneously. to force them . the catalyst of the workers’ anger lay beyond the assembly line regime. If there was a need to raise the production rates or fix large amounts of damaged components. which impinged upon their bonuses and. the management simultaneously took full advantage of the opportunities created by the anti-crisis legislation.

After operating for five years. which increasingly happened at Monitor. With it. when it came to taking the day-off. If they fire me then they’ll fire me. Flyers (which I received from women activists of the All-Poland Trade Union Workers’ Initiative (OZZ IP). the possibilities of worker resistance were differentiated by their distinct biographical experiences. a group of regular employees took a step towards organizing themselves. When a temp worker was required to adjust to the work regime for a month or two.204 Conflicts at Work in Poland’s New Capitalism to work harder the management introduced ‘obligatory overtime work’ in return for extra days off. We want things to be normal here. The formation of the union showed the determination of the workers. They knew more about the dynamics of production and the recruitment process. Thus. Convinced that it had a docile and fully subordinated workforce. this kind of knowledge itself became the most important political tool to build the potential of collective organizing.’ It also revealed the workers’ sober view of the situation. Therefore. as it led the union’s activists to shift their initial strategy based on the normalization of work- ing conditions. Arguably. new forms of control implemented by the management changed the anger into agency. Turning anger into action Effectively being silenced. and dissent into resistance. but things have to change around here. she did not know the history of her workplace. . They were also more sensitive about the costs they themselves bore in terms of health and quality of life so that the company might increase its profitability. A single spark was enough to ignite the labour conflict and consolidate people. As the workers said. raised the level of anger and frustration among the workers. Given the different perspectives of the regular and temporary workers. workers were often informed that they had to show up for work. for as one of the activists explained: ‘I’m not concerned about anything now. a very small but radical left-wing union established in 2001) were scat- tered around the factory and served as the spark. they knew more about how their lives are merged with and subjected to the company’s plans. and the first union committee was estab- lished at the factory. However. when an opportunity came up (occasioned by the fact that I had con- tacts with union activists). By contrast.’ The question of whether ‘normalcy’ can be achieved by forming a union in a global labour- intensive factory may lead to contradictory answers. for as another worker put it: ‘We don’t want miracles. the factory had experienced no worker revolts. it was ‘the grist to the mill’. the regular workers could refer to their past experiences.

serve as the collective voice of the entire crew. As it was the first and only union at Monitor. Adam Mrozowicki and Małgorzata Maciejewska 205 management was completely taken aback by the emergence of organ- ized resistance. In addition. Thus. the only time for meetings and strategic planning was before work. the problems with communication and planning resulted from three interrelated regimes: the production line. While this was our strength. The structure was established in December 2011 with less than 20 members. management refused to give us the employee handbook of terms and conditions of employment. for the employer did not know who was a union member. For a long time. As membership grew. The level of union density was maintained. The pioneering character of workers’ formal organizing was an additional advantage. it also caused considerable problems when it came to formal issues such as organizing meetings and strategic plan- ning. and neither was there time after work because people dispersed in a hurry to get home. Consequently. and to allow the union to put up a notice board. they decided almost unanimously that they would . In order to protect workers on fixed-term contracts. it could represent all the workers and. challenges began to emerge. particularly when it comes to consolidating temporary and regu- lar employees together. The heated exchange of letters between union and management dragged on for weeks without producing any results. comprising 45% of regular workers. The pace of work on the line left little time for union activism. One event which occurred at the factory showed how deep the rift in the workforce was and how destabilizing for union activism. This kind of ‘quantity success’ was closely related to the process of further deterioration of working and employment conditions at Monitor. Membership then grew rapidly: after a month there were 45 union members. and three months later 73 workers declared their participation. More generally. when the tempo- rary agency workers were forced to work for a lower salary than per- manent employees. to issue an explanation con- cerning the dismantled social fund. so it was not possible to include the majority of the precarious workforce in the union structures. Once. allowing limited room for collective action. most union members decided to remain anonymous to the employer. Yet we soon realized that the union law and Labour Code do little to protect workers and union activists. The first steps taken by the union consisted of formal and legal pro- cedures aimed at starting the process of negotiations with the employer. there was the problem of protecting workers hired by temp agencies because they were covered by different regula- tions and had a different employer. in effect. the strength of the union was the very fact of its formation. commut- ing and the dynamic of production (shift work).

during which the working conditions further deteriorated. The quantitative data on strikes and individual grievances in the 2000s confirmed the . On that day.206 Conflicts at Work in Poland’s New Capitalism not go to work. reduction of working time and increased wages. after four months of management manoeuvres to turn down the request for negotiations. accompanied by a series of demonstra- tions at the front of the factory. Unfortunately. the organized workers might threaten the very core of the production process. the collective dispute continues. the temp workers were forced to resort to the wildcat strike carried out from outside the factory gates. While claiming their rights proved to be very difficult for the regular employees who had established the union. the union decided to undertake radical action. the permanent workers did not back the strike. It first documented the dynamics of labour con- flicts during two decades of capitalist transformation. Responding with letters and refusing to recognize the union. The claim which underlies the collective dispute is even more radical. demand- ing clear and precise employment and work regulations. Having no alternatives and little to lose. the journey revealed the struggle in a labour-intensive global factory system exceeded the legal framework of social dialogue and agreement between the employer and the employees. for it touches the very nature of profit-making in a labour-intensive flexible work regime. If the management refuses to fulfil the workers’ demands. 7 of the 14 production lines stopped. Thus. the union has started the process of collective dispute. starting from merely wanting ‘normalcy’ to the refusal of work by undermining the core source of profit-making in the company. Conclusion This chapter has explored the development and new dimensions of con- flicts at work in Poland. It also made union activists realize that ‘normalcy’ was simply beyond their reach. At the time of writing (June 2012). manage- ment barely listened to the union’s demands. This conscious and strategic claim shows the path the union underwent. The situ- ation showed the deep divisions among workers in a system of labour where half of the workforce depends on flexible employment. By restricting further flexibilisation of the workforce. which the union claims is developed at the expense of workers’ health and lives. the process could lead to a strike. After my period of employment ended. This event made it particularly clear that different and more radical forms of resist- ance were needed in factories based on flexible production and flexible employment.

The shifts between organized and individualized forms of conflict can be explained by the decline in unions’ capacities to mobilize workers and organize strikes in the period of deep economic restructuring and privatisation after the end of state socialism and the expansion of non-unionized private sector enterprises. It suggests the sources of workplace conflict are intrinsic to the very nature of the flexible work regime which emerged as a part of the neo-liberal transformation in Poland. The cost of flexibilisation is work intensification which was shifted onto the shoulders of workers at the expense of their health and lives. They test new forms of employ- ment and regimes of work. contrary to the thesis about the continu- ing weakness of organized labour in post-socialist countries (Crowley 2004. The main ‘novelty’ of the present situation – which has an impact on the nature and scope of labour conflicts – is the expansion of precari- ous and flexible work supported by the neo-liberal state policies intro- duced by the successive Polish governments throughout the 2000s. but constitute the laboratories of Poland’s new capitalism (Hardy 2009). Labour-intensive factories in the SEZs are not ‘neoliberal exceptions’ (Ong 2006). The most recent developments (in 2009–2012) have been marked by a dete- riorating labour market situation in the wake of the global financial crisis and economic recession. . the flexibilisation and precarisation of work is also marked by internal contradictions. the increasing replacement of permanent staff with flexible. relying on conducive legal and social envi- ronments created by state and regions. even if they are not articulated and expressed in such dramatic ways as strikes. the outburst of strikes in 2007–2008 in Poland also suggests that the decline of overt conflict has not been irreversible. As revealed by the Monitor case. Earlier studies have docu- mented workers’ attempts to oppose the flexibilisation of employment in the public services (Kozek 2011) and in large hypermarkets targeted by comprehensive union organizing campaigns (Czarzasty 2010. Although these have again led to the decline in the number of strikes. Yet in addition to encountering human limits. Ost 2009). Hardy 2009). The Monitor case demonstrates that worker resistance can also emerge in non. both the quantitative data and the Monitor case study suggest that the new economic recession has not suppressed conflicts at work.or weakly unionized and labour-intensive factories. temporary employees challenged the very core of the production process which relied on the skills and practical knowledge of permanent workers. Adam Mrozowicki and Małgorzata Maciejewska 207 ‘method displacement’ thesis (Gall and Hebdon 2008: 592). The Monitor case is but just one example of emerging workers’ resistance to the rise of precarious employment in Poland. Yet.

In the context of labour-intensive. the challenge of precarious work cannot be fully addressed without union advance at the macro-political level. everyday dissent is likely to turn into overt collective resistance.208 Conflicts at Work in Poland’s New Capitalism When the human and organizational limits are reached. Thus. in which formal collective bargaining is consciously rejected by employers. Acknowledgement This research was supported by a Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education grant (4486/PB/IS/11). in which some unions in large car assembly plants cooperate closely with those in supplier companies and attempt to extend their activities to temporary agency workers (Mrozowicki 2011). and union organizational resources are provided. in which sectoral-level collective-bargaining coverage is very low. such as the OZZ IP. The authors are solely responsible for the views and opinions expressed in this chapter. We would like to thank the workers and union activist whose knowledge shaped this article and Dominika Ferens for her help with translating and revising this chapter. The young feminized working class. The vision of community unionism covering the precarious workers in the low-paid sectors (including those in the Special Economic Zones) is appealing. A locality-based unionism of this type has been observed in the automotive sector in Poland. political mobilization needs to be com- bined with. it should be emphasized that in a country like Poland. which are functionally subordinated to capital- intensive businesses in the logistics and supply chain. new forms of union activism and union organizing are needed. newly established unions in labour-intensive plants. capital-intensive companies and weak. has yet to develop its own tools of resistance and organizational forms that would allow it to be able to overcome the divisions between permanent and temporary workers. and supplemented by. low- paid and flexible workplaces. radical trade unions. To what extent this strategy can be transferred to other sectors is an open question and requires research. . Last but not least. A more attainable goal would be to develop coalitions between stronger unions in large. However. cut off from the work and union experience of older generations. given the systematic obstruction of union political and legislative initiatives by the Polish government in recent years. innovative forms of bottom-up union organizing that targets precarious workers. but thus far it is practised mostly by niche. it can be suggested that the efforts to mobilize workers in order to tackle the issues of ‘junk con- tracts’ and flexibilisation of the labour market might lie in the junction between the macro-political and workplace-centred union strategies.

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But before they were disbanded. Chun worked in the garment sweatshops of the Dongdaemun Market. The labour conditions in the sweatshops where Chun worked were brutal.12 Minjung Tactics in a Post-Minjung Era? The Survival of Self-Immolation and Traumatic Forms of Labour Protest in South Korea Jamie Doucette Introduction In November 1970. 22-year-old labour activist and garment worker Chun Tae-Il committed an act of self-immolation that catalysed the con- temporary democratic labour movement in South Korea. Tongil and the Peace Market) organized a labour protest that was quickly repressed by the police. including protesting to their employers and trying to form a union. Chun and his friends who worked in these export factories were shocked at the disparity between the principles enshrined in Korea’s labour standards act and the actual practice of employers in these primarily export-oriented sweatshops. full of cloth fibres and poorly ventilated. Workers in these sweatshops suffered from overwork and occupational illnesses. with workers crowded into ‘attics’ – vertically subdivided floors where sewing machines were dou- ble stacked over one another. or were summarily laid off when they were not (Chun 2003). Many were fed amphetamines and continuously worked extra- long shifts when product orders were at their peak. an area popu- lated with hundreds of garment shops employing mostly young female workers in their teens and early twenties. On 13 November 1970 Chun and his Samdong Friendship Associa- tion (named for the three markets of the Dongdaemun area – Dongwa. all of which failed for under the military dictatorship the employers and the police easily repressed labour protest. Chun set himself 212 . They tried in vain to address these conditions through a variety of means.

the goals of the labour movements for greater equality and labour rights have not been fully institutionalized. In South Korea alone. His tactic has been reproduced by many social activists since then in a variety of social movements for equality. intellectuals and politicians and catalysed both the modern democratic trade union movement and the larger. populist democracy movement in South Korea. This chapter explores the survival of traumatic forms of radical protest. creating vicious cycles of labour conflict. cited in Kim 2008) reports that Korea accounts for a dispro- portionate share of a total of 533 incidents of self-immolation which have occurred during the period from 1963 to 2002 across 36 countries. a total of 107 protesters died by suicide protest from 1970 to 2004 (Kim 2008: 545). these gains have recently come under threat through the expansion of precarious or irregular forms of employment. This expan- sion coupled with new forms of punitive labour control that target the union activities of irregular workers with severe damage claims and facilitate seizure of workers’ assets has led to a resurgence of these trau- matic tactics among Korean workers during the last eight years. This action shocked many workers. shouting. The chap- ter starts by examining some of the origins of minjung-style labour protest. It then argues that one of the reasons why the tactic has survived fol- lowing the democratic transition is that when it comes to Korean labour relations. . Biggs (2005. and discusses the ways in which these actions are interpreted within the wider Korean culture and by other unionists and activists. at the industrial level. In particular. rivalling May Day in its sig- nificance. particularly among irregular workers and other social movements of economically marginalized populations. While militant union struggles have established independent unions at large enterprises and. While these are tactics that are often associated with labour and democracy struggles under the dictator- ships of Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan. Chun is remembered as a democratic and labour movement martyr and his suicide is memorialized as a national day of workers’ struggle in Korea in November each year. national reunification and political democracy. such as self-immolation. Jamie Doucette 213 on fire just outside the Peace Market. ‘Obey the Labour Standards Act’ (Cho 2003: 314–16). they – unfortunately – remain in use today. the ranks of these workers have expanded sig- nificantly following the Asian financial crisis of 1997–1998 and through more recent changes to labour law that aimed to make permanent the supposedly temporary measures devised during the crisis. Furthermore. associated with Korea’s democracy and labour movements from the 1970s and 1980s. to a lesser extent.

and economically excluded from the benefits of economic growth’. It is not certain where Chun got the idea. He may have taken inspiration from the self-immolation of Vietnamese monks opposed to the Vietnam War. Indeed: Indeed. the urban poor. socially alienated. at the core of the minjung movement is an ideology that claims that minjung is the master of history and that Korean history is a his- tory of the minjung’s oppression by the dominant class and by external forces. hence. ‘suited this purpose eminently’ as it ‘included all those who were politically oppressed. writers and so on. journalists. Chun Tae-Il’s suicide also provided inspi- ration for the labour struggles at larger enterprises during the ‘Great Worker Struggle’ in the summer and autumn of 1987 and similar cam- paigns for independent industrial unions in the early 1990s. farmers. Chun’s act had immediate repercussions in stimulating the 1970s democratic union movement among the largely female work force in the textile and garment shops that were a key part of Korea’s industrial take-off in the 1960s and early 1970s. As Koo (2001) argues. the real national identity and authentic culture of Korea . Regardless. Koo (2001: 143) describes how minjung. Cho Se Hui’s novel The Dwarf also uses self-sacrifice as a meta- phor for the human toll of rapid industrialization.214 Tactics in a Post-Minjung Era? Self-immolation and minjung protest Chun Tae-Il seems to be the first person in Korea to have used self- immolation as a protest tactic. These were known as the three mins (samminjooui): the people. themes of suicide also figured in the Korean literature of the time. The min in minjung is the same suffix used in three key demands of the minjung or democracy movement. the political and economic reality of the 1970s demanded an ideology that could unite the diverse struggles of students. The story of this movement has been well documented by Chun’s sister who was a participant in the movement and continues to work with garment workers in Seoul’s Dongdaemun neighbourhood as both a formidable champion of their struggles and a civil activist (Chun 2003). workers. the nation or folk (minjok) and democracy (minju). Kim Dong Ni’s (2002 [1961]) Deungshim-Bul depicts a Chinese monk’s preparation for self-immolation to honour his temple. The word minjung translates roughly as ‘the peo- ple’. or populism (minjung). a political term used by both nationalists and leftists during the colo- nial period and in the post-war years. For example. The student protests and labour movement mobilization that fol- lowed Chun’s suicide fed into a larger movement known as the Korean minjung movement. an act that has auspicious conse- quences. However.

have mercy upon me. Such actions were known as hanpuli or outpourings of han. and strategic tool for uniting and mobilizing diverse political and social struggles in the 1980s (Koo 2001: 143).’ Chun concludes his entry by noting the date. which means bitterness or resentment. just two months before his suicide. the actions of martyrs such as Chun Tae-Il were. as well as many other people who were killed or com- mitted suicide during the democracy movement such as Lee Han Yeol. and seomin. of han date back several centuries from the subordination of the Baekje Kingdom to neo-Confucian rule in the 13th century to peasant rebellions against aristocratic rule and colonial intervention. especially during difficult and often violent labour struggles where the emotional costs of labour organizing are intense. The minjung was. Not all martyrs of . Lee 2007). Commemorations are common at labour and other protest rallies. slogan. thus. victims of division system. workers. national resident. It is a term that can be contrasted with the notions of kukmin.’ he writes. Chun wrote in his diary that he had ‘come to an absolute decision’ to be alongside his ‘poor brothers and sisters‘ in the Peace Market. I am struggling to be the dew for countless withering innocent lives’ (Cho 2003: 28). cf. a student killed in the June 1987 uprising. The minjung movement viewed protest acts such as self-immolation and worker-suicide as a release of han. are regarded as martyrs (yeolsa) of the movement and have commemoration societies that par- ticipate in a variety of social protests and hold annual memorial events. I will die for you. ‘I will throw myself away. located on the fault lines created by the policies of the dictatorship and the Cold War division system. that he made his deci- sion. students. Lee 1996. and ends with a short messianic prayer: ‘God. common people: terms that seem to be preferred by conservative forces and that have been used to mobilize ideas of duty and national patriotism. In August 1970. The connota- tion here is that this ‘people’ is an active political agent: a mass subject that included farmers. Wells 1995). Suicide here is viewed as a form of sincerity. and others oppressed by the military regime (cf. While some of the minjung philosophers and theologians argue that notions of minjung and. Jamie Doucette 215 must be found in the culture and daily struggles of the minjung. In minjung theology. Chun Tae-Il. thus. seen as messianic acts of resistance to the developmental dictatorship that liberated ‘the life of the weaker being from their pains and exploitations. 20 August. Suh 1981. the tactic of self-immolation itself is modern. ‘so as not to leave you. thus. by absorbing their pains and unjust exploitations’ into themselves (Lee 1994: 143. With this broad ideological content. minjung became a dominant form of discourse.

it is not only small or individual practices that were seen as creating this release: large collective events such as the 1980 Kwangju Uprising. with suicide protest being its most extreme example. certainly. Minjung protest used a variety of different tactics to create this sense of release. it is a tactic used in difficult struggles. support NGOs and the workers themselves in attempts to encourage union members to continue their struggles and to provide solidarity and support during times of crisis. where suicide initially seemed to take place as part of largely unorganized and anomic response to exploitation (cf. Furthermore. the use of legal practices such as damage claims and seizure of workers’ personal salaries and assets. In other contexts the tactic seems more prevalent when other avenues of struggle are non-existent or repressed. Abelmann 1996 for a description of minjung reper- toires). However. Pungmul was a common feature of minjung protest and remains a common feature of social protest to this day. Chan and Pun 2010).216 Tactics in a Post-Minjung Era? these struggles commit such directly political forms of suicide. 1987 Democracy Uprising and Worker Struggle. However. which signifies a sense of release from the sorrow of han (Koo: 146. These commemorations bring together union militants. particularly when the struggle is based upon establishing collective bargaining pro- cedures and gaining recognition for the union. and even more recent events such as the candlelight protests against the conservative government’s rollback of a number of progressive policies in 2008 were also viewed as hanpuli. employer intimidation or. as mass outpouring of pent-up emotion. the threat of mass suicide – for example. What is interesting here is that unlike forms of suicide protest in other contexts. such as the more recent use of suicide to protest about labour conditions by Foxconn workers in China. It often accompanies wildcat strikes or can happen after other forms of workplace conflict such as repression of union activity. cf. suicide protest or self-sacrifice resonates with both Christian notions of martyrdom as well as with the shamanic notion of shinmyoung. As an act of release. as I shall discuss further below. the recent threats by 300 workers to jump off the factory roofs at Foxconn . other practices (such as pungmul – a form of farmers’ or peas- ant dance) constitute other means of creating this sense of release but through dance and music. suicide protest seems part of a larger repertoire of strat- egy and tactics within the organized labour and democracy movement. Though. as are other forms of performance that resonate with the ideal of shinmy- oung. and sui- cides from despair are common among family members during long or violent strikes. in more recent protest.

his bitterness with the world. He pours a liquid over his body. and the act of immolation is symbol- ized by a large black and red fabric that engulfs the worker. This ideal of hanpuli or transformative emotional release used to spur collective action can be seen in a memorial protest performance in honour of Park Il Su. His fellow workers gather up this large piece of fabric. While. A similar intent most likely informed Park’s self-immolation. in this instance. after the 1997–1998 financial cri- sis Hyundai Heavy Industries began employing thousands of workers on an irregular basis alongside regular workers through ‘illegal dispatch’ – a system where companies use in-house subcontractors to create a false . Kim (2008) argues targets of suicide protests are not simply unjust policies but also other activists and apathetic citizens. a shipbuilding company located in the south eastern industrial city of Ulsan. holding up the flags as signifiers that the struggle continues. the fabric is torn into individual flags and the worker disappears: his han is transformed into collective energy. the threat of mass suicide seems to be used as a tool to win direct concessions from government and management. It is a form of release that is meant to lend resolve to a struggle rather than an explicit bargaining tactic. in a gesture that seems part performance. Park was protesting against the discrimination for non-regular workers and the company’s repression of labour union activity. it is also oriented towards regular workers who are part of Hyundai’s labour union. an irregular worker labour unionist who commit- ted self-immolation during a 2004 strike at Hyundai Heavy Industries. an individual’s traumatic act is transformed into a greater will to continue with a difficult struggle. a union member re-enacts Park’s act of self-immolation. While key battles for independent unions were fought at Hyundai in the early 1990s. The workers break into a coordinated dance. In the performance. while in the Korean context the tactic tends to be equally aimed at creating a response from employers as well as from other social movement or union activists. certainly. Jamie Doucette 217 unless specific grievances are addressed – now seems to represent an emergent form of labour struggle. Then. The fabric represents his han. this action is used to shame the company and draw attention to unjust labour practices. albeit in a climate where labour’s free- dom of association remains relatively more supressed and regimented than the Korean context. Furthermore. part shamanic ritual. The suicide notes left by suicide protesters often ‘explicitly reveal that they committed sui- cide protest in order to inspire movement activism among half-hearted activists and apathetic bystanders’ (Kim 2008: 573). There is a social alchemy here.

in part due to a perception of a lack of support for irregular-worker organization from the regular workers’ unions who have at times put pressure on irregular workers to end their struggles.218 Tactics in a Post-Minjung Era? employer. Furthermore. Korea’s largest NGO – which have tried to overcome the difficulties by combining popular mobilization of former minjung movements and activists with the more strategic political opportunities for consulta- tion and engagement with the government that have been created by . it is fair to say that minjung protest continues to animate contemporary protest as a structure of feeling. It describes how social structures and relations are lived and felt as ordinary in ways that are different from explicit ideologies or worldviews (cf. as well as the social relations responsible for such re-emergence. However. This created tension between the larger popular movement and new civil society groups – like People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy. although certainly it is a structure of feeling that is oriented towards demands for equality and recognition of the struggles of the oppressed. In this case subcontracted or irregular workers work inside Hyundai’s facilities using the company’s tools and machinery and work- ing under their instruction to produce products sold by Hyundai. rather than a concrete ideology. Williams’ emphasis on cultural forms as emergent. a residual sta- tus does not signify that the tactic is dying off. dominant or residual is also useful for describing the survival of minjung tactics that were the dominant repertoire of oppositional protest in the 1980s but are only residual now. Raymond Williams’ term ‘structure of feeling’ is an appropriate description here. the continuation of its tactics and repertoires of protest show that something of the movement’s structure of feeling remains active in the present. Thus. Williams 1977: 128–141). politicians and NGOs. Rather. it is important to examine the ways in which such tactics periodically re-emerge. Instead of the people (min- jung). The disappearing minjung? Although the minjung movement has receded since the 1987 democratic uprising. After the 1987 protests. but they are paid less than 50% to 60% of the wages of direct employees (IMF 2010). the idea of the citizen (simin) and civil society (simin sahoe) have become popular discourses among social movements and NGOs. Relations in the workplace between irregular and regular workers have become more strained in recent years. the minjung movement was slowly trans- formed from an oppositional movement to a more strategic nexus of social movements. if only at a residual level.

Lee (2007) and others (cf. liberty and peaceful engagement with North Korea – or even many of the tactics of the movement dis- appeared. I saw lots of cultural events. but rather it remains as a residual structure of feeling. their struggle is our struggle too’’ (Interview. migrant labour unionists paraded commemoration portraits of deceased migrant workers who were killed or committed suicide during the crackdown through downtown Seoul. This transition occurred for several reasons. there also emerged within social movements a critique of the concept of minjung. and protests that touched each person in their society. Migrant activists learned these repertoires from the democratic union movement. While the minjung move- ment did spur a transition to free elections and open up new possibilities. social movements. but there was a gradual loos- ening or un-tethering of activism from a coherent mass oppositional strategy. and the protest took place in key sites of minjung protest such as Myeongdong Cathedral. repertoires of minjung protest have more recently been re-articulated by newer movements. Nonetheless. regarding it as a form of proto-class consciousness through which workers passed. Koo (2001: 146–149) notes that even by the mid-1980s workers began to critique the movement. This transition from minjung activism to more strate- gic engagement did not happen overnight. Indeed. Migrant Trade Union activist. As one of the South Asian founders of the Migrant Trade Union. which can be drawn upon in the midst of new demands and subjectivities (cf. we tried to follow their struggles so that people that would say: “They are our people. our rally style. These portraits were similar to portraits carried to honour minjung mar- tyrs. an emotional resource and set of pro- test practices. 2009). This does not mean that the general demands of the minjung movements – for greater equality. who attended Korean labour movement protests and applied their tactics to the migrant workers’ struggle. such as is seen in the commemoration by migrant worker activists of migrant deaths in detention or from suicide. It is not simply the case that the minjung has disappeared. Our slogans. which they found to be too broad and fatalistic. The fact that migrants are able to mobilize these repertoires suggests that these styles of radical . Jeong 2004). as have some of the more traumatic tactics such as self-immolation. many of the movement’s practices have remained a core part of everyday protest culture. Kim 2006) argue the goals and some of the cultural repertoire of the minjung movement have survived and have provided a basis from which to critique those gov- ernments that have emerged from the democracy movement. After a particularly brutal immigration crackdown in 2004. puts it: ‘They had an inspiring history. For example. Jamie Doucette 219 democratization.

After 1987. until 1997. who decided to run separate presidential campaigns. which pushed for peaceful engagement and reunification with North Korea. Because of internal division between its two key politicians. The tactic was common particularly in the early 1990s when this movement was undergoing strong repression. Korean labour relations and the politics of democratization While the 1987 democratic uprising opened up the political system to competition at the electoral level. The solution of the newly elected Kim Dae Jung govern- ment and the IMF was to choke the economy of credit so that only the largest firms survived. separate from the old regime. they do not commit acts such as self-immolation. Since 2002. Kim gave in to these calls and used a tripartite commission of labour. Since the financial market rather than the old bank-based system of industrial lending was now seen as the main source of capital for industrial investment. this tactic has mostly been used in irregular worker struggles. which provoked Korea’s exposure to the Asian financial crisis of 1997–1998. the dilemmas this restructuring has created for ongoing efforts to reconfigure South Korea’s political economy and the place of labour within it. tactics such as self-immolation were common in the nation- alist student movement. business and government to come up with an agreement to allow firms to lay off workers or hire temporary ones in . both foreign and domestic firms argued that they needed to cut back on labour costs to be more attractive to investors. the democratization of labour rela- tions has been a more difficult struggle. in particular. the tactic has been more common among labour unionists and anti-globalization activists. it has also been used by activists pro- testing against environmental destruction caused by a number of large infrastructure projects. In the last decade. While migrant labour unionists commemorate the deaths and suicides of migrant workers in the manner in which minjung martyrs are com- memorated. the democracy movement was unable to elect a fully civil- ian government. Kim Young Sam’s ‘ssegyehwa’ or ‘globalization’ reforms in 1993 phased out policy loans and liberalized short-term borrowing on foreign mar- kets.220 Tactics in a Post-Minjung Era? protest and the residual structure of feeling they summon forth can be a powerful tool for creating solidarity across ethnicities. Furthermore.1 The recent resurgence of the tactic amongst irregular labourers in particular can be related to the challenges posed by neoliberal restructuring since the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and. This led to a deep contraction and diminished rates of economic growth.

the attempt by democratic governments to gain greater hegemony by partially embracing neoliberal reforms has created fissures between the labour movement and politicians from the pro-democratic bloc. working conditions and. As prominent civic activist and critical soci- ologist Cho (2008) argues: The breakdown of the former developmental dictatorship brought with it … two ‘liberations’: one is liberation of civil society and people themselves from the authoritarian repression. Doucette 2010a). If the former armed itself with the discourse of democracy. The two labour federations participated in this agreement. Much of this pressure of liberalization can be interpreted as an attempt by employers to discipline an increasingly mobilized union movement that amplified its struggle after the June 1987 protests. eventu- ally. eventually leading to the establishment of a national confederation of democratic trade unions: the Korean Confederation of Trade Union (KCTU). (Cho 2008: 29) Worse yet. the government refused to renego- tiate and passed the reforms agreed on in the deal. led to the formation of independent unions. and led to greater coordination between enterprise unions. and the other is that of the market and business from the strong dirigiste state control. The Great Worker Struggle of Autumn 1987 was an intense wave of labour disputes that resulted in the improvement of wages. however. This struggle and those that followed in the coming years strengthened the role of labour in large workplaces. This has led many leading progressive intellectuals to argue that democratization has failed to incorporate the interests of the working class into mainstream politics (Choi 2005. The KCTU is an independent counterpoint to the pro-government Federation of Korean . Koo 2001: 157). their efforts to democratize labour relations were constrained by calls for deregulation that strength- ened oligopolistic powers. the latter with that of de-regulation and market autonomy. Jamie Doucette 221 exchange for a moderate increase in welfare spending and a restructur- ing of the national medical insurance and pension systems. While the democratic transition gave social movements greater civic freedoms to advocate for social change. The liberated market and business could strengthen themselves enough to dominate and colonize the society and politics in a new way. In a period of just three short months. but it was rejected by the unions’ rank and file. Korea saw more instances of recorded labour strife than for the entire period of post-war industrialization that began in 1961 (cf.

the FKTU remains a pro-government union. The FKTU was itself established as an alternative to the left-wing national workers’ organization. workplaces with over 300 workers are home to 72% of all unionized workers (Korea Labour Foundation 2009). labour relations faced strict surveillance and were highly militaristic. work- ers were protected by strong labour standards. Nonetheless. which was established as an anti-communist union federation in 1946. Since the Great Worker Struggle of 1987. the actual enterprise unions that make up the majority of the KCTU are administratively oriented toward their large workplaces. as it is difficult for organized labour to nego- tiate with a single voice. During this time. On the one hand.222 Tactics in a Post-Minjung Era? Trade Unions (FKTU). and has recently entered agreements with the conservative government to not demand wage increases or engage in strike action (Hankyoreh 2011c). such as the Seoul Railroad Workers’ Union. This has created problems in processes of social partnership such as tripartite negotiations between labour. Thus it is difficult for the KCTU to represent smaller workplaces and the many low-paid and irregular workers. and Korea’s authoritarian labour relations system was directed through the FKTU (Gray 2011: 310). Although by law. many enterprise unions have left the FKTU and joined the KCTU over the last 15 years. the FKTU has had to compete with the militant labour movements that eventually became the KCTU as well as contend with grassroots pressure with the union for it to take a more political stance and participate in periodic collective action. First and foremost. During the authoritarian period until 1987. Although there are many progressive labour activists in the KCTU that came of age in the grassroots labour struggles of the 1980s and 90s. these were rarely enforced and workers were easily hired and fired and coerced to work long shifts in often unsafe conditions. organized labour is dispro- portionally oriented towards large enterprises. during the 1990s there were factions of . there has been a long struggle to improve working conditions. that sprung up at the end of the colonial period and was viewed as a threat to the postcolonial regime by rightist conservatives and the US military govern- ment. It also has internal fractures and fissures that are important to recognize. This creates a strategic problem that influences the strategy of progressive labour unionists in the KCTU in the context of democ- ratization. Cheonpyeong. After democratization. state and business. Cheonpyeong’s leadership was arrested or killed. As a result. while smaller workplaces where the majority of Koreans are employed remain poorly organized. The survival of the FKTU is not the only obstacle for the democratic union movement.

grassroots factions of the KCTU (Gray 2007). but the government recognized it as a fait accompli and proceeded to intro- duce its ‘grand social compromise’. ‘skilled’ complex assembly workers on the floor of heavy industries. This faction has been actively involved in supporting irregular workers’ struggles. on the other hand. which has led many workers at large factories to identify with each other based on occupational skill and/or company affiliation instead of their status as wage labourers. In 1998. KCTU activists have not been able to effectively mobilize as much support for these struggles as they had been able to in the past. as Gray (2007) documents. this is due to the loosening of authoritarian controls over labour. This deal was negoti- ated by the union leadership in exchange for formal legal recognition of the KCTU. Other factions. particularly in cases of illegal subcontracting where a large company hires workers on a temporary basis from a firm over which they retain ownership. Jamie Doucette 223 labour unionists that wanted to take advantage of new opportunities for strategic engagement with the state through social partnership policies. This compromise only allowed the use of irregular workers in specific sectors. In some cases this disjuncture has led to an increased sense of desperation and violent confrontations in the workplace. In the past the subordination of independent unions per se encouraged greater solidarity among these workers. but also in other cases such as wildcat strikes by female service workers who have been irregularly employed in advance of new labour legislation introduced in 2007. and the conditions under which workers must be regularized were unclear. Within a few years. in some cases irregular workers’ struggles within the same firm as organized workers have been met with apathy from co-workers because of distinctions in skill: such as the percep- tion of support staff in canteens and simple assembly line workers as ‘unskilled’ vs. they were forced into an agreement on labour restructuring that would allow the expansion of temporary and irregular work. the experience of the unions has not been much better. the . felt that the democratic union movement should aim for a wider mobilization of workers across industries before increasing its presence in social dialogue lest such agreements exclude the many rank and file workers that were not presently represented by the large unions. Indeed. It was later rejected by the KCTU when put to a vote. when it came to actual tripar- titism and social dialogue during the 1997–1998 financial crisis. Finally. Many in this faction criticized the ‘minjung unionism’ of the more mili- tant. Partially. and in other cases it has encouraged workers to look for new allies among other civic groups such as the feminist movement and small grassroots political parties.

intense policing and the harassment of union organizers. the KCTU walked out of the Economic and Social Development Commission (Korea’s main tripartite organization). part- time and contract work across industries. while the ruling parties seem content to expand labour market restructuring. In summary. the most difficult labour struggles have centred around the use of irregular workers. However. In addition to outsourcing and disguised employment there has been a proliferation of temporary. There has also been an emergence of corporatism at the large.000 irregular workers work alongside 20. Not all irregular work in Korea follows this model. in the fall of 2006. Robinson (2011) notes that this form of in-house subcontracting and other forms of illegal hire are a model that Korean companies like HHI have employed at their branches in other countries like the Philippines.224 Tactics in a Post-Minjung Era? government came under pressure to both expand the employment of irregular work and to clarify the conditions under which workers must be regularized so as to protect irregular workers from working indefinitely for the same company without the same rights and benefits as other workers. Vicious Cycles of Labour Protest Since 1997. some of which have left the KCTU. one of three bills that became part of the then Roh government’s labour relations road map (see Doucette 2010b). well-paid enterprise unions like Hyundai and others. . as well as individual workers’ livelihoods. This has made it more difficult to organize regular workers to support the struggles of irregular workers and led to conflict between these workers in large workplaces.000 regular employees (cf. Without an agreement on the principle of equal pay for equal work. Liem 2010). the labour movement seems strategically divided between efforts to represent workers in tripartite negotiations and its continuing efforts to mobilize unrepresented work- ers. resulting in often desperate cycles of protest. both of these efforts have been constrained by the expan- sion of irregular work. however. however. which chips away at older solidarities and union density. with labour unionism restricted by compulsory arbitration. with newer service industries and big-box retailers employing a large amount of irregular and mostly female workers. the government was able to sign an agreement with the pro- government FKTU allowing for the expansion of irregular work under the Non-Regular Workers Protection Bill. particularly at those workplaces that employ large numbers of in-house subcontractors such as Hyundai Heavy Industries where nearly 10.

While female farmers have com- mitted suicide in protest at high levels of rural indebtedness and the government’s lowering of agricultural quotas and subsidies. Chun uses the term ‘legal liminal- ity’ to refer to the ambiguous legal space these workers occupy as they strive to be reclassified as regular workers or. it seems that in labour struggles it is a tactic more commonly used by men. There are at least four definitions of irregular work commonly used by the OECD. which totalled irregular employment as 57% of workers at surveyed firms for 2005.000 migrant workers who work for low wages under the Employment Permit System. A further drawback is that these numbers do not include the roughly 650. and d) employment survey data based on contract duration and self-reporting. This created tension in restructured enterprises that had hired women workers back as irregular or illegal dispatch workers after 1997. the male-dominated KCTU was slow to embrace the issue as a major rallying point. The struggles of irregular women workers after 1997 were the first to prioritize the expansion of non-regular work in a prominent manner. 2007). c) a hybrid tally combining the number of temporary. ben- efits or enhanced legal recognition of their status. but also hard to fully measure. casual and day labourers as a percentage of total wage and salary earners and the number of regular workers without pension or benefits. they have not so far employed self-immolation or suicide as a form of protest. self- employed workers. win rights. Jamie Doucette 225 By moderate estimates. the proportion of irregular workers in South Korea peaked by the end of 2005 at around 48% (Grubb et al. as Chun (2009) notes. However. In 2003 . While the struggles of female irregular workers have been militant and employed tactics such as hunger strikes and workplace occupations. b) workers employed under a year and not paid bonus and overtime. In particular. Unions prefer to calculate the number using definition c). the increasing use of the tactic in irregular workers’ strug- gles began after the government announced that it was seeking to intro- duce a ‘non-regular workers protection law’ which would both expand and codify the terms of irregular employment back in 2003. These range from a definition based on a) the number of temporary. the Korean government and the union movement. The tactic seems to have a more masculine use. undocumented workers or the large numbers of precarious. casual and day labourers as a percentage of total wage and salary earners. This reveals that the incidence of irregular employment is quite high. These numbers have been the object of some contention as perhaps being too moderate. making Korea an economy with close to the highest incidence of irregu- lar employment in the OECD. vice versa.

. the use of damage claims and facilitate seizure of workers’ assets to discourage labour mobiliza- tion.1 Monetary amounts of pending damage claims and provisional seizure of assets Year Amount 2004 Total: 110. Technically.09 billion won (roughly 100 million US) in 41 private and public workplaces 2011 Total: >100 billion won (75 billion won in 5 largest workplaces) Source: KCTU (2005) and Hankyoreh (2011b). And on the 26th. burned himself. Claims on unionists multiplied in 2003 and 2004 across both private and public workplaces (see Table 12. . as a result of a new form of punitive anti-labour tactic adopted by the government and business. Dalho Bae. committed suicide by burning himself. so for many irregular workers there is a sense of betrayal at their unionized colleagues for not supporting their strug- gles. also committed suicide.1). Korean labour law forbids employers from claiming damages against a union or workers arising from collective bargaining or other industrial action. There is another key reason for this increase in suicides since 2003 – that is. the chief of Gwangju-Chonnam branch of labor union at Korea Labor Welfare Corporation. On the 23rd of October. He died on October 31. a ship-constructor. As Jang (2004a) reports: In January 2003.. the tactic is also common in smaller sectors like construction and transport where there are also high levels of disguised employment and where workers are regarded as owner-operators even though they work in precarious conditions with very little bargaining power. Many of these firms were home to difficult labour struggles in the 1990s. It is important to note here that many of these protest suicides were by irregular workers at large firms. He died on November 17.226 Tactics in a Post-Minjung Era? alone there was a large number of self-immolations and protest suicides. the chief of the metal labor union branch at Hanjin Heavy Industry Co. and regular workers at these firms enjoy decent benefits. Haenam Lee. On October 17 Juik Kim. a 47-year-old worker at Doosan Heavy Industry Co. Yongseok Lee. committed suicide after a 129 day-siege on the jeep-crane. the chief of the chapter of the irregular laborers’ union at Saewontech Co. Table 12. Though many of the suicides have been at large firms. namely.

2000). These claims have reached as high as $US9. For example. Jamie Doucette 227 Jang (2004a) notes. real estate. Jang (2004a) also notes that since 2002 companies’ compensation suits have been extended to regular union members.6m for a single unionist. their families and individuals who have acted as legal guarantors for these workers. but also to the destruction of fami- lies and. they become unintentional violators of the law.5 million won ($1250) (Jang 2004a). If unions do not accept it and strike in response. lives as well’. many of the unionists involved or their family members have been hospitalized for depression or are facing the threat of divorce (Hankyoreh 2011a). his monthly aver- age salary had been about 1. In that year alone the courts made claims upon or attempted to seize nearly $US110m in unionist’s assets (KCTU 2005). As the KCTU (2007) put it: ‘the seriousness of the claims and seizures lies in the fact that they lead to not only an infringement of … union activities. The OECD’s Employment. their actions become illegal. In recent strikes. Around 25% of these claims were against public sector unionists. automobiles and the deposit money (often several hundred thousand dollars) on their apartment leases. Aggregate data on the extent of damage suits and provisional seizure of assets is difficult . This shows it was not simply a tactic adopted by private firms alone. however. Before that. the government authori- ties can intervene in a dispute between a company and its laborers and decide an arbitration award. These include the labelling of strikes against industrial restructuring. privatization and trade liberalization as illegal political strikes. that the courts have decided that ‘illegal strikes’ should not be protected by this law: The difference between a legal and an illegal strike is superficial: If a labor union violates government procedures even in a trivial way. These claims have been used to seize workers’ salaries. ultimately. One unionist who committed suicide at Hanjin Heavy Industries in 2003 received less than $100 a month at the point of his suicide. as well as labelling strikes by irregular workers as unlawful. This policy has been seen by many as a form of col- lective punishment as it jeopardizes workers’ families’ living conditions as well as individual salaries. The use of damage claims and provisional seizure increased signifi- cantly in 2004 and has remained a constant feature of labour conflict since then. Labour and Social Affairs Committee repeatedly expressed the view that the definition of ‘unlawful activi- ties’ in Korea is unusually broad and encompasses union activities that would be regarded as lawful in most OECD countries (OECD.

with the company using damage claims to repress a strike but causing a newer. even though it has led to the protest suicide of a number of union activists. not much has changed since 2004. During the strike.4m. In 2009 Park Jong-tae. In December 2011. This shows the practice is still a common feature of labour relations. especially in the case of damage claims and facilitate seizures. use of workplace bodyguards to repress union activity and lack of workplace accident compensation (ATMN 2011). with around 910 union leaders and members at these firms targeted by such claims. leaving a suicide note saying that being an irregular worker was ‘a frightening thing. Hankyoreh (2011a) reported that the total amount of compensation claims in five of the largest workplace conflicts amounted to $US69. a union of ‘self-employed’ contractors.’ Unfortunately. The self-immolation of a non-regular workers’ union member at Hyundai Motors in 2010 was more recently followed by another self-immolation in January 2012 by another unionist over long working hours and the lack of a timeline on the regularization of subcontracting workers who .228 Tactics in a Post-Minjung Era? to come by. many of them from suicide (Ohmynews 2011). February 2007). illegal dispatch. SsangYong’s union were facing over 23 billion won in damage claims for these strikes and protests by mid-2011 (Hankyoreh 2011a). the Hanjin Shipbuilding Company in 2004 regularized all its irregular workers after the second suicide by one of its shipbuilders. Workers there were protesting over long hours. a Korean Construction Workers’ Union member committed self-immolation dur- ing a strike for collective bargaining rights by subcontracted electricians at Youngjin Electrical Company. the result of these strategies is to generate a cycle of strife that ends in stalemate. took his life in protest at redun- dancies against the union. chapter head of the Kwangju chapter of Korea Cargo Transport Workers‘ Union (KCTWU). This cycle tends to go on until an informal agreement or amnesty is reached between businesses and their workers and the seizures allowed to expire (Interview. This often leads to new violent protests. These suicide pro- tests and other acts of desperation by irregular workers and union organ- izers continue to occur every year. often more violent one by the severity of the seizures. have ended with the political suicides of impover- ished workers or persecuted union organizers. especially in the case of irregular workers’ struggles. while at other times it can sometimes lead to a settling of labour conflict. According to Jang (2004b). Society for the Abolishment of Irregular Work. Many of these cases. but as of the spring of 2011. The struggle over redundancies at SsangYong Motors has led to 22 deaths of workers and their family members since 2009. Often. a worker hung him- self from his crane.

but also . this use of new repressive forms of labour control coupled with the expansion of irregular labour highlights the fact that the traumatic responses of Korean workers is not simply a national issue. If the labour patterns of the 1970s and 1980s that Chun Tae-Il protested against were part of an initial integration into the post- war global political economy through state-controlled investment and labour repression. neoliberal recomposition of the local–global nexus that resonates with the creation of other flexibilized labour regimes in East Asia. but is really one located at the global–local nexus between the Korean and global economy. the expansion of irregular work and the use of new forms of labour control such as damage claims and preventative seizures of individual labour unionist’s assets and livelihoods has expanded under a government whose key politicians were once part of the broader minjung movement. Conclusion The survival of minjung tactics of social protest such as self-immolation is informed by the ways in which the challenges raised by neoliberalism and the difficult struggle to reform Korean labour relations. male and female. this intersection of democratization and neoliberalism has created a situation in which labour occupies a very precarious place. Jamie Doucette 229 were ruled to be illegal dispatch employees (Hankyoreh 2012). such as the strategies and the tactics of the minjung movement. self-immolations and other traumatic events will continue to animate the culture of Korean labour protest. If Chun Tae-Il’s self-immolation began the modern age of the minjung in 1970. Finally. it is particularly important for labour scholars to examine how these regimes are shaped not only by the irregular employ- ment practices and preferences of various fractions of capital. Unfortunately. It seems that as long as high levels of irregular work and illegal dispatch. the con- tinuation of the tactic shows that not all of the goals of this movement have been achieved. The con- tinuation of this traumatic tactic demonstrates how historical structures of feeling and repertoires of protest. native and migrant workers speaks to a new. continue to shape the present in a residual manner and point to the ways in which the process of democratization has not been fully extended to Korean labour relations. the recent transformation of Korean labour relations from authoritarian developmentalism to a more market-oriented sys- tem of uneven labour relations between larger and small firms. regular and irregular. as well as repression of labour conflict through damage claims and other means remain. In the current conjuncture. While authoritarian government has receded.

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as late as 1963. Furthermore. Becker notes the Supreme Court. as the NLRA terms industrial action. argued that the NLRA had upheld a system of collective bargain- ing ‘with the right to strike at its core’.13 Striking Out in America: Is There an Alternative to the Strike? Kim Moody Introduction ‘The strike is the essence of collective labour activity’.1 Following an analysis of the roots of the near abandonment of the strike weapon. The number of strikes has fallen from an average of over 5. which severely limits workers’ ‘self help’. Yet. Furthermore. It will argue that the central expla- nation for reduced strike activity lies not just in the US legal regime. but in the dynamics of class conflict that these trends have encouraged or enabled. or in the ‘global’ economic trends that disadvantage workers. beginning in the 1980s. Craig Becker (1994: 351). The National Labour Relation Act (NLRA) of 1935. the use of the strike has declined from year to year. the chapter will then discuss the various alternatives. wrote former Clinton National Labour Relation Board recess appointee and legal scholar. which established the legal basis of collective bargain- ing for most of the private sector in the US. in examining the alternative forms of indus- trial action developed by union members and leaders in the last couple of decades. unequivocally guaranteed the right to strike. How could such a huge decline in the use of labour’s ‘only true weapon’ (Logan 2008: 171) be explained? Were there alternative forms of industrial action that workers and their unions could deploy to pressure employers in the proc- ess of collective bargaining? This chapter examines the various forces behind this decline as it relates to workers and unions in the private sector. the chapter will argue that the very forces militating against 233 .000 a year in the 1970s to an annual average of fewer than 300 in the 2000s (see Table 13.1).

are too complex to do justice to here. the ETUI attributes this decline in part to the shift from manufacturing to service industries. The international nature of the recent wave of decline in strike activ- ity in more developed economies since the late 1970s has been con- firmed by two recent studies. Each has a theory of just what brings about an upsurge or its abatement. A similar study of strike trends by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) (Vandaele 2011: 8) showed that the levels of days-not- worked due to strikes in the 15 core countries of the EU fell by 40% from the 1990s to the 2000s. a rise before and after World War One. followed by a slump in the 1890s. job losses. the empirical fact of waves of worker militancy is difficult to deny. and again in the 1960s and 1970s. However.234 Striking Out in America workers withdrawing their labour in an industrial dispute present prob- lems for the successful exercise of these alternatives. it also notes that strike levels have declined in both manu- facturing and services since the 1990s in Western Europe. This would appear to reveal a strong change in the behaviour of European capital in the vortex of European- wide market integration. As in many studies. but both see the first labour upsurge in the major capitalist countries in the 1880s. in turn. The study speculates that such strikes as still occur may be defensive in nature as ‘workers resist wage restraint. strikes. labour unrest. followed. fell by 80% from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Silver (2003) emphasizes shifts in production systems and geographic location as well as the rhythms of accumulation and the impact of World Wars. and their critiques. This shift to neo-liberalism in the EU has been . another upswing in the 1930s and 1940s. An ILO study (Perry and Wilson 2004: 37) shows that strike activity in 38 nations. Silver 2003. Clawson 2003). Silver 2003: 127). The upsurge of the 1960s and 1970s was the last to date (Kelly 1998: 9. The pictures painted by Silver and Kelly differ somewhat. by a downswing in the 1920s. measured by an index based on days-not-worked during strikes. These theories. work intensification and so on’ (Vandaele 2011: 30). Kelly (1998: 83–107) relates periods of work- ers’ mobilization to the movements of Kontratieff long waves of eco- nomic growth and decline. indicating that more than deindustrialization is at work (Vandaele 2011: 26–9). However. International trends in strikes and union upsurge As a number of analyses have noted. and union growth and renewal come and go in waves (Kelly 1998. and the underlying changes in the economies of the developed countries in these periods are undoubtedly a major factor.

It is also larger than the drop in union membership and density in the US during those years.000 8. 2011–2015. must be made. Nevertheless. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) does report all strikes. One explanation for this above average decline in strikes lies in the legal environment that governs labour relations in the US.254 27. In 1982. the Bureau of Labor Statistics stopped counting all strikes. and duration Decade Members Density Strikes Duration (calendar days) 1970s 16. The second is the distinct context of labour in the United States. perhaps especially that of capital. strikes. It is not difficult to discern that glo- balization and neo-liberal marketization lie behind this trend. Lewin (1986: 244).000 25% 5.1 Average annual private sector union membership. The NLRA Table 13. Kim Moody 235 noted and protested by the European Trade Union Confederation (2011) in its Strategy and Action Plan. USDOC Statistical Abstract of the United States 1982–83. The notion of waves in strike activity. Great economic trends affect that behaviour. but it is the actors in industrial or class conflict who pick from available strategies and tactics in this on-going strug- gle over the fruits of production. a comparison of the aver- age annual number of strikes in the 2000s with those in the 1970s in Table 13. and USBLS Union Membership 2000–2009 and FMCS Annual Reports 2000–2010. First the behaviour of the par- ties in the employment relationship. greatly influences whether strikes are viable. recording only strikes of 1.7 2000s 9. Two qualifications. density.000 or more workers (Perry and Wilson 2004: 10–14). .074. however. This is a much greater drop than that measured in Europe by the ETUI and significantly higher than the ILO measure of 38 countries. would seem to be con- firmed at least in the negative. to which we now turn. but does not report the days-not-worked measure used in the two recent international studies cited above.7% 285 64.500.1 shows a sharp drop of 95%.9 % change −45% −65% −95% +134% Sources: Troy (1986: 81). Mayer (2004: 22). Undermining of the strike in the US It is difficult to make a precise comparison between the fall in strike activity internationally and that in the US because figures for days-not- worked during strikes have not been available since 1981. then.

in 1938 the Supreme Court found that the employer had a right to hire permanent replacement workers during a legitimate strike—an act that meant the strikers had no guarantee of returning to their jobs once the strike ended. one NLRB lawyer argued that if employers were allowed to bring in permanent replacements ‘it would destroy all unions. as one would expect.S. of which there had been over a thousand in 1936–1937. which banned sit-down or sit-in strikes—again on the basis of common-law property rights (Pope 2004: 520–6). Human Rights Watch also concluded that ‘many of the features of U. not just from statutory deficiencies’ (Compa 2000: 17). of course. labor law and practice that counter international norms result from court-fashioned doctrine. The next Supreme Court decision limiting strike activity came in 1939 in the Fansteel case. In the first such case. the judiciary has in fact elevated ‘the state common- law rights of employers over the federal statutory rights of workers’. 20). abolish all efforts at bargaining and emasculate all strikers …’ (in Logan 2008: 172–3). Its Section 7 specifically grants the right to ‘concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and activities’. no sooner had the Supreme Court upheld the Act in 1937 than it began the long process of whittling away the very rights sections 7 and 13 spelt out. while Section 13 states that nothing in the Act ‘shall be construed so as either to interfere with or impede or diminish in any way the right to strike …’ (Schwartz 1999: 10. In other words. from the employers. Yet. Court-made law is. above all. These common-law rights were. Mackay has made the strike a highly risky proposition in most industrial settings. the right to possess and pro- tect private property. Concerning the major court decisions that would undermine worker rights to organize and strike. a closer look at them is necessary. As these court decisions also impact the various alternatives to the strike. As early as 1936. Pope (2004: 518–19) argues that although it is generally accepted that federal statutes can only be trumped by the US Constitution.236 Striking Out in America guaranteed both the right of workers to organize unions and to strike or engage in other ‘concerted activities’. initiated by one or another of the parties to a dispute covered by the NLRA. known as Mackay Radio & Telegraph. While this may be somewhat of an exaggeration. were the major means by which both the new industrial unions and older craft unions forced union recognition out of giant corporations and smaller . the bulk of actual labour law in the US has been initiated by corporation lawyers and crafted by the courts out of the reach of normal democratic practice and union influence. Most of the challenges to the various aspects of strike activity come. Sit-down strikes.

Fansteel would also be used as a precedent for declaring other forms of industrial action such as slow- downs. Becker 1994: 351–71). As Pope (2004: 533–4) describes the change: ‘a new generation of managers had begun to replace those who had experienced the mass picket lines of the 1940s’. By the mid-to late-1980s. Yet. and partial strikes ‘unprotected’ (Pope 2004: 526. intermittent. it narrowed the definition of a strike to one where workers both stopped work altogether and left the workplace. management began responding to falling profit rates in what Davis (1986: 117–27) has called ‘The Management Offensive of 1958–63’. along with all the court findings that followed. for the first time. The collapse in the frequency of strikes came between 1979 and 1981 when they dropped by almost half. This has implications for some alternative non- strike forms of ‘concerted activities’. Renewed management aggression What had occurred was a change in the terms of industrial conflict as management altered its outlook and strategy. Indeed. the weapons the courts had handed them four decades earlier. The downward drift in strikes would continue into the economic recovery of the 1980s as employers of all sizes grasped. man- agers increasingly said they would consider using permanent replace- ment workers in the event of a strike (Logan 2008: 177). Yet. far from crippling the strike. This entailed management of the big corporations taking a harder position on wages and attempting to regain authority in the workplace. Even well before employ- ing permanent replacements. meaning that workers could be dismissed for engaging in such ‘unprotected’ activity. as profit rates fell sharply and international competition intensified. In addition. Fansteel made sit-down strikes both illegal and ‘unprotected’ under the NLRA. Kim Moody 237 employers alike (Preis 1964: 62–3). The management offensive would increase throughout the 1960s and 1970s. partly the consequence of the recession of those years (US Bureau of the Census 1982–83: 410). from the end of World War Two until the 1980s. management’s aggressive actions in those years brought on an increase in both official and unofficial (‘unprotected’) strikes until the tide was broken in the wake of the 1980–2 recession and the wave of union . however.2 Mackay and Fansteel. strike activity remained high in the 1950s and rose dramatically from the mid-1960s until the late 1970s. both narrowed the definition of ‘protected’ strike activity and rendered the strike in a number of forms a dangerous venture for any union and its members. employ- ers seldom introduced permanent replacements (Pope 2004: 533–4).

178). Far from bringing a relaxation on capital’s part. the threat of strikes remained fairly high. From 1983 onward.238 Striking Out in America concessions brought on by the 1979 Chrysler bailout—even before Reagan broke the PATCO strike in August 1981 (Moody 2010: 105–46). Increased work intensification through the introduction of lean production methods. By the late 1980s it was not just financially desperate businesses that deployed permanent replacements.500 and 2. The secret of this prolonged recovery of profitability was that it was based largely on wage compression and an increased effort bargain extracted from a retreating labour movement (Moody 2012). No doubt the era of neo-liberalism that soon emerged encouraged the newer generation of managers to press the unions harder for con- cessions. but. indicating that union negotiators still thought these threats credible. unions granted almost continuous contract concessions. with the usual ups and downs. According to the surveyed union negotiators. Three surveys of between 1. McNally 2011: 46–9). and 2003 provide an insight into the extent of the use of permanent replacements during collective bargaining (see Table 13. The actions referred to could have taken place in the two years leading up to each of the three surveys. perhaps ironically. until the ‘Great Recession’ of 2008 (Shaikh 2010: 44–63. this encouraged a more aggressive stance. Mohun 2006: 347–8. Capital. And while international competition no doubt pressured many companies into seeking concessions. and retail (Moody 2012). however. 1999. was the weakness of organized labour and the increased willingness of its leaders to grant concessions. labour-management cooperation schemes. 1982 saw a recovery and the return of profitability that would last. HRM techniques. and a long string of defeated strikes in which permanent replacement workers played a key role all accelerated in the 1980s. The actual use of the strike and other forms of . hotels. had reorganized and regrouped both economically and politically during the 1970s to dramatically reduce the power of organized labour (Moody 1988: 127– 46).000 union and management negotiators conducted by the University of Massachusetts for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) in 1996. for its part. it was the very weakness of the unions that encouraged the accelerating use of Mackay by the mid-1980s (Pope 2004: 534). What the end of the strike wave of the ‘long 1970s’ revealed. but ‘financially successful firms that had provoked strikes by demanding sweeping reductions in wages and benefits established through collective agreements’ (Logan 2008: 175–6. the use of replacement work- ers had spread to ‘landlocked’ industries such as newspapers.2).

* Includes lockouts and other job actions. threats of replacements. while those with employer-provided pensions fell by 7. The cost to labour The impact on collective bargaining was predictable. and strike frequency all fell. though relatively uncommon in terms of overall bargaining. The value of pensions also fell as those . Benefits. Although it varied from year to year. they were falling drastically from a high of 9. but it rose from an average of 51 days in the second half of the 1990s to 64 days in the 2000s (FMCS 2000. 1999. they levelled-off at 3%. strikes. declined in the period as would be expected. In the 1990s. 2008a. 1996. 2010a.7% in 1988 and 3. also receded from 1979 onwards. Management threats to deploy permanent replacement workers were less frequent than strike threats but grew somewhat over this eight-year period.6% in 1981 to 2.2% between 1949 and 1965. use of replacements in collective bargaining.2 Strike threats. If this survey reflects wider developments. especially health insurance and pensions.8% from 1979 to 2006. appears to be frequent and growing in proportion to actual strikes.8% in 2000 to 1.9% to 10. Kim Moody 239 Table 13. 2009. By the 1980s.6% in 2010. falling from 3. (2004a. growing much higher in the 1970s as both inflation and strike levels rose. from 2000 through to 2010 an average of 22% of agree- ments had no first-year increase (Bureau of National Affairs 2000–2007. The actual use of permanent replacements. 2006. job actions. 2004b).4% in 1989. Median wage increases for the first year of negotiated set- tlements ranged from 5. 2010). it is no surprise that the number of strikes dropped from 372 in 1996 to 277 in 2003 and 159 in 2010. Those covered by any employer-provided health insurance fell from 69% of the workforce in 1979 to 55% in 2004. 2008b. 2010b). As union mem- bership. The intensification of capital’s assault on unions is also suggested by the fact that not only had the duration of strikes become longer since the 1970s. however. rising from one in eight in 1996 to three out of four in 2003. so did the size of wage settlements. and 2003 (union answers) Year Strike threat Strike* Threat of replacement Use of replacements 1996 N/A 8% 14% 1% 1999 39% 6% 13% 2% 2003 40% 4% 18% 3% Sources: Kochan et al. density.

a different search for increased union power began in the unlikely setting of the south. including the unsuccessful effort by Clinton to ban perma- nent replacement workers (Moody 1988: 134. At Farah Manufacturing in Texas in . however. including the changing economic circumstances that may lead employers ‘to act in potentially illegal ways to protect their profitabil- ity’ she concludes that ‘workers are not choosing between striking and filing unfair labor practice charges’ (McCammon 2001: 156–60). now largely bereft of the ‘threat effect’ and wage spill-over unions had once provided (Freeman and Medoff 1984: 151–4). Perhaps the clearest evidence that capital was getting its way not only in labour costs. These trends extended to the entire workforce. 2009: 86). 2011: 60).3% to 73. however.4% (Mishel et al. Logan 2008: 183–8). McCammon (2001: 143–52) asked. In the 1970s. 1993 and 2008–2009 failed to win any legis- lative relief. Each effort. whether ‘workers have substituted legal strategies for labor militancy in their attempts to organize and preserve unions?’ After extensive examination of the various circumstances that might lead to such a choice. 2009: 123). as opposed to defined contribution. labour’s share of GDP had risen from 68. real average weekly wages in private non-agricultural industries in 2010 remained 13% below those of 1973 (Council of Economic Advisers 2010: 246).9%. The search for alternatives—outside the workplace Noting the dramatic decline in the incidence of major strikes since the 1950s and the simultaneous rise in the frequency of unfair labour prac- tice (ULP) cases filed against employers with the NLRB. given the ‘increasing difficulty of using the strike’. pension plans dropped from 39% in 1980 to 18% (Mishel et al. From 2000 to 2009 productivity grew at more than twice the annual rate of real hourly compensation (Fleck et al. Despite some increases in the late 1990s and late 2000s. has been going on for some time. The result was a reversal of the long-term shift of national income toward labour. and mostly occur during organizing drives or first contract negotiations. but in the effort bargain as well.240 Striking Out in America covered by defined benefit. From 1959 to 1979. organized labour turned again and again to politics and the hope of labour law reform. but from 1979 to 2006 it fell to 70. it is unlikely that this form of ‘legal mobilization’ could be seen as a sub- stitute for the strike. Facing increased employer hostility on every front. in 1977–1987. was the enormous and growing gap between labour compensation and productivity. The search for possible alternatives. Given that ULPs are a very blunt instrument subject to endless delays.

The idea was to put public pressure on financial backers of the target company in order to force the company to recognize the union in the case of an organizing drive such as Stevens. Perry 1987: 61). but almost always involved pressure on board members of related financial institutions and often an intervention at the target firm’s stock holder meetings. deployed what he called the ‘corporate campaign’. The NLRB had ruled the FBS boycott an unfair labour practice. however. The Stevens campaign was largely successful.’ Again in 1988. In the 1980s. although only a third of Stevens’ products were sold directly to consumers. Louisiana-Pacific. it had no apparent impact and most locked-out workers judged it a mis- take (Ashby and Hawking 2009: 224). Staley in Illinois where Rogers picked State Farm Insurance as the target of the campaign. Kim Moody 241 the early 1970s and at J.P. where Rogers had some success in that the CEO of New York Life resigned from the Stevens’ Board (Rachleff 1993: 53. Based on his experience at Stevens. Rogers went a step further suggesting that the ‘corporate campaign’ could substi- tute for a strike (in Perry 1987: 1). Farrah and Stevens sold directly to the public. One early study described the Stevens campaign as ‘… a three pronged effort con- sisting of legal changes of unfair labor practices. but this approach could not effectively be applied to companies making producer goods. When the Industrial Union Department of the AFL- CIO picked up the idea in 1985. Many corporate campaigns also included a consumer boycott. at Tate & Lyle subsidiary A. and Phelps-Dodge mainly supplied other businesses. a Rogers-run corporate campaign failed to pre- vent defeat at International Paper (Juravich and Bronfenbrenner 1999: 70–1). In the early 1990s. of course. it didn’t work. a consumer boycott of Stevens’ products. E. the concept would be broadened. Later. it saw its version of the ‘coordinated corporate campaign’ as reinforcing ‘a well-prepared and well-conducted strike when necessary’. in the BASF campaign. When the same tactic was applied against the First Bank System (FBS) during the Hormel strike in the mid-1980s. however. It was the latter aspect that was new. There was also a poten- tial problem with what amounted to a secondary boycott. working for the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. This had been the case at Stevens. and a corporate campaign designed to isolate Stevens from the rest of the business and financial community’ (in Perry 1987: 1). As Rachleff (1993: 76) observed: ‘FBS. Stevens in South Carolina in the late 1970s. whereas other targets of corporate campaigns such as BASF. the Board ruled that ‘use of a corporate campaign by a union to assist in meeting its goals at the bargaining table does not . Ray Rogers. remained available to Hormel throughout the struggle.

and the New Haven Community-Labour Alliance. while the latter two were strike-support organiza- tions (see Brecher and Costello 1990: passim). but rather on the consortium of individuals who had purchased the company from Kaiser shortly before negotiations began. The 1980s also saw the increasing use of labour–community coalitions such as those at Morse Tool. This partial victory owed much to the unusual fact that the major figure behind Ravenswood. and so on (La Botz 1991: 132–4). which represented the 1. also made use of allegations of company law-breaking in areas such as taxation. Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) at BASF. revelations of environmental damage. The first three were attempts to stop plant closings. Unlike Rogers’ campaigns. put together a multifaceted campaign to pressure the company to negotiate and end the lockout (Juravich and Bronfenbrenner 1999). the Austin United Support Group. and. the Van Nuys General Motors plant. The union managed to discover his hiding place in Switzerland and. the USW’s campaign at Ravenswood did not focus on the firm’s institutional financial backers. Rachleff 1993: 78. Unlike most earlier corporate campaigns. It is doubtful if the corporate campaign can be seen as a substitute for the strike. 75. such as that conducted by the Oil. the Steelworkers union (USW). was wanted by the US government on several counts of illegal trading.242 Striking Out in America violate the Act’ (Perry 1987: 44. the ‘corporate campaign’ was preceded by extensive and deep research on the financial and political vulnerabilities of the target firm. In all cases. organizing union demonstrations across much of Europe. Mark Rich. It also included an ‘end-users’ campaign directed at aluminium companies where the USW had members and at Stroh’s and Budweiser beer companies. The strike ended in 1992 after eighteen months in a settlement that included some concessions but was deemed at least a partial victory by the USW.700 Ravenswood workers. In this sense corporate cam- paigns are very different from the traditional union consumer boycotts. proof of financial wrong doing by one of the major owners. to demonstrate in his ‘own backyard’ (Juravich and Bronfenbrenner 1999: 110–19). eventually. this one went inter- national. dis- crimination. the Tri-State Conference on Steel. Eventually. several of the best-known examples occurred . Another corporate campaign that employed a wide variety of tactics was that against Ravenswood Aluminum Company. La Botz 1991: 129–30). Some corporate campaigns. with the help of European unions. The workers at this West Virginia firm were locked out in 1990. however. toxic materials. For one thing. These were not really substitutes for strikes.

and focused pressure on specific segments of the business as well as the more traditional financial backers. has seldom been seen in the US as a substitute for striking. Kim Moody 243 during and often as a response to strikes or lockouts. For one thing. and Staley. while the campaign can do little more than harass the employer. however. ‘an employer is able to continue operations during the corporate campaign’ (Burns 2011: 76). as a recent commentator on union tactics argued. By the 2000s. As Juravich and Bronfenbrenner point out (1999: 81): ‘The local leaders remained in Ravenswood. As Juravich (2007: 25–39) summarized the research behind what were now called ‘comprehensive’ or ‘strategic’ campaigns. Instead. and Staley. General-Dynamic/Electric Boat. Detroit Newspapers. including BASF. The company is free to hire permanent replacement workers. Indeed. as well as its international dimension. prac- tices. and connections. In the Steelworkers’ tradition. thus undermining the impact of the strike. It is for this reason that they often fail. which was to be ‘the first step in developing the kinds of multifaceted strategic campaigns that are necessary to win today’.000 union agreements expiring each year (FMCS 2010: 7) it is unlikely these sorts of complex campaigns . this research was ‘directed both at understanding how power flows in firms and iden- tifying vulnerabilities and potential points of leverage’. Another problem is that the more sophisticated and elaborate the cor- porate campaign the more it becomes controlled by professionals or high-level union officials. probably raised the standard for future campaigns. Furthermore. international coalitions of unions. outside pressure had evolved far beyond the early corpo- rate campaigns to include research into the global connections of target firms. and other social groups. Hormel. not by local union leaders or members. Detroit Newspapers. the record of falling real wages and contract con- cessions cited above are an indication of the limits of these strategies. Nor have most of them ended in clear- cut victories. Ravenswood. With over 20. strategic bargaining decisions remained an international prerogative. as strategic campaigns get more elaborate they become very expensive and time-consuming so that they can only be used sparingly even by most large unions. however.’ The research the USW did on Ravenswood and its various owners. The Ravenswood campaign was run by the team assembled by the USW leadership. Louisiana-Pacific. The global reach of many of these campaigns of this sort. as they did at Hormel. pressure on a variety of corporate decision-makers. it is seen as a way for unions representing workers in the same multinational corporation to lend each other sup- port in bargaining or organizing through pressure tactics.

such as work-to-rule. The Supreme Court had done the same in 1960 and 1976 (Boal 2005: 137). Like the ‘corporate campaign’.244 Striking Out in America could be mounted often enough to make a difference. completely changed the terms of engagement as replacement workers . management gave in and negotiated a concession-free agreement. singing labour songs during breaks. filing grievances en masse. It activated the membership and built strong solidarity. was assigned to help the 500 union members at Moog Automotive negotiate a new contract. The object was to reduce production. demanding meetings between large contingents of workers and man- agement. As most of the tactics involved. It was a collection of old and new tactics—from the work- to-rule at the centre of the strategy to wearing union T-shirts and but- tons. Staley locked the work- ers out (Ashby and Hawking 2009: 45–93). the point is to follow management direction to the letter. In this sense. are ‘unprotected’ during the life of the contract. Like so many companies at that time. a staffer for Region 5 of the United Auto Workers. ‘running the plant backwards’. and in 1984 at Bell Helicopter and LTV. a strike seemed too risky. Tucker organized an in-plant campaign for Allied Industrial Workers Local 837 at A. Staley in Decatur. of course. with the recession still on people’s minds. The strategy was a success and Tucker went on to apply the same approach in 1983 at Schwitzer Manufacturing. the legal status of work-to-rule campaigns is more ambiguous. as it is more generally known. Moody 1988: 238). a small auto parts company. a practice certain to reduce production. such as optional overtime. Tucker devised what he called the ‘in-plant strategy’. later known more generically as the ‘inside strategy’. the in-plant strategy has limitations. the union let the old one expire. Illinois. both major corporations (La Botz 1991: 117–25. Only voluntary tasks. Moog management was demanding deep concessions and. are refused. however. The lockout. etc. After almost six months. and 1998. The NLRB looked at the ‘difficult issues raised by work-to-rule’ and left them unde- cided in 1996. The search for alternatives—back to the workplace In 1981 Jerry Tucker. In 1992. had great advan- tages. And. The inside strategy. 1997. This is probably because there is no refusing of direct orders or company policies in a work-to-rule cam- paign. as Tucker put it. E. or. they cannot serve as an alternative to the strike in most bargaining settings. After nine months of ‘running the plant backward’ successfully. while slow-downs and other ‘partial strikes’ are not protected by the NLRA. Indeed.

but refusing to strike. As in the case of the corporate campaign at Hormel in the 1980s. The union also organized community . and followed company rules and procedures to the letter. Before the Pepsi campaign was able to produce a similar victory. however. the various tactics associated with the inside strategy have become almost normal ways to conduct a contract campaign. Most notable in this respect. wearing anti-concessions buttons and red T-shirts on the job. community support and bans on voluntary overtime have become part of the rep- ertoire of a number of unions. in fact. lunch-time rallies. had to fall back on two ‘outside’ campaigns—Ray Roger’s corporate campaign against State Farm. the company—now larger and known as Verizon—spent millions of dollars and recruited thousands of man- agers from around the company to act as temporary replacements in the event of a strike. This time. This vigorous campaign. now part of the United Paperworkers International Union due to a merger. refuse to renew its contract with Staley—no doubt worried about its largely blue-collar customer base. perhaps. and confronting NYNEX execu- tives at their annual shareholders’ meeting. The local union. did all the ‘five points of contact’ with customers. lunch-time picketing. the CWA began a ‘mobilization’ programme a year before the contract expired in 1989. the CWA did use an inside strategy as a substitute for a strike. And when the strike came. was not enough to head off a strike. In 2003. however. which was not working. the International Union pulled the plug on a fight that the local union activists felt could have been won (Ashby and Hawking 2009: 290–301). T-shirt days. and Tucker’s campaign against two of Staley’s most important customers. Miller did. Kim Moody 245 entered the plant and resumed production. carried out prolonged safety checks of all company vehicles day after day. whether it ends in a strike or not. This involved months of workplace meet- ings. For some unions. working-to-rule. the inside campaign at Staley made clear that such campaigns require the support of the national union. Miller Beer and Pepsi. it would last four months before beating the company’s demands for ‘cost sharing’ on health insurance (Early 1990: 4–10). brief in-place work stoppages (too brief to be illegal). Workers engaged in carefully planned work-to-rule efforts. well before the strike deadline. The application of various innovative tactics on the job is not lim- ited to highly coordinated efforts such as Tucker’s ‘running the plant backward’. The union surprised management by letting the traditional deadline pass and the contract lapse. is the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union. Facing an expected assault on its terms and conditions by the East Coast telecom giant NYNEX.

Teamsters at US Foods took advantage of an unfair labour practice strike of two workers in 2011 to conduct rolling strikes by over 2. Becker (1994: 335–421) has argued that repeated grievance strikes are not ‘intermittent strikes’ and are protected under the NLRA. flight attendants at Alaska Airlines and Midwest Express Airlines conducted a series of unannounced one-day strikes at different facilities in 2002 (Association of Flight Attendants-CWA 2002). After a month of this. The nearly universal existence of no-strike clauses was initiated decades ago as a trade-off for recognition. He suggests that such repeated grievance strikes can be used to pressure management on other issues. Dubbing their strategy CHAOS. and GE have never used permanent replacements despite their efforts to wring concessions from their workers. Outside campaigns often supplement rather than replace a strike or lockout. the company aban- doned its most onerous concessionary demands and the union settled for a contract with some concessions they termed a ‘defensive victory’ (Galpern 2005: 131–4). the use of permanent replacements on the scale required. such as GM. These clauses mean unions cannot strike during the life of the agreement unless specified . is not practical. the general rule that the threat or deployment of perma- nent replacements is sufficient to kill the strike weapon altogether has numerous exceptions. in some cases. it is also possible in some cases to convert an eco- nomic strike into an unfair labour practice work stoppage (see Schwartz 2006: 35–9. for example. in which case permanent replacements cannot be used.246 Striking Out in America support and demonstrations. 112–24). as at Verizon with 78.000 workers using a contract clause that allowed them to decline to cross a picket line—an admittedly unusual contractual fea- ture (Slaughter 2011: 1–2). many large corporations. For those more vul- nerable it is sometimes possible to initiate a strike as an unfair labour practice strike. Is there really a substitute for the strike? Despite the example of the CWA’s 2003 Verizon inside campaign. Furthermore. there is the additional problem of the self-imposed no-strike clause that most union agree- ments include. Nor does the ‘unprotected’ status apply to those workers on railways and airlines who are covered by the Railway Labor Act. For one thing. the evidence on the effectiveness of the potential alternatives is mixed at best.000 workers struck. For the majority who are covered by the NLRA. Indeed. with the skills needed. Although exceptional. Ford. while inside campaigns often lead to one or another of these. Additionally.000 workers or at UPS in 1997 where nearly 200.

supported by other unions and even some politicians. In 1970. was nevertheless successful (Lydersen 2009: passim). as do the UAW contracts at the major US auto assembly companies. The thousand or so sit- down strikes that made the rapid growth of the CIO possible in 1936–37 were illegal on the grounds of trespass law well before Fansteel. The plant occu- pation of Republic Doors and Windows in Chicago in 2008 was both illegal and unprotected but. Though these were technically over issues such as health and safety allowed by the contract. whose contract allows grievance strikes during the term of the contract. Between 1994 and 1998. the UMW defied court orders to vacate. In 1974. Backed by thousands of mem- bers from unions around the country who descended on Virginia. in fact. Kim Moody 247 otherwise. In the end. facing millions in fines when they did not. the miners successfully disobeyed. at least for a while. Even in a period of relatively low strike activity. For all the difficulties of striking there does not appear to be an alter- native that is viable for the labour movement as a whole. defiance can win. . the union and its allies beat Pittston’s attempt to break the national master contract (Brecher 1997: 331–5). Social upsurges after all tend to be disrespectful of the status quo and its rules. these labour upsurges are seldom respectful of the law. they were mostly directed at relieving the intensity of work by hiring more workers. CWA members. both union growth and strikes tend to come and go together in waves that are often brought on by significant changes in the economy. over twenty UAW local unions at various GM plants conducted grievance strikes during the life of the contract. were successful in increasing the workforce. struck at a silicone plant three times in 2010–2011 (Gaus 2011: 6). Even more dramatic was the occupation of a coal-processing plant by 99 min- ers and one ‘preacher’ during the long 1989 strike by the United Mine Workers at Pittston mines in Virginia. a circumstance that certainly holds today. More recently. Second. As we observed at the beginning. Hartley can haul it. and Carter can shove it’ (Winslow 2010: 2–3). chanting ‘Taft can mine it.000 postal workers struck illegally and defied Nixon’s attempt to end the strike by the use of the National Guard. the Supreme Court took this even further when it ruled that strikes during the life of contracts with arbitration of grievances could be enjoined even where there was not a no-strike clause (Burns 2011: 55–7). some 200. When in 1978 President Carter tried to end the coal miners’ strike under the provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act. Most. Unless the contract specifically allows for grievance strikes during the life of the contract they can only be conducted when the agreement expires.

Whether this rising tide of international strike activity will wash onto the shores of America remains to be seen. will begin where new production is increasingly concentrated. however. One observation made by Silver. Kelly (1998: 89) observes: ‘These three waves have one vital feature in common. Looking at the strike waves of the late 1800s. Indeed. deserves comment. by themselves they do not . Recently that has been primarily in low-wage developing countries so she (Silver 2003: 123) argues: ‘The epicentre of world labor unrest in the twenty-first century is thus likely to be con- centrated in these same countries. even ‘a decade of pain’. there is no evidence of an upsurge in the US.d. has led to the deployment of ‘associational power’ that flows from organization and broader alliances. Certainly in 2011 and 2012 strike activity has picked up in many countries of the European Union as a result of the crisis-induced austerity being imposed there. does not predict that such strike waves will begin in any particular country.’ We have certainly seen the end of the period of growth that began in 1982 and predictions of prolonged stagnation and austerity.’ Silver (2003) argues that strike waves rooted in manufacturing.’ Here too there is some evidence that this is happening in the new manufacturing locations. the raw data for fiscal 2011 from the FMCS indicate a slight fall to 153 strikes (FMCS n. see Cooke this volume). But as we have seen. brought on by vertical disintegration in production.). which is that all of them occurred at or near the peak of Kondratieff upswings as the world economy passed from a period of sustained economic growth into a long period of recession. The theory. and 1964 through 1974. however.3 As yet.248 Striking Out in America Is another upswing in strike activity likely? The aforementioned various theories concerning the waves of labour insurgency may offer some insight into whether or not another upsurge in militancy and union growth is likely. as most have been. Silver (2003: 13–16. She concludes that ‘links between contemporary labor movements and other movements need to be traced’. Using a distinction made by Eric Olin Wright. Many of the more recent versions of ‘outside’ strategies analysed above involve alliances with other unions or social groups and can be classified as associa- tional forms of power. 1910 to 1920. above all China. however. where strikes in 2010 and 2011 were on the rise (McNally 2011: 181–2. 172–3) notes that the weakening of labour’s ‘structural bargaining power’ in the market or workplace. As the European Trade Union Confederation (2011: 9) recently noted: ‘Strikes and demonstrations are growing both in terms of fre- quency and intensity. abound (McNally 2011: 21–4).

They are likely to work best precisely when they supplement. this demon- stration crippled several key industries for a day. In so far as it was a political strike. In American politics. and in Chicago in 2008. Although not called a strike. The problem of ‘vertical disintegration’ of production. of permanent replace- ment workers remains. the ban on this tactic. the women’s movements of differ- ent eras. which usually means dismissal. ‘A Day Without Immigrants’. the problem. A distinction needs to be made between actions that are illegal and those that are not ‘protected’ under the NLRA. The greatest show of power by immigrant workers to date occurred on 1 May 2006. workers engaged in slow-downs or other unprotected ‘partial strikes’. Notes 1. is found in no statute and has often proved unenforceable. whether of goods or services. and fails to meet international labour standards. when millions left their jobs to protest and eventually defeat a draconian law then being proposed by Republicans in Congress. So. the search for alternatives to the strike leads us inevitably back to the strike itself. Kim Moody 249 necessarily guarantee victory or even head off defeat. and more recently that of the struggle for immigrants’ rights. if necessary. rather than replace. The power to stop production. Unprotected activities may be legal. In the final analysis. as the . ‘Unions did not expand one shop at a time during these surges. as it has in the past. the unions and their allies must be willing to challenge and. it was illegal (Moody 2007: 211–12). of course. changing unjust laws invariably requires a massive challenge in the streets well before the law-makers act. the African American civil rights movement. too. but the employer has the right to ‘retaliation’. which will not be discussed in detail in this chapter. is primarily a problem for conventional collective bargaining and can be overcome.’ Yet. remains the central source of power for workers of all kinds. Sit-in strikes or occupa- tions remain a strong way to prevent the use of replacement workers. if a new strike wave sweeps from one industry or location to another in defiance of the status quo. is contradicted by the wording of the NLRA. For this obstacle to be overcome. 2. distribution and exchange. whether of goods or services. as in the 1930s. Aside from local trespass laws. As Burns (2011: 182–3) concludes. almost unique to the US. at Pittston in 1989. break a ‘law’ that appears in no statute. a strike. This was the history of the early unions. but rather ballooned up in large bursts as the result of ordinary working people taking it upon them- selves to organize and fight for change. Private sector workers on the railroads and airlines are covered by the Railway Labor Act 1926.

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27. 90. 247 Call centres 18–21. Paul 4. 184. 35. 233. 25. 235 101. 103. 98. 79. 153. 42 54. 27. Management 10. Bio-proletariat 57. 109. 26. 99. 100. 15. 15. Injustice 186. 14. 31. 121. 59. 86–105 196. 63. 90. 165. 91. 152–69 Argentina 5. 13. 76. 95 Labour conflict 2. Labour unionism 55. 73. 200 China 5. 71. 181. 91. Hyman. 20. 179. 36. 71. 116. 78. 11. 15. 76. 41. 93. 18. 32. 12. 133. 103 Anti-communist 193. 115. 12. 45. 67. 159 70. 99. 46. 38. 20. 224 158. Collective conflict 1.Index Absence 10. 196. 18. 120. 30. 59. 87. 9. 21. 167. 164. 237 159 Industrial action short of a strike 87. 50. 105. 100. 88. 59. 194. 113. Individual conflict 37. 246. 75. 23. 37. 33. 15. 108. 15. 37 Biocracy 53. Absenteeism 26. Labour markets 5. 29. 177. 70. 30. 87. 120. 89. 86. 166. 76 Capitalism 28. 23. 243 ACAS 87. 176. 204. 27. 21. 120. 171–86. 11. 112. 31. 192. 67. 22. 44. 74. 116. 177. 95. 57. 54. 222 France 3. 48. Communists 172. 175 101. 116. 302. 91. 121. 12. 14. 32. 114. 30. 11. 58. 156. Industrial conflict 5. 171. Class conflict 54. 244. 142. 37. 160. 100. 34. 102. 58. 102. 47. 175 166. 193. 102. 105. 157. 51. 76. 123. 12. Communism 60. 171. 228. Individual resistance 12 83. 108–26. 28. 114. 110. 94. 41. 66–83 Godard. 98. 34. 36. 226. 82. 237 Contestation 4. 174 89. 97. 74. Richard 27. 19. 17. 229 81. 42. 124. 5. 146. 44. 206. 207. 125. 60. 173. 101. 68. 23 Kelly. 195 19. 217. 34. 78. 22. 11. 54. 216. 108. 104. 61. 4. Employers 1. 5. 31. 39. 206. 55. 218. 203. 60. 27. 57. 8. 13. 234. 39. 38. 100. 217. 31. 102. 237. 223. 88. 66. 208. 162. 86. 174. 91. 13. Industrial action 3. 13. 76. 87. 52. 150. 233. 104 212. 239. 207. 130–49 112. 8. 236. 6. 114. 37. 69. Bio-power 54 40. 59. 119. 61. Britain 3. 104. 120. 94. 28. 27. 53. 111. 227. 29. 118. 178. 16. 22. 16. 208. 98. 226. 94. 224 123. 64 87. 54. 63. 12. 112. 12. 196. 216. 159. 55. 49. 248 Edwards. 78. John 27. 39. 195. 199 Indonesia 5. 7. 139. 205. 221. 97. 32. Egypt 5. 125. 77. 119. 8. 156. 92. 206. 10. 21. 10. 233. 32. 166 240. 179. 248 88–9. 117. 60 Grievances 5. John 3. 105 Communist Party 114. 44. 122. 213. 157. 5. 20 253 . 30. 32. 52. 59. 15. 126. 55. 193. 116. 35. 72. 89. Bio-politics 50. 73. 192. 17. 16. 89. 98.

33. 172–3. 6. 55. 238 General strike 3. 31. 50. 179. 116. 113. 147. Theft 26. 56. 166.254 Index Manufacturing 13. 235. 193. 36. 54. 182. 168. 227. 114. 202. 16. Post-communist 191. 186 Collective resistance 32. 204. 219. 18. 30. 135. 92. 208 Individual resistance 12 Workplace conflict 26–32. 37. 10. 174. 116. 4. 17. 94–8. 171. 36. 38. 48. 124. 240. 193. 218. 203 Suicide 226–8. 221. 66. 71. 22. 109. 32. 35. Riots 5. strike) 3. 47. 215. 203 110. 146. 51. 195. 228. 141. 32. 43. 41. 117 175 179. 8. 200. Maoism 74. 154. 183. 172. 184. 168. 152. 37. 14. 81. 9. 195. 233–50 Resistance 1. 236. Riot Grrrl 62 97. 87. 217. 212–30 131. 102. 115. 104. 69. 160. 234. 61. 168. 177. 39. 108. South Korea 5. 68. 201. 7. 165. 164. 111. 67. 29. 54. 130. 146. 174. 174. Sit-down strike 3. 244. 146. 137. 231 Socialism 59. 42. 219. 163 Occupation (see also sit-down Official strike 13. 245 . 191–208 unionism) 12. 4. 171. 248 217. 28. 216. 199. 249 Unofficial strike 88. 15. 3. 71. 37. 70. 59. 230. 82 Technology 1. 174–5. 44. Strikes 1. 119 211. 18. 215. 206. 146. 5. 74. 156. 194. Vandalism 32 161. 208 180. 216. 69. 32. 180. 75 229. 183. 134. 124. 75. 197 United States 3. Wildcat strike 32. 152. 5. 145. 40. 90. 17. 27. 148. 4. Stealing 117 142. Neo-liberalism 18. 105 Overtime ban 32. 6. 124. 207. 186. 198. 231 Unionization (see also labour Poland 5. 32. 147. 206. 26. 159. 135. 226. 18. 193. 182. Self-immolation 212. 169. 6. 184. Turnover 26. 113. 97. 207 52. 180–1. 103. 44. 187. 150. 247. 124. 80. 156. 103. 19. 162. 154. 223 106. 76 144. 225. 58. 57. 115. 37. 36. 207. 196. 187. 38. 214. 213. 220. 21. 132. 136. 49. 113. 91. 89. 22. 230. 57. 183. 112. 216. 31. 211 192. 230 Product markets 16. 205. 12. 130. 158. 21. 71. 97. 191. 176. 220. 34 221. 214. Protests 8. 29. 34. Trotskyism 74. 20. 128. 191. 61. 177. 39. 13. 175. 6. 125. 32. 12. 228 185 Work-to-rule 32. 88. 209. 27. 166. 31. Violence 5. 196. 58. 135. 22. 244. Sabotage 1. 143. 26. 207. 13. 167. 105 79. 137. 192. 40. 196. 118. 7. 12. 27. 140. 9. 225. 17. 71. 63. 87. 117 121. 11. 237 180. 228. 160. 31. 178. 229. 4. 166. 143. 164. 117. 157. 234. 185. 135. 193.