The purpose of this blog is to provide analytical commentary on formal and informal labour organisations and their attempts to resist ever more brutal forms of exploitation in today’s neo-liberal, global capitalism.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Big business and US free trade policy: Corporations in Control!

Two far-reaching free trade agreements are currently being negotiated, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) (see The People against Capital: Stop-TTIP!). Nevertheless, while these negotiations take place in secrecy behind closed doors and outside democratic accountability, representatives of big corporations have close access to decision-makers. In this guest post, Marty Hart-Landsberg outlines the privileged influence big business enjoys on US trade policy.

Friday, 13 March 2015

United Voices of the World: The Struggle for Justice for Cleaners.

While London is one of the most glamorous and expensive cities in the world, the workers who keep the British capital clean are often overlooked and disregarded. They are paid so lowly that they can often barely survive. And yet, cleaners are fighting back. In a seminar organised by the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ) at Nottingham University, Albero, Percy and Petros from the independent union United Voices of the World reported from their successful struggles to ensure the payment of the living wage at the Barbican as well as Sotheby's Auction house in London. In this post, I will report on some of the key aspects of their struggles.


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The End of Cheap Labour in China?

China’s developmental strategy has been based on cheap labour, foreign direct investment (FDI) and the assembling of pre-fabricated parts for export to North American and European markets. This export-oriented growth strategy in low value added production sectors has, however, come under pressure as a result of the global economic crisis and a decline in global demand. In his presentation at Nottingham University on 17 February, jointly hosted by the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies and the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, Florian Butollo from Jena University in Germany investigated whether China’s attempts at industrial upgrading in response to the crisis have also resulted in ‘social upgrading’ for its workforce. 


Monday, 2 February 2015

The Great Pension Robbery – UCU unravelling!


Only three years after closing the final salary pension scheme of USS for new members of staff in pre-1992 Higher Education (HE) institutions in the UK, the employers returned to the table with new demands. This time they asked for cuts to staff members’ pensions of around 27 per cent. Initially, the University and College Union (UCU) responded forcefully and carried out a ballot for industrial action: 78% of union members who participated voted for strike action and 87% voted for action short of a strike. The turnout of 45% was the highest in a national higher education ballot since UCU was formed in 2006. And yet, in January 2015 UCU settled for a negotiated deal, which was only marginally better for members than the initial proposals by the employers. Instead of 27 per cent of cuts, many members will now face cuts of somewhere between 20 and 24 per cent. How could this happen? In this blog post, I will provide a critical assessment of this struggle, drawing also on my own experience as a member of the Higher Education Committee (HEC), where the crucial decisions were taken within UCU.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Greece at the ballot box – How should the European left show solidarity?

On Sunday, 25 January the Greek people are voting for a new parliament. According to opinion polls, this time the left party Syriza may win the elections (BBC, 22 January 2015). In view of the heavy pressure put on Greece by financial markets, the European Commission as well as European Central Bank, people of the European left are calling for solidarity. Support is needed especially should Syriza form the next government and demand from the European Union (EU) a re-negotiation of the terms of its bailout package. In this blog post, I will reflect on what form these solidarity actions may take.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Chinese labour in the global economy – What do we know?

From October 2011 to September 2014, we worked on the project Chinese labour in the global economy, supported by an ESRC research grant (RES-062-23-2777, £275k). Throughout this period, Chun-Yi Lee carried out a number of field research trips to China in order to interview workers, labour academics and representatives of informal labour NGOs. We organised a related panel at the World Congress of the International Sociological Association in Yokohama/Japan in July 2014 and held an international workshop at Nottingham University in September 2014. In this post, we provide an overview of the main findings of the project.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

We make our own history – A call to action!

‘As we become political subjects on our own behalf, recognise ourselves in each other and see the connections between our different movements, we come closer to being able not only to articulate the hope of “another world”, but also to bring it about’ (P.209). With these words, Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen conclude their latest book We make our own history: Marxism and Social Movements in the Twilight of Neoliberalism (Pluto Press, 2014). In this blog post, I will provide a critical appraisal of this important book.