Intervention by jos ricardo ramalho ufrj rio de janeiro
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Intervention by jos ricardo ramalho ufrj rio de janeiro

Flexibility and work-life balance - WORKS final international conference 8-9 October 2008 - Rome Reports Value chain restructuring and company strategies to reach flexibility Jörg Flecker, Ursula Holtgrewe, Annika Schönauer (FORBA), Stavros Gavroglou (KEKMOKOP)Working time, gender and work-life balance Bettina-Johanna Krings (ITAS), Linda Nierling (ITAS),Marcello Pedaci (IRES),Mariangela Piersanti (IRES)

Intervention by José Ricardo Ramalho

(UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro)

General comments
General comments

  • Excellent reports -> research findings, from an European point of view, that are essential for the general discussion about flexibility and work in a global perspective.

  • The need to extend the research to other parts of the world, especially the ones that are integral part of the value chain and that have a quite different approach to labour issues.

  • The findings show very different contexts inside Europe, but there is little reference to the fact that an important part of the restructuring of firms is due to the new division of tasks in the world market, with the inclusion of less industrialised countries and regions.

General comments 2
General comments (2)

  • The possibility of including in the analysis new experiences of flexibility from a value chain perspective in less industrialised countries, with less formalized labour market and different approach to trade unions, state regulations and localities.

  • The need to consider and to stress in future developments the overall reactions of organised workers, trade unions to the introduction of new flexible strategies.

  • The need to consider in our analysis the role of local political and economic actors in the discussion about forms of development and the consequences of labour changes to the localities and regions.

Comments and questions about the thematic reports
Comments and questions about the thematic reports

  • About the restructuring of the value chain and flexibility

    (externalization and higher levels of numerical flexibility; worsening working conditions and non-standard employment; power relations between organisations)

  • Although the findings can be also confirmed in relation to other nodes of the value chain outside Europe, there are other aspects about the introduction of flexibility that could be object of more discussion, especially if compared with other parts of the world.

  • New models of flexibility? The case of the “modular consortium” inaugurated in the Volkswagen plant in Brazil is probably a good example of how the debate about outsourcing and subcontracting can be seen in different ways:

Comments and questions
Comments and questions …

  • The “modular consortium”

  • The first experience where the process of transferring responsibilities in the value chain was done inside the same plant.

  • There was no externalisation of the main subcontracted firms. On the contrary, they were invited to act inside the same plant.

  • In relation to the main suppliers -> there was no worsening of the working conditions and non-standard employment. The seven firms of the VW consortium, although independent for hiring their employees, have to follow the bargaining process negotiated by the main firm – VW.

Comments and questions1
Comments and questions …

  • The wages were the same in all firms of the modular consortium, although workers belong to different subcontracted firms.

  • Different levels of subcontracting, but all work under the same roof.

  • The firms of the modular consortium are also multinational companies but submit themselves to the command of VW.

  • This experience has been developed in a green field site (weak trade union, labour market dominated by informal jobs).

Comments and questions2
Comments and questions …

  • The role of localities

  • Delocalization -> the tendency of dividing the world market into regions and the search for fiscal incentives from municipalities and regional and national governments. The search also for places with low trade union participation.

  • The importance of the locality in the discussion about the flexible firm. In countries like Brazil, where democratic participation is a permanent struggle, the possibility of local political and economic actors to discuss strategies of development which include the flexible firm, is something that can be very positive.

Comments and questions3
Comments and questions …

  • The redefinition of the relationship of the firms with the territory where they are established.

  • The fact that the locality is an important part of the network of firms, especially because of the workers, training, education and fiscal incentives gives some strength and bargaining power to the local.

Comments and questions4
Comments and questions …

  • About flexibility and forms of employment (Exaggeration to speak of an erosion of the standard employment relationship; nationally specific institutional contexts have an impact on the response of organisations to the changes in work and the company strategies and policies).

  • How to consider in the value chain restructuring, countries and contexts with high levels of informality in the labour market?

Comments and questions5
Comments and questions …

  • In the Brazilian labour market, for example, there has been two developments:

    a) there has been a strong campaign for the flexibilisation to the sector of the labour market that is formalized and regulated by labour laws;

    b) the precarisation of employment in the formal labour market and the combination of formal and informal work activities with the degradation of working conditions.

Comments and questions6
Comments and questions …

  • Externalisation of risks and costs to labour -> true also in most cases of restructuring in Brazil.

  • The strategy of externalizing risks and costs has been very much used, but at some point, this strategy has been presented as not desirable for the image of the firm in the market, to have the firm’s trade mark associated to different forms of precarious, or degrading jobs.

  • The trade unions have been campaigning and trying to connect work conditions along the value chain in order to avoid and condemn indecent work. (There has been cases of “slave” labour in important chains of production.)

Comments and questions7
Comments and questions …

  • The fragmentation into core and peripheral workforce.

  • The experience of the modular consortium that has been spreading in different regions of the world does not confirm the idea of staff separated into core and peripheral workforce.

  • In the case of the automobile industry, with the strategy of dividing the market into different regions, not only the more simple tasks were directed to the underdeveloped countries but also more complex tasks.

Comments and questions8
Comments and questions …

  • The engineering and design of vehicles, for example, have been transferred to countries like Brazil, because there are well formed people but also because even in this level of employment the salaries are lower than in Europe or the US. So, countries like Brazil, with the flexible firm has acquired a better position in the value chain.

  • Qualitative data gathered with employees of multinational companies show that insecurity related to jobs was common in all levels of the firms. In the case of the modular consortium, managers and shop floor workers were equally concerned about losing their jobs.

  • Would it be possible to think of a “strategic worker” in situations like that? In terms of payment, the modular system has imposed an equal pay to all workers of the firms.

Comments and questions9
Comments and questions …

  • About working time flexibility and work intensity (different forms of gender segregation; Value chain restructuring does not cause much change gender composition, but reproduces existing segmentations)

  • The intensity of work -> one of the main characteristics of the flexible jobs in the formal economy.

  • The challenge of thinking working time flexibility in labour markets that are consituted by the combination of formal with informal jobs.

  • Flexibility of labour relations in labour markets with high level of informality -> intensity of work with insecurity.

Comments and questions10
Comments and questions …

  • Working time flexibility

  • The less clear border separating the territory of work and the territory of private life, of home, of family -> important issue associated to the intensification of work.

  • Workers in the formal labour market feel responsible for their own improvement and don’t see the requirements for more qualification as responsibility of the firm, but their own responsibility.

  • Like in Europe, different forms of gender segregation are also present in organizations, but in the Brazilian example, there is no regulated par-time work, and jobs for women are usually connected to domestic work.

Comments and questions11
Comments and questions …

  • Atypical working schedules -> in countries with less formalised labour markets there has been an even greater relation between working hours at unusual times and informal labour relations.

  • The presence of atypical forms of work in the value chain -> work cooperatives, precarious jobs, “slave” labour.

  • The gender dimension remains transversal along all occupations and countries -> but it is also important to identify the work of children (mainly girls) in the household.

For discussion
For discussion

  • Flexibility and work in underveloped countries

  • Unusual experiences of flexibility

  • Influence of localities in the process of re-organising production in the value chain

  • Trade unions -> different sorts of resistance inside and outside the firms

  • Flexibility and the informal labour market

  • Atypical forms of work