A Centre on Labour and Global Production Workshop
The Labour of Logistics: Workers and resistance across global supply chains
Thursday 14 June, 2pm – 6pm
Queen Mary University of London (Mile End campus), Mile End Road, E1 4NS
Graduate Centre, room GC201
Admission is free - please register your place at http://bit.ly/clgplogistics
With guest speakers
Katy Fox-Hodess (lecturer in work, employment, people and organizations at the University of Sheffield)
Victor Figuroa (Lead researcher on new technology and the future of work, International Transport Workers Federation)
Andy Green (Dock worker and UNITE workplace representative)
Kim Moody (author, On New Terrain: How capital is reshaping the battleground of class struggle)
Sian Moore (Professor in Employment Relations and Human Resource Management, University of Greenwich)
Kirsty Newsome (Professor in Employment Relations, University of Sheffield)
Patricia Rocha Lemos (PhD researcher, University of Campinas, Centre for Labour Economics and Trade Unionism)
The ‘logistics revolution’ has been a central element in a global reorganisation of capitalist production. Container shipping has experienced astronomical growth in recent decades: from 102 million tons in 1980 to 1.631 billion tons in 2014; a sixteen-fold increase. The expansion of intermodal transportation has accompanied the development of tightly managed global supply chains, as commodities are shipped across the world, moved through ports and distribution centres and delivered to retailers or the customer’s doorstep. From the shipping container to the Amazon package, the ubiquity of logistics is an increasingly prominent factor in everyday life.
Behind these processes lies a story of increasing intensification of the labour process for millions of workers. So called “just-in-time” delivery methods that demand regularity and predictability, and ever-increasing levels of standardisation and automation to guarantee that reliability, have reshaped logistics work. Ports, which have been bastions of trade union strength, have seen precipitous declines in their workforces – between 1961 and 2001 over 90 percent of dock work was lost in the UK. Increasing numbers of logistics workers find themselves employed in high pressure and low wage work in distribution centres and courier services. These workers are typically unorganised, with managements that fiercely resist attempts at unionisation. Yet in in the context of tightly integrated networks of production, logistics workers have tremendous potential disruptive power.
In this workshop, we will discuss these developments and attempt to answer a series of questions: How is logistics work changing around the world? What forms of resistance do these transformations engender? And what opportunities and challenges exist for organising workers across the sector?