Article

Organising across borders: Mobilising temporary migrant labour in Australian food production

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Abstract

This article builds on the growing literature on migrant worker mobilisation by analysing how the temporary migrant workforce, employed in food production, interacts with two Australian trade unions alongside ethno-specific social media groups, offshore unions and community/religious organisations. The contribution of this article is twofold. Firstly, we demonstrate divergence in union strategies, distinguishing between (i) a ‘traditional self-reliant’ strategy, where unions recruit temporary migrant workforces by using established methods and their own resources and (ii) network collectivism, where unions also engage with temporary migrant workforces obliquely through external social media platforms and alliances. Our second contribution is to examine how the components of network collectivism interact as an integrated strategy for temporary migrant worker mobilisation.

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In recent years a number of UK unions have been considering how to (re)engage with communities in order to rebuild the links that were so important to the origins and development of trade unionism. As such, we have seen parts of the UK union movement investing time and resources into exploring whether community organising can engage new actors and new union members in fighting for workers’ rights and against social injustice more broadly. This article explores the factors behind this ‘new’ turn to community-based organising and outlines the current state of developments in this area; it is based on over 10 years of research into community organising in the UK, working closely with the TUC, affiliate unions and community-based organisations. Findings suggest that the current economic climate and declining power at the point of production, as well as successes by new actors in the employment-relations arena, are driving this current interest and activity in community organising.
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This article examines precarious employment in the context of the mushroom industry in Northern Ireland. Migrant workers engaged in mushroom picking were interviewed in the context of wider research investigating forced labour in Northern Ireland. The research found that, while the boundaries between exploitation and forced labour are complex and difficult to discern, there was some evidence of borderline forced labour, according to ILO definitions. However, workers found themselves on a 'continuum of exploitation', where initial engagement with the prospect of decent work was superseded by increasing endurance of exploitative practices, brought about by unequal power relationships with employers originating in immigration status. This is examined in the wider theoretical context of precarity, of which precarious employment comprises a part.
Article
The United States is one of the developed countries that have experienced the steepest declines of unionization and collective bargaining in recent decades. Its traditional industrial relations institutions, premised on the prevalence of “standard” employment relationships, have long been eroded by restrictive legislation and employer opposition. Meanwhile, precarious employment, sub-standard conditions and marginalization have become widespread features of the labour market, leading to the spontaneous emergence of alternative, often community-based initiatives to protect vulnerable workers using highly innovative strategies. “Worker centres”, in particular, have been very active to that end, often teaming up with formal trade unions to pursue their objectives.
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The widespread decline of trade unions and the emergence of various alternative forms of worker voice and representation have posed a challenge to the field of industrial relations and generated significant rethinking of the future directions for this field of study. In this article, we examine how well industrial relations meta-theories, when combined with efforts to build middle-range theories, provide distinctive explanations and different predictions for the alternatives that have emerged to date to fill the void. We propose new directions for theory and research that expand the range of actors or institutions that shape employment relations and include social identities outside of the employment relationship as the basis for mobilizing collective actions and voice. Finally, we suggest using these theoretical arguments to test among alternatives as a means of revitalizing and reshaping industrial relations as well as carrying forward the problem-solving norms that have characterized the field since its inception.
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As globalization advances, the governance challenges relating to cross-border labor recruitment have also grown. Transnational companies that manage the employment-based migration process often take advantage of individuals seeking work abroad. While some states have implemented recruitment regulations, a combination of jurisdictional constraints and economic interests have limited states' capacity and political will to take action. Supplemental strategies are emerging led by international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), labor unions, and corporate trade groups. This paper reviews the strengths and weakness of strategies led by each of these different types of actors and explores potential synergies among them.
Article
Fears of a ‘race to the bottom’ in labour standards may have been overstated. Nevertheless, using Sweden as a case study, it is argued that the diminished capacity of trade unions to defend labour standards following the Laval judgement of the European Court of Justice, together with a decline in trade union density, a limited remit of enforcement authorities and recent changes to the Swedish labour migration regime, may have detrimental impacts on labour standards, particularly in low-skill low-wage occupations. In combination, these developments are creating new spaces for migrant precariousness within the context of a formerly well-regulated Swedish labour market model.
Article
Contemporary processes of globalization have had significant implica-tions for food systems around the world. The adoption of neo-liberal policies on a global scale, changing systems of governance in supply chains, and the develop-ment of new technologies have transformed how food is produced and consumed. Although the implications of these changes for the labour sustaining agri-food systems have received scant attention in the literature, research suggests they are profound. In this article, I seek to further our knowledge of how these processes are unfolding in a high income country context through a focus on Canada, ex-amining in particular how changes to immigration policy have rendered work in Northern agri-food industries more precarious. In so doing, I seek to contribute to theoretical debates on the role of the state in regulating work-place regimes and managing capitalist accumulation in agriculture.
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This article reports on a two-year study of union/community organizing in the UK, USA and Australia. It takes a particular model of organizing — that of the Industrial Areas Foundation — and analyses trade union engagement in coalition-building activity in each of the three countries. Findings show mixed approaches to working with community groups from ad hoc instrumentalism to deep coalition-building. While these variations may, in part, be explained by different industrial relations contexts, it appears that the ‘fit’ between ideology and culture of unions and their coalition partners, as well as the practices and strategies that reinforce this fit, have much greater effect on the attitude and behaviour of unions towards non-workplace-based organizing. The article contributes to debates about the conditions under which unions succeed (or not) in sustaining strong coalition-building beyond their traditional constituencies.
Article
The paper argues that a clear migrant–local hiring queue has emerged at the bottom of the UK labour market since EU enlargement (in 2004 and 2007). The hiring queue reflects a preference amongst low-wage employers in the UK food industry for newly arrived A8 and A2 migrants and related prejudice towards would-be domestic workers. Using interview and survey evidence – from 37 horticultural growers/processors and 268 farmers, respectively – we describe what these hiring queues look like. We then explain their emergence: arguing that migrant–local hiring queues are predominantly the result of the ‘added value’ that migrants from the EU periphery bring, over the short term, to the low-wage workplace. Copyright
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In this article, we compare recent innovative union campaigns: the ‘sans papiers’ campaign in France and the ‘Justice for Cleaners’ campaign in the United Kingdom, both based on a sustained grass-roots mobilization of immigrant workers. Rather than focusing on the ‘usual suspect’ explanatory factors, such as contrasting national settings, union power structures or traditions, our cross-national comparison highlights important underlying similarities in unions' strategic responses to a growing precarious immigrant workforce. In the absence of established channels of representation, both unions decided to act like social movements fighting for social protection. Using Polanyi's framework, we view both case studies as examples of countermovements against heightened levels of global liberalization and precarious employment.
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This study examines mobilizing mechanisms using a British community organization and a British trade union as exemplars. Although there has been substantial work on union revitalization on the one hand, and the emergence of alternative, community organizations on the other, no study has compared the challenges these organizations face in encouraging member mobilization. The findings illustrate how the trade union engages in a service-driven culture, cultivating instrumental commitment between the members and the union. The community organization, in contrast, engages in a relational culture and exemplifies a form of social commitment between the members and the group. As a result, different types of commitment and organizational cultures help explain why sustained member mobilization within a trade union is harder to achieve than within a community organization.
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This article argues that the twenty-first century US labour movement has increasingly come to resemble its counterpart in the Gilded Age 100 years ago. Starting in the 1970s, deindustrialization and deregulation have gradually undermined the New Deal labour relations system, and have led to the proliferation of precarious labour. The labour movement then began to experiment with alternative labour organizing strategies and increasingly sought out political alliances with other progressive movements, reproducing practices that were widespread among US unions prior to the New Deal era. Although many of these experiments have succeeded on a small scale, they face intransigent opposition from employers and anti-union organizations, and whether they can be expanded enough to generate a new labour movement upsurge remains to be seen.
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There is a pervasive economic rationale behind all forms of labour migration. The paper identifies an emergent but still quite limited body of research that engages with and explores this rationale. More specifically, it is interested in research looking at contemporary patterns and processes of migration from the perspective of employers and employment agencies. There has to date been no attempt to review employer-based research on migration or to identify emergent narratives that could help to guide future academic enquiry. The paper addresses this omission by highlighting five embryonic employer-orientated migration research themes. It begins, however, by noting some of the limitations of employer-based empirical research. These limitations, it is argued, are significant but not insurmountable and should not be used as an excuse to overlook employers' role in shaping, and often fundamentally underpinning, the demand for immigration. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.