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Workers' organization in the informal sector

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Informal sector worker organisations

Researchers have examined the precarious self-organising of workers and the collective resistance under globalised capitalism, providing new insight into social cohesion and employment conditions.

Industrial Technologies

Informal sectors of the economy contain organisational models that workers use to counter-oppose their work and salary conditions. Factors such as informality, fragmentation, insecurity and inequality are becoming prevalent patterns of employment in Argentina as well as in Europe. An EU-funded project, INFOWORK (Workers' organization in the informal sector), looked at the city of Buenos Aires as a primary example of informal employment patterns. As such, it observed the ways in which a group of workers was able to build a collective organisation despite being dispersed, unprotected and unorganised. It also examined the resources they have available and what conditions can be favourable to them. Finally, researchers looked at the role of the socio-political and institutional context in relation to the shaping of precarious workers' organisations. Theoretical objectives and activities included investigating labour and labour relations from interrelated disciplines, subsequently reflecting on how these could be used to account for the cases analysed. INFOWORK activities and their outcomes helped to frame the research questions and also to publish a book, successfully pairing industrial relations with theoretical insights from interrelated disciplines. These included global labour history, women's role in the work of social reproduction, and social anthropologists' studies on work and value. The relation between class, agency and resistance in the global cities was also examined. Using findings from other research, fundamental questions were asked in terms of relations structuring the urban with the social and the economic with the employment patterns. Empirical objectives and activities involved the collection of data, split in two stages. Sources included observation at assemblies, meetings and collective events, various types of interviews, historical and media archives, contextual information and statistical data. Fieldwork was used to gather insights from workers in 12 organisations from a variety of sectors. Results were presented at various conferences. Researchers published an article for the UNDP 2015 Human Rights Report, organised a forum with activists from different workplaces and participated in a debate on trade union action in three South American countries. The project helped to understand issues on social change and governance, particularly in the metropolis of the global south, in the context of social inequality. Furthermore, a few research questions emerged from the study, which will probably lead future investigations on the topic.

Keywords

Informal sector, worker organisations, INFOWORK, employment patterns, labour relations

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