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Durham University

Durham Law: Policy Engagement

Innovative Collective Representation

THE GLOBAL REGULATORY CHALLENGE: EFFECTIVE COLLECTIVE REPRESENTATION IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES


Collective representation is fundamental to eliminating UFW. Trade unions and employers’ organisations play a crucial role in channelling worker voice and in ensuring participation in decision-making.

In many lower-income countries, industrial relations frameworks have a substantial history. Yet extensive informal workforces, weak collective institutions, and the growing presence of precarious workers in formal firms are challenges to effective collective bargaining and to the elimination of low-quality jobs.

Recent innovations include efforts by unions to recruit informal workers and a rise in worker representation beyond traditional organisations, including by bodies that represent informal workers, such as the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India.


INNOVATIVE COLLECTIVE REPRESENTATION: A RESEARCH AGENDA

The Strategic Network on Legal Regulation of Unacceptable Forms of Work has designed a set of Research Agendas on combatting unacceptable work. The Research Agenda on Innovative Collective Representation proposes a strategy to investigate and respond to the challenge of effective representation, with a focus on strategies to improve low-quality jobs.

The Research Agenda has been designed by a Strategic Network Team led from Durham University Business School (DUBS):


AN ILLUSTRATION: ARGENTINA, CHINA, MALAYSIA

Comparative research on regulatory frameworks is crucial to combat UFW. It can provide global lessons from innovations in different countries. For this reason, the Network Team on Innovative Collective Representation has suggested that future research should involve comparisons of countries at a range of income levels and in different regions.

A comparison on Innovative Collective Representation should focus on globally-significant innovations in collective working relations. Key illustrations, for example, are found in three middle-income countries: Argentina, China, and Malaysia.

These countries are diverse in socio-economic development, industrial relations regimes,and labour and development strategies. Yet they provide a useful comparison of settings in which industrial relations frameworks are evolving, including through efforts to represent workers in informal working relations.

Argentina and Malaysia are characterized by enduring collective institutions, yet which also have a large share of informal workers. China, in contrast,illustrates the relatively recent introduction of an industrial relations framework, triggering an increase in trade union membership and new forms of collective bargaining at local and sectoral level.



A GLOBAL RESEARCH AGENDA

For further details, see our global research agenda on innovative collective representation.

The objective is to identify and investigate innovative structures and strategies of collective representation. The focus is on bargaining strategies, innovative institutions, and the emergence of new models of collective representation, including of informal workers.

A particular focus is the gap between working conditions in small/micro-enterprises and with larger employers.