MIRS - Meetings Archive 2022-23

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Does skill make us human? Migrant Workers in 21st Century Qatar20 October 2022, 6pm

Natasha Iskander, Professor of Urban Planning and Public Service at New York University.

As the 2022 World Cup in Qatar approaches, the international press is drawing renewed attention the serious labor abuses that the migrants building the infrastructure for the games have experienced. In this talk, I present an overview of my book, Does Skill Make Us Human? Migrant Workers in 21st Century Qatar and Beyond, which details the complex social and economic context that produces working conditions in Qatar. Based on unprecedented ethnographic research on construction sites in Doha, interviews in eight languages, and fieldwork in migrants' countries of origin, the book explores how migrants are recruited, trained, and used. Despite their acquisition of advanced technical skills, workers are commonly described as unskilled and disparaged as “unproductive,” “poor quality,” or simply “bodies.” The labeling of workers as unskilled is at the root of the labor exploitation they endure. Skill distinctions in Qatar act as a marker of social difference powerful enough to adjudicate personhood, and to create hierarchies that shape all facets of work, labor recruitment, and migration policy. Skill categories even define industry responses to global warming, with employers recruiting migrants from climate-damaged places at lower wages and exposing these workers to Qatar's extreme heat. While the political use of skill appears heightened in Qatar, it shares core features with the way that skill is deployed to define immigrant rights and migrant working conditions in economies throughout the world. Thus, Qatar and the 2022 World Cup challenge us to examine the factors that shape working conditions, justify the distribution of power, and amplify inequality everywhere.

The meeting will be held over Zoom at 6pm-7.30pm on 20 October - register now at Eventrbrite!

Rethinking the Role of the State in Employment Relations for a Neoliberal Era01 December 2022

Chris Howell, James Monroe Professor of Politics, Oberlin College

Over the past 30 years, state intervention to reshape employment relations has become a generalized feature of contemporary capitalism. A broad neoliberal reconstruction of the market order has gone hand in hand with a more active state. Indeed, liberalization in the sphere of employment relations could not have taken place without a more active state. Building on a Regulation Theory framework and an elaboration of the concept of neoliberalism as the regulatory infrastructure of emergent growth models, this presentation will examine how the widespread shift from wage-led growth to other forms of growth across the advanced capitalist world has encouraged changes in the role of the state in the regulation of employment relations. These roles include market making, individual employment regulation in place of collective regulation, state-directed social pacts, and redrawing the boundaries between work and non-work.

The event will be held at 6pm-7.30pm on Thursday 01 December over Zoom, and you can register now at Eventbrite.

Learning your Lines: Promotion Scripts and the Career Progression of Minoritized EmployeesMeeting postponed; we hope to rearrange it for later in 2023

Meeting postponed; we hope to rearrange it for later in 2023.

Manchester Industrial Relations Society-CIPD Arthur Priest Memorial Lecture

Madeleine Wyatt, Reader in Diversity and Inclusion, King's College London

How employees make it to the top is a central question in organizational research and practice. It's often assumed that it's up to individuals to strategize how to navigate promotions but to do this they need to know the 'script', which includes what to do and how to do it. In this talk I'll be presenting a qualitative study that investigated how promotion scripts to Partner are shared in a global professional services firm. I explore how women and ethnic minorities decode 'what it takes' to get to Partner and how promotion gatekeepers transmit these scripts. I also discuss the implications for organisations looking to foster diversity in their talent pipelines.

Madeleine Wyatt is a Reader in Diversity and Inclusion at King's Business School and a Leverhulme Research Fellow. Her research examines equality, diversity and inclusion at work, organisational politics, and political leadership. By working with practitioners, politicians and policy makers her work provides tools for organisations and political parties to advance diversity and inclusion. She has published her work in internationally recognised peer-reviewed outlets, such as The Leadership Quarterly, Human Relations and Harvard Business Review.

This is a joint meeting with the CIPD and will be introduced by Samantha Lubanzu, Chair of the CIPD Manchester Branch.

Trade Unions and Political Strategy: A structural approachMarch 23 2023 (online)

Joint meeting with the Industrial Law Society

Dr Zoe Adams, University of Cambridge

In this talk, Dr Zoe Adams builds on the structural approach to labour law she has developed in previous works, with a view to exploring its strategic implications for legal and social actors, with a particular focus on trade unionism. In so doing, she will distinguish between the necessary and contingent dimensions of the law's role in constituting capitalist social relations, and demonstrate how this can help us better understand the limits, and potential, to law as a means through which to further struggles for social change. The talk will begin with some observations about the contradictory role of trade unions in capitalism, and relates this with the contradictory relationship between capitalism, and law. It will then go on to explain how, and why, trade unions' reliance on law, and legal strategies, might be problematic from the perspective of their capacity to further, rather than undermine, struggles for structural change, and will attempt to illustrate this through a critique of some of the legal mobilisations deployed by so-called ‘new style' trade unions, such as the Independent Workers of Great Britain Union, in recent years. The talk will then conclude with some observations about how a structural understanding of the relationship between law and capitalism, on the one hand, and trade unions and capitalism, on the other, can help social actors, including trade union members and leaders, to critically re-assess whether, and if so, how, they engage with, and mobilise the law, so as to better align their strategies with a commitment to structural, rather than merely surface-level, change.

Please see the following publications as background:

  • Adams Z, Labour and the Wage: A Critical Perspective (Oxford University Press 2020)
  • Adams Z 'A Structural Approach to Labour Law' (2022) 46 Cambridge Journal of Economics 447
  • Adams, Z The Legal Concept of Work (Oxford University Press 2022)

Those wishing to attend should register at Eventbrite. A Zoom link will be available after registration.

Songs and SolidarityMay 11 2023 (hybrid), 6-7.30pm (MMU)

Annual Shirley Lerner Lecture

Professor Jean Jenkins, Cardiff University

In Shirley Lerner's Breakaway Unions and the Small Trade Union, she presents an account of the strike by clothing workers at the Rego factory in London in 1928. The strikers were known as the singing strikers because, without strike pay, the women sang for money as they marched. In the intervening decades, the combined impact of unionisation and collective bargaining meant that the clothing (garments) industry temporarily lost its status as a 'parasite industry' that paid below subsistence wages. However, it regained its parasite status with a vengeance in the shift of production to all parts of Asia in the 1990s. More recently the industry is returning to sites closer to European markets, and the sweatshop lives again in new times. In this lecture, Jean Jenkins traces the journey from the sweated trade of yesteryear to the sweated trade of today, while consistently and against enormous odds, the voices of workers are raised loud and proud in defence of their interests.

This will be a hybrid meeting held in Room G.34, Manchester Metropolitan University Business School. The meeting will be held from 6-7.30pm and there will be refreshments afterwards.

For those unable to attend in person there is a Zoom link which can be accessed on booking through Eventbrite.

Past Meetings...