CLS 2011 Programme

Critical Labour Studies 7th Symposium

Host: The University of Manchester, England

Saturday 19th Sunday 20th February 2011 Venue: Manchester Museum

(Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL)

Download the programme

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 off shoring.  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.

Building on the successes of the past six 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.




9.00-9.30 – Registration

9.30 – 11.00 – Introduction and First Session: Restructuring and Unions

Chair: Jane Holgate

‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Culture? Industrial Restructuring and Culture Change: The Strategic Response of Organised Labour’ – Discussion generated by Bill Gray, Convenor, (Tata Corus UK, Scunthorpe) and Ian Greenwood, (Leeds University Business School, Centre for Employment Relations Innovation and Change).

‘Changing union and management strategies in a context of restructuring, marketisation and privatisation – the CWU in Royal Mail’ – Stephen Mustchin, David Beale (University of Manchester)

‘Milking the Masses for Inspiration’: The Outsourcing of Creative Labour by Apple and Google’ Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn (Luleå University of Technology) Debra Howcroft (University of Manchester )

11.00-11.15. Coffee and Tea

11.15-12.15 Migration, Exploitation and Labour

Chair: Steve Craig

‘Networks of Support for New Migrant Communities: Institutional Goals versus Substantive Goals?’ Robert MacKenzie, Chris Forde and Zinovijus Ciupijus, (Leeds University Business School) and Piotr Plonka (GMB)

‘Lets get back to normal’? Migrant workers, sectarianism and some problems with the labour movement in the north of Ireland’ Brian Garvey, Paul Stewart, Raquel Campuzano, Jolanta Kulinska, Sherley Dolo, Andrius Cislikaukas

12.15 – 1.00 Lunch

1.00-2.00 Activism and New Agendas in the Current Climate

Chair: Robert MacKenzie

‘Who is The Activist?   Biographies of worker activists from the North East’ – John Stirling (University of Northumbria) and Jo McBride (University of Bradford), Discussant: Shirley Winter

‘Prevailing languages of class – fairness and equality in trade union discourse’ – Sian Moore (London Metropolitan University)

2.00-3.15 – Communities, Renewal and the Worker Representation: Brian Donley

Chair: Debra Howcroft

‘Active unions, active communities: a local example of trade union/community engagement Jane Holgate CERIC Leeds University and John Page, Secretary of Hackney Unite

‘The Role of Trades Councils’ Geoff Brown Secretary of Manchester Trades Council

‘Developing the Trade Union Branch: the case of the UCU’ Beverley Woodburn UCU

3.15-3.30 Coffee and Tea

3.30. – 4.45 Politics, Academics and Worker Struggle:

Chair: Miguel Martinez Lucio

The BA Dispute in 2010 – Speaker from UNITE BASSA

‘Objective but Not Detached: In Defence of Partisanship in Employment Relations Research’ Ralph Darlington, University of Salford

4.45 Book Launch

Chair: Paul Stewart

Tommy McKearney IWU – organized labour and politics in Northern Ireland

‘From Insurrection to Parliament’ (Pluto Books)


7.00 Meal at KRO 2 Oxford Road, Manchester


Turn Left once you leave the museum on Oxford Road and walk for ten minutes: KRO 2 is on the Oxford Road and on the right hand side just past the flyover.


9.00-10.00 – Coffee and Tea

10.00-11.00 Left Behind: Young Workers

Chair: Jo McBride

‘Young workers in crisis’ – three presentations on comparative developments – Lef Kretsos (Coventry University), Mel Simms, Manuela Galetto (Warwick University)

11.00-12.00 Internationalism and Work

Chair: Mel Simms

‘International Political Economy of Work and Employability’ Phoebe Moore Salford University

‘China and the International Labour Movement’ Charles Umney,  University of Leeds

12.00-12.30 LUNCH

12.30 – 2.00 – The End of the Public and Free University in Britain?

Chair: Paul Stewart

Cases from the frontline: UWE (Andy Danford, UWE), Sian Moore and Richard Ross (London Metropolitan)

2.00- 3.00 CLS Meeting

Chair: Jane Holgate

Finish 3.00

Organisers: Jane Holgate, Debra Howcroft, Miguel Martinez Lucio, and Jo McBride

Contact:, or

Cheques for £60 (waged) or £40 (unwaged), which includes all food and refreshments, should be made out to ‘Critical Labour Studies’ and sent to:

Miguel Martinez Lucio (staff)
Manchester University
PMO Division
Manchester Business School
Booth Street West
Manchester M15 6PB

Please do confirm you are coming so we can plan the catering and support

For Updates, Changes and Accommodation Links see our web site:

For Hotels in Manchester you can try:

Manchester Business School has some cheaper accommodation:

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