Call for Papers - The Global Labour University

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Call for Papers - The Global Labour University
CallforPapers
11thGlobalLabourUniversityConference,
SouthAfrica,2016
“TheJustTransitionandtheRoleofLabour:OurEcological,Social,and
EconomicFuture”
September28to30,2016
Johannesburg,SouthAfrica
TheGlobalLabourUniversityispleasedtoannounceacallforpapersforthe
2016conferenceon“TheJustTransitionandtheRoleofLabour:OurEcological,
Social,andEconomicFuture”tobeheldinJohannesburg,SouthAfricafrom
September28to30,2016.
Thedynamicsofthecurrentglobaleconomicandpolitical(dis)orderhavehad
devastatingimpactsontheenvironmentandonworkingpeople,theirfamilies
andcommunitiesthroughouttheworld.Thesedynamicshaveresultedinthe
informalisationoflabour,unemployment,andsocialinequalityatthenational
andgloballevels.The“slummification”ofcitiesandcommodificationofpublic
goodsandpublicservicesaswellascommongoodslikeland,waterandpublic
spacehasintensified.Decliningbiodiversity,climatechangeandpollutionare
evidenceoftheimpactofthecrisisontheplanetitself.Environmental
degradationthreatensviablelivelihoodsandendangerspublichealth.
Meanwhile,marketimperativesgetdefiningpoweroverdailylife,business
intereststightentheirstrangleholdonthestatelogic,andpoweristransferredto
supranationalinstitutionswithlimiteddemocraticaccountability,
simultaneouslynarrowingelectoralchoices,andplacingincreasingrestrictions
onprotest.
Labour,asakeysocialforceoftheexcludedmajority,hasacrucialroletoplayin
counteringthesedestructivelogics,yetwealsofindlabourplayingamore
ambiguousrole,forexampleprotectingthepositionof‘insider’sectorsofthe
workingclass,colludingwithgoverningpartiesorcorporations,orparticipating
incorruptpractices.Thisconferenceisdesignedtoexplorebothprogressive
labourexperiencesaswellasthesemoreambiguousorcontraryactivities.To
whatextentdoesthepoliticsoflabouralterorreinforcethebalanceofpower
awayfromcapitalandunelectedbureaucraciestowardlabourandbroader
society?Towhatextentdoeslabourovercomethemultiplerelationsofpower
andoppression,includingtheeconomic,politicalgender,ethnicandcultural,and
towhatextentdoeslabourcontributetoandreproducethepowerofthefewand
thesubordinationofthemany?Inlightoftheseexperiences,doweneedto
rethinktheanalyticalcategory‘tradeunion’andtheassumptionsthatwe
attachedtothis?Thesequestionshavethefollowingdimensions:
1. Theworkplace:Labour’sattemptstoreversethedecliningwageshare‐
throughmobilisationforhigherwagesandbetterworkingconditions,as
canbeseenintherecentstrikewaveinSouthAfricaandotherpartsof
theworld.Thisisespeciallyimportantasrisinginequalityhasdevastating
effectsonsocietyasmoreandmorepeoplearepushedtomarginsof
productionandconsumptionpatterns.Forexample,thisincludesissues
ofdistributionofproductivitygrowth,minimumwagesandbasicincome
grantsaswellaspolicyissuesoftaxationandredistribution;butalsothe
issueofimprovingtheenvironmentalconditionsofworkandproduction.
Dolabourstrategiescontributetosocialsolidaritybyraisingliving
standardsforthebroadmassofworkersandthepoor,ordothey
fragmenttheworkingclassandsocietybylookingaftertheinterestsof
narrowsectorsofmembers?
2. Employment:Anytransitiontoalowcarboneconomywillhaveamajor
impactonemployment.Howcanthistransitionbeorganisedwithout
majorjoblossesandhowcanworkersin“brown”industriestransition
intootherformsofqualityemployment.Whatarelabourstrategiesto
ensurethatnewjobsarenotonlygreenerbutalsodecent?Orarelabour
strategiesconfinedtoprogressivesoundingpolicy,whileinpractice
defendingbrownindustries–frequentlythestrongholdsofthemost
militantunions?
3. Newformsofpowerorleverage:Withrisingunemploymentand
increasingnumbersofworkerspushedintoprecariousformsofwork,
traditionalsourcesofpowerareeroded,butnewformsofpowerare
beingexplored,includingbythemostmarginalisedandsectors
traditionallynotorganisedbylabourmovements.Labour’srelationswith
othersocialforcesarecrucialhere.Thisalsoraisesquestionsaboutwho
constitutestheworkingclass,withwiderunderstandingsoflabour
increasinglyfindingsalienceininnovativemovementsaroundtheworld.
Ontheotherhand,inmanycasestradeunionsendupinpractice
defendingtheinterestsoftheirrelativelymoresecureandhighlypaid
membership,contributingtothereproductionofthedisempowermentof
theprecarious.Thedevelopmentoftransnationallinkagesandnetworks
isalsoanimportantdimensiontothedevelopmentofnewformsofpower
andleverage.
4. Progressivepolicies:Labour’sattempts,ofteninalliancewithother
groupsincivilsociety,topressuregovernmentstoincreasethesocial
wage(pubichealth,education,transport,housingetc),increase
employmentandchangeeconomic(andslowlyenvironmental)policy
accordingly.Forexample,whatwouldbethepolicyagendaofalabour
ledjusttransition?Howshouldlabourbethinkingaboutpolicygiven
planetaryresourceconstraintsandecologicalboundaries?Howcan
labourimpactglobaleventsliketheclimatesummit?Wealsoencourage
papersthatlookattheconversionofindustrialproductioninto
alternativeformsofproductionandconsumptionaswellaspapers
lookingatecologicalissues.Whatarethemosteffectivewaystodevelop
inclusiveandsustainablesocietiesandpolicy?
5. Politicalparties,alliancesandtradeunionorganisations,and
politicalpower:Labour’sattemptstodirectlyalterthebalanceofstate
power,either
a. throughallianceswithrulingpoliticalparties,
b. throughthereorganisationoftradeunionorganisationsand
strategies,
c. throughthedevelopmentofalternativeorganisationsandalliances
withothermovementsincivilsociety,or
d. throughbuildingmovementsthatrefusetoparticipateinthestate,
butarewillingtopressureitforreforms.
Thisraisesquestionsabouttheroleoflabour—asareformingforce,asa
legitimatingfunction,hinderingmoreradicalchallengestostatepower,
orasacentralactorinbuildinganalternativetothedestructivelogicof
capitalistdevelopment.Thesocialstressesof‘savagecapitalism’are
givingrisetonewfracturesandnewsocialforcesinsociety—populist,
racist,divisive,xenophobic,anti‐immigrant,patriarchal,etc.Towhat
extentarelabourmovementscombatingtheseforces,andtowhatextent
aretheseforcesfomentingdivisionsandfragmentationwithinlabour
movements,orevencapturingthem?Thenatureofpoliticalandsocial
alliancesandformsofmobilisingarevitalissuesthatarebeing
experimentedoninvariousregionsoftheworld(e.g.,movementsinLatin
America,SouthKoreanmarginalisedworkers,etc.).Italsoraises
questionsaboutinternationalapproachestoglobalgovernance.
6. Governingtheeconomy:Withintheneoliberalframework,
competitivenessbecomesmoreaggressiveandself‐destructingthrough
currencymanipulation,quantitativeeasing,wagedumping,trade
barriers,devaluationetc.Istherespaceforeconomicpolicynationally
andinternationallythatavoidsthedisadvantagesofacompetitiveraceto
thebottomoraretreatinisolatedeconomicnationalism?Mainstream
economistsnowtalkof“secularstagnation”–isthesteadystateeconomy,
ordegrowth,somethingdevelopedcountriesmayhavetoseriously
consider?Whatimplicationswillthishavefordevelopingcountries?How
islabourrespondingtosuchdilemmas?
7. Alternativeformsofproduction,consumptionandredistribution:
Thisraisesquestionsaboutwhatarealternativeformsofproductionand
consumption.Forexample,workercooperatives,
microcredit/microfinanceprojects(includingitsproblemsforinformal
sectorworkers),sociallyownedrenewableenergy,foodsovereigntyand
localagriculturalproduction,movementsfortheUniversalBasicIncome
Grant,andsolidarityeconomyalternativeshaveemergedaroundthe
world.Thisthemedrawstogethertheseexperiences.
8. Combatingthedecentworkdeficitinagriculturalproduction
systems:Farmworkersandsmall‐holdersfacesomeoftheworst
workingandlivelihoodconditions.Thiscallsnotonlyforeconomicup‐
gradingbutalsoforsocialup‐grading,whichneedstobeaddressedinan
interdisciplinaryway.Howdoesonemeasurethedecentworkdeficitin
agriculture?Howcanagriculturalproductionmodesimprovedina
sustainableway?Howcanoneaddressthepowerconstellationsatthe
nodalpointsoftheproductionsystems?Howcanadecentworkagenda
beimplementedinthemanagementofsupplychains?Whatkindofglobal
tradeandinvestmentrulesconstrainenvironmentalandsocial
sustainabilityinagriculture?
Wewelcomesubmissionsforpapersonanyofthesethemes.Whilewe
encouragesubmissionofpapersthatbroadlyfitintothethemes,wewillalso
considerpapersthatdonotfitdirectlyintooneofthethemesaslongasit
addressesthebroadfocusoftheconference.Pleaseindicatewhichthemeyour
paperaddresseswithyourabstractsubmission.TheGLUencouragespolicy
orientatedresearchandthereforewelcomessubmissionsthatnotonlyanalyse
theproblem,butalsooffersomepolicyinitiativesandsolutionsfordebate.
Pleasesendaonepageabstract(whichincludesyourmethodologicalapproach)
byJanuary30,[email protected]

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