CLS 2009 Programme

Crisis what Crisis: Forward to the Past?

Critical Labour Studies 6th Symposium

Venue: The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Saturday 21st/Sunday 22nd November 2009

Statement of Intent

It is clear to researchers and activists, both in the trade union movement and universities, that global capitalism is increasingly shaping the worlds of work and employment. The imposition of this neo-liberal orthodoxy has many profound implications, not least that states seek to both de-legitimise workers’ opposition and marginalise their organisations. However, just as capitalism has embraced neo-liberal strategies, there has emerged a new politics of resistance that is varied and diverse, embracing: trade union and socialist organisations, green and ecological protest movements, anti-war activists, feminists, human rights campaigners and NGOs.  It is against this background that the Critical Labour Studies (CLS) symposium has aimed to bring together researchers and activists to discuss key features of work and employment from a radical and labour-focused perspective. We recognise that while left academic researchers participate in the usual round of mainstream conferences, the scope for focused radical debate around these themes is actually quite limited. Through CLS we have developed an open working group and discussion forum that engages with many of the challenges facing researchers and trade unionists within the current environment of work and employment. By ‘labour’, we anticipate, in the traditions of radical researchers over the ages, a broad understanding of myriad social, economic and political agendas. To date, themes have included: race, identity and organising migrant workers, global unionism and organising internationally, the new politics of production, privatisation, outsourcing and offshoring.  The list of themes and questions that concern us continues to develop over time, and the intention will be to reflect this evolving agenda at this year’s symposium. An ancillary objective is to engage in genuinely critical debate, rescuing this term from its co-option by mainstream agendas.

The Format of the Symposium

Building on the successes of the past five years, the forthcoming symposium will be structured as a series of plenary sessions. Each will be organised around a particular theme with speakers and discussants, followed by a broad discussion. It has been an important principle of CLS that the conference is not based on the convention of academic conferences with specific papers being presented in separate streams. Rather our intention has been to deepen discussion and debate, and to bring together researchers and labour/ union movement activists (where possible) in joint sessions.  All sessions are genuinely open and inclusive and involve a broad range of participants, from established academics to early-career researchers, and from established trade union officials to shop-floor representatives and grass-roots activists. The distinctive organising principles of CLS are, therefore, to assist unions and workers in dealing with the challenges faced in the neo-liberal world of work and employment. Ultimately, discussion of strategies and tactics are related to the broader aim of creating a socialist society.

Organisers: Demet Dinler, Jane Holgate and Miguel Martinez Lucio


Saturday 21st

8.30-9.30 Registration (with coffee and tea)

9.30 Welcome and introduction

First Session – Work Intensification and Lean Production:

10.00 – 11.00 ‘Is that Banana Active?’ Lean and Mean in the Civil Service

Speaker from PCS, Bob Carter (de Montfort University), Andy Danford (University of West of England), Debra Howcroft (University of Manchester), Helen Richardson (University of Salford), Andrew Smith (University of East of London), Phil Taylor (University of Strathclyde)

11.00-11.30 tea and coffee

11.30-12.30 Challenging lean production in the car industry.  The politics of developing a critical research agenda in and beyond the shop floor.

Steve Craig (UCATT), Ken Murphy (UNITE and Paul Stewart (Strathclyde University)

12.30 – 1.00 Panel discussion on lean production involving morning sessions

1.00-2.00 – Lunch

Second Session – Labour Markets, Migration and Labour:

2.00-2.45 The growth of living wage campaigns across university campuses

Clare Soloman – UNISON SOAS coordinator of the campaign; Demet Dinler – SOAS

2.45-3.30 Adapt or Decline – A Trade Union Future for Black Workers

Jane Holgate (Working Lives Institute) and Wilf Sullivan (TUC)

3.30- 4.00 tea and coffee

4.00-4.30 Racism, Nationalism and the Labour Movement in Northern Ireland:  Racist bigots; they haven’t gone away you know.

Independent Workers Union (IWU) address to CLS – Tommy McKearney IWU

4.30-5.30 Towards a Critical approach to Migration and Labour Migration research: Why theory and methodology matters.

Jutta Moehrke, Stoke-on-Trent Citizens Advice Bureau
Steve French, Centre for Industrial Relations, Keele University

Migration and the Politics of Research: Comparisons and Stereotypes

Heather Connolly and Miguel Martinez Lucio (University of Manchester)

Social 6 pm onwards Rugby Tavern, 9 Great James St London, WC1N 3ES

Sunday 22nd

9.30 tea and coffee

Third Session: Politics and Unions: Class and Organising:

10.00-11.00 Organising and Class

Mel Simms (Warwick) and Martin Smith GMB

11.00-12.00 Towards a Typology of Alternative Trade Union Futures in Western Europe

Martin Upchurch (Middlesex University), Andy Mathers (University of the West of England), Graham Taylor (University of the West of England)

12.-12.30 Time for a different model of public sector trade unionism

Roger Kline (UCU)

12.30-1.30 – Open Discussion: CLS and Future Developments

This event is supported by Historical Materialism, Capital and Class, and the BUIRA Marxist Study Group

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About the Author : Miguel Martinez Lucio