The re-emergence of asymmetric labour relations: two campaigns that have abandoned traditional labour tactics in favour of community organising

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Labour & Industry: a journal of the social and economic relations of work, 2014, 24 (3), pp. 192 - 202
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Employee voice in English-speaking jurisdictions is often characterised as being exercised via union or non-union channels. The present terrain has come about as a result of more than three decades of the gradual fragmentation of work forms and a related decline in union voice. This nomenclature does not account for the emergence of forms of voice that blur this distinction: third-party worker advocacy which may be led by unions or by other groups. Relative to mass membership unions, these groups are characterised by a paucity of resources and often an open, network organisational structure instead of a hierarchical structure, leading to inclusion of non-labour community groups and a broadening of their agenda beyond traditional workplace relation matters. This paper borrows the notion of asymmetry to explain the success of these groups when facing much more powerful adversaries. Two case studies are examined in detail, both in the retail industry.
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