Work, employment & organisation Regulation & restructuring of employment relations in global context

The Department has a long research tradition in HRM strategy/practice and employment relations, contributing to themes such as participation and voice, union bargaining strategies and employee wellbeing. All our research addresses immediate pressures impacting organisations and employment, most recently, directed at understanding the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic. A growing area of expertise has examined questions of work and labour within an international political economy (see the Centre for the Political Economy of Labour and the Work, Labour and Globalisation research group).

Current projects

Employment regulation, voice & job quality

Staff: Dr Stewart Johnstone

A number of ongoing UK and comparative projects investigating the impact of economic turbulence and recession on work and employment relations, which began with analysis of the impact of the 2009 global financial and continues with a focus on the impact of the 2019 pandemic on employment relations.  Key themes include:

  • HR practices in recession
  • Employment downsizing
  • Alternatives to downsizing
  • Labour flexibility
  • Employment regulation
  • The impact of covid-19 on employment relations

Funders have included: British Academy/Leverhulme Trust

Selected publications:

Johnstone, S., 2019. Employment practices, labour flexibility and the Great Recession: An automotive case study. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 40(3), pp.537-559.

Johnstone, Stewart, George Saridakis, and Adrian Wilkinson (2019). "The global financial crisis, work and employment: Ten years on." Economic and Industrial Democracy 40(3): 455-468.

Johnstone, S., 2018. Downsizing and redundancy in in Wilkinson, A. Bacon, N. Snell, S and Lepak, D.  Sage Handbook of Human Resource Management.

Lai, Y., Saridakis, G., Blackburn, R. and Johnstone, S., 2016. Are the HR responses of small firms different from large firms in times of recession?. Journal of Business Venturing, 31(1), pp.113-131.

External collaborators include:

Tony Dobbins (Birmingham University, UK)

Marta Kahancová (Central European Labour Studies Institute (CELSI), Slovakia)

Yanqing Lai (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK).

Ryan Lamare (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, US)

George Saridakis (Kent University, UK)

Adrian Wilkinson (Griffith University, Australia)

Staff: Dr Stewart Johnstone

Funders have included: ESRC

Ongoing projects on developing positive employment relations and the role of employee voice and employment regulation in promoting good work which contributes to quality employment, productive organisations and fair societies.

 Key themes include:

  • Employee voice and representation
  • Trade unions
  • Non-union employee representation
  • Good work and responsible employers
  • Employment regulation

Selected publications:

Johnstone, S.and Dobbins T. (2021) Employment Relations in the United Kingdom in Bamber, G. Cooke, F.L. Wright, C.F and Doellgast, V. International and Comparative Employment Relations: Global Crises and Institutional Responses, SAGE, London.

Johnstone, S., Wilkinson, A. Donaghey, J. Dundon T. Freeman, R. (2020) Workplace partnership. In Handbook of Research on Employee Voice.Edward Elgar Publishing, London.

Johnstone, S., & Wilkinson, A. (2018). The potential of labour−management
partnership: a longitudinal case analysis
. British Journal of Management, 29(3), 554-570.

Rodriguez, J.K., Johnstone, S. and Procter, S., (2017). Regulation of work and employment: Advances, tensions and future directions in research in international and comparative HRM.

Johnstone, S. and Wilkinson, A. (2016) Developing Positive Employment Relations, Palgrave.

Johnstone, S. and Ackers, P (2015) Finding a Voice at Work, Oxford University Press.

Saridakis, G., Lai, Y. and Johnstone, S., (2020). Does workplace partnership deliver mutual gains at work?. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 41(4), pp.797-823.

External collaborators include:

Peter Ackers (Loughborough University, UK)

Greg Bamber (Monash University, Australia)

John Budd (University of Minnesota, US)

Tony Dobbins (Birmingham University, UK)

Ryan Lamare (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, US)

Stephen Procter (Newcastle University, UK)

Jenny Rodriguez (Manchester University, UK)

George Saridakis (Kent University, UK)

Adrian Wilkinson (Griffith University, Australia)

Staff: Professor Phil Taylor

Funding: STUC, Unite the Union, Communication Workers Union

This study centres on the risks faced by UK contact centre workers from Covid-19, since March 2020. An on-line survey garnered almost 3,000 responses, a body of qualitative and quantitative data which generated workplace-based reports focusing on immediate intervention to protect vulnerable workers in high-risk centres. Two fuller reports (Taylor, 2020a; b) identified multiple hazards in the ‘unique working environment’ - inadequate social distancing, poor sanitisation and cleaning regimes, problematic Heating and Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems and shared workstations and equipment. The project was informed by the author’s research into and in-depth knowledge of the call centre sector over 25 years, including political economy, work organisation, experience of work and occupational health. Analysis draws on a distinctive, theoretical model of office occupational health.

Both reports have received widespread media coverage, been the subject of questions in the UK and Scottish Parliaments and have had policy impacts. The second report influenced the Scottish Government’s decision to establish a Working Group to draw up sectoral guidelines for safe working. This research is ongoing and will consider the sustainability of existing office-based contact centre paradigm.

Selected Publications

Taylor, P. (2020a). Covid-19 and Call/Contact Centre Workers – An Intermediate Report. Glasgow: GIRUY Press ISBN 9781838533496

Taylor, P. (2020b). Contact/Call Centre Workers in Scotland. Glasgow: GIRUY Press ISBN 9781838533502

Funder: ESRC 2022-2025

Staff: Stewart Johnstone, Kendra Briken, Ian Cunningham, Tasos Hadjisolomou, Tony McCarthy, Stuart McIntyre, Dora Scholarios, Phil Taylor

Further Twitter @workervoices

The study is funded as part of the 2021 ESRC Transforming Working Lives call. Informed by evidence that access to good work can reduce inequality, poverty and improve working lives. Our central thesis is that effective voice is central to good work and fairer societies. However, ensuring more people have access to good work and empowering the most vulnerable in society requires better evidence and theorising of voice. The study adopts an innovative multidisciplinary approach to investigate whether contemporary workers feel they are kept informed at work, and the extent to which they feel they have the means to express themselves, and improve their working lives. The research brings together a diverse team of Strathclyde researchers with different disciplinary backgrounds, methodological expertise, and sector knowledge, to develop an innovative multi-level study of employee voice. The empirical focus is upon working lives in Inverclyde, a deprived deindustrialized region on the west coast of Scotland.

Global value & commodity chains

Staff: Professor Phil Taylor; Professor Dora Scholarios

Research into the globalisation of business services and Indian Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is a long-standing preoccupation and is ongoing. Studies (Roy et al, 2017; Taylor et al, 2014) have focused on the transformations wrought by the great crisis of 2008 on global service supply chains and the international division of labour, and the implications for work and employment relations. Economic disruption has been exacerbated by the political disruption of the growth of protectionism and by the consequences of automation, which are the subject of current research.

This project is also aligned with one of the core themes of the Centre for the Political Economy of Labour.

External collaborators: Dr. Chadrima Roy, University of Leicester; Dr. Johnson Minz, Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai

Selected Publications

Roy, C., Scholarios, D., and Taylor, P. (2017). ‘The recession has passed but the effects are still with us’: Employment, work organisation and employee experiences of work in post-crisis Indian BPO. In E. Noronha and P. D'Cruz (Eds.) Critical Perspectives on Work and Employment in Globalizing India, Singapore: Springer,.57-80.

Taylor, P. (2015). Labour and the changing landscapes of the call centre. In Newsome, K., Taylor, P., Rainnie, A. and Taylor, P. (Eds.) Putting Labour in its Place? Labour Process Analysis and Global Value Chains, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 266-286

Taylor, P. (2015). Employment Relations and Decent Work in the Global Contact Centre Industry - A Report for the International Labour Organisation, Geneva: International Labour Organisation

Taylor, P., D.Cruz, P., Noronha, E. & Scholarios, D. (2014) ‘From boom to where?’ The impact of crisis on work and employment in Indian BPO, New Technology, Work and Employment, 29.2, 105-123.

Staff: Professor Phil Taylor

This project takes as its point of departure the paradigm of ‘platform capitalism’, manifested in the case study of the ride-hailing company Uber. While technological innovation is germane to analysis of its transformative and disruptive business model, full consideration must be also be accorded to both the company’s reliance on venture capital and by its navigation and manipulation of state regulation in facilitating its expansion within the US initially and then globally. The study centres on Amazon’s penetration of the Indian taxi market, from 2013 in Bangalore and specifically in this study in Mumbai in 2014. The specific focus is the impact of Uber’s aggressive competitive strategy on work and employment of the 80-100,000 traditional taxi drivers (black and yellow and cool cabs). Its methodological approach is qualitative, being based initially on face-to-face semi-structured interviews with ‘traditional’ drivers, but additionally encompasses interviews with Maharashtra state regulators, trade union officers and participants in the extended strike action of November 2018. This project commenced in 2019 and is a collaboration with Dr. Johnson Minz of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. Regrettably, Covid-19 has caused a hiatus in fieldwork given, particularly, the serious public health situation in Mumbai which forbids face-to-face interviewing.

This project is also aligned with one of the core themes of the Centre for the Political Economy of Labour

External collaborator: Dr. Johnson Minz, Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai

Staff: Professor Phil Taylor; Dr. Kendra Briken

Funding: University of Strathclyde

The study’s significance lies in the enormous growth of on-line retail and its totemic organisation, Amazon. It is conceptually framed by the importance of rendering the centrality of labour agency in the circuits of capital, the circulation of commodities and their supply and value chains. Appropriate consideration is given to technological innovation and architecture (AMP – Amazon Market Place), which synthesises customer demand and commodity flow with labour organisation and control in this paradigm of platform capitalism, but the specific focus is on the organisation of work, experience of work and employment relations in Amazon Fulfilment Centres (FCs). Commencing in 2016 the project has focused on interviewing Amazon workers in two specific FCs (Gourock and Swansea) and utilising labour process theory in analysing mechanisms of technological, bureaucratic and temporal controls. In addition, the Amazon FC regime is situated in broader political-economic contexts, including labour markets, temporary work agencies and the national and local state (Briken and Taylor, 2018). This research is ongoing. However, since 2019, the researchers have collaborated with UK union GMB and global federation Union Network International (UNI) in its long-term campaign for worker rights at Amazon and have established and are central to an Amazon Research Network, co-ordinating research activity by labour studies academics across 15 UK Universities.

Selected Publications

Briken, K. and Taylor, P. (2018). 'Fulfilling the ‘British Way’: beyond constrained choice - Amazon workers’ lived experiences of workfare, Industrial Relations Journal.49,5-6.

Labour in the Global South

ESRC 2018-2021

Staff: Dr Brian Garvey, Dr Francis Virginio    

This ESRC project builds on several past international networks and collaborations funded by the Newton Fund and British Council. The participatory research aims to investigate and transform the increasingly widespread link between the concentration of migrants in need of humanitarian protection along migration corridors in the Brazilian Amazonia region; the requirement of large and flexible workforces for large infrastructure projects including construction and agribusiness; exploitative labour conditions in these industries that that are part of ‘sustainable development’ agendas. The project engages workers from Brazil, Haiti, Colombia, Venezuela, Senegal and various other African states.

Further information:

Collaborators: Paul Stewart, Grenoble School of Management; José Alves, Federal University of Acre, Brazil

Selected publications

Garvey, B., Aparecido Souza, E., Rodrigues Mendonça, M., dos Santos, C. V., & Virginio, F. V. P. (2019). The mythical shapeshifting of capital and petrification of labour: deepening conflict on the agrofuel frontier. Antipode51(4), 1185-1209.

Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship

StaffFrancis Portes Virginio

Description: This Leverhulme project explores emerging patterns of military and paramilitary regulation in development corridors in the Brazilian Amazonian region. In particular, this study aims to investigate how this securitization of regulatory agencies impact on experiences of slave labour within migrants and internally displaced communities (IDPs).  The project will inform policy responses to displacement, environmental and labour protection.

Selected Publications:

Virginio, F. (ed.) & Lepri, L. (Translator) (2021) Informality and Protection of Immigrant Workers: Navigating Humanitarianism, Securitisation, and Dignity. Outras Expressões. Sao Paulo.

Portes Virginio, F., Stewart, P. and Garvey, B., 2022. Unpacking super-exploitation in the 21st century: the struggles of Haitian workers in Brazil. Work, Employment and Society

Portes Virginio, F., Garvey, B., Leão, L.H.D.C. and Vasquez Pistório, B., 2022. Contemporary slave labour on the Amazonian frontier: the problems and politics of post rescue solidarity. Globalizations, pp.1-18. 


Federal University of Mato Grosso

Secretary of Labour Inspection, Ministry of Labour and Employment

Further information:

Find out more on the Centre for the Political Economy of Labour site.

EPSRC/GCRF Newton Fund 2020-2022

Staff: Dr Pratima Sambajee, Dr Darren McGuire, Prof. Dora Scholarios

The recent Covid-19 Miscellaneous Provisions Bill in Mauritius substantially altered the Workers’ Right Act (WRA), leading to changes in working conditions, employment protections and the rights of workers across the country. Theoretically framed by the Capabilities Approach (Nussbaum, 2000; Sen,1979, 2009), this mixed methods study considers changes to workers’ rights and impacts on migrant and domestic workers’ abilities to engage in fulfilling work across hospitality and tourism, garment and textile manufacturing and the informal economy in Mauritius. Based on a survey of over 1200 workers and interviews with 50 policy-makers, we aim to identify what workers’ value, explore conditions that enable human flourishing, and assess changes in opportunity set and wellbeing in light of Covid-19 amendments to the WRA. In partnership with the University of Mauritious, the Strathclyde University team will make recommendations and facilitate dialogue on how workers' commodities and capabilities can be enhanced with a focus on social, economic and welfare outcomes. The study touches on SDG 1 (no poverty), 3 (good health and wellbeing), and 10 (reduced inequalities), but substantively considers the SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) targets of By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all and protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers.

Selected publications

McGuire, D Laaser, K (2018) ‘You have to pick’: Cotton and state-organized forced labour in Uzbekistan. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 0143831X18789786.

Sambajee, P. (2015) Rethinking non-traditional resistance at work: The case of the Indian Diaspora in Mauritius. Culture and Organization21(5), 386-408.

Service work, aesthetics & performance

GCRF, Newton Fund, British Council

Staff: Professor Tom Baum, Professor Dennis Nickson, Dr Pratima Samajee, Dr Konstantinos Tomazos

Staff have been involved in a number of projects in the area of international tourism and allied frontline service work. Projects with partners in the University of the Philippines have investigated barriers to social inclusion in tourism employment in the context of major cities (Manilla, Glasgow). Projects with Moi University, Kenya and the University of Johannesburg have explored the application of sustainable HR practices and in tourism employment in Africa and methodologies that give voice to marginalised communities in Kenya with respect to employment and wider economic opportunities in tourism. The focus of this research challenges the dominant narrative in research into low skills work in tourism that is predominantly managerialist and problem-solving in orientation.

Selected publications

Baum, T. (2018). Sustainable human resource management as a driver in tourism policy and planning: a serious sin of omission?. Journal of Sustainable Tourism26(6), 873-889.

Tomazos, K., et al. (2017). From leisure to tourism: How BDSM demonstrates the transition of deviant pursuits to mainstream products. Tourism Management60, 30-41.

One Ocean Hub

NERC, 2019-24

Professor Tom Baum’s involvement in the One Ocean Hub addresses employment, specifically in tourism, within the Blue Economy of five countries in the Global South.

Staff: Dr Tasos Hadjisolomou, Professor Ian Cunningham, Professor Dennis Nickson

A number of comparative and innovative projects have explored customer aggression and aberrant behaviour within service work in the retail and hospitality sector. Key themes include:

  • Customer abuse on the service front-line during Covid-19 pandemic
  • Customer abuse and dignity at work in online retailing
  • Customer (mis)behaviour in luxury retailing and the notion of class
  • Xenophobia and customer abuse
  • Transphobia and customer abuse
  • Sexual harassment and sexualized aesthetic labour in the gay tourism industry
  • A comparative analysis of sexual harassment in hospitality sector in Scotland and Ireland

Selected publications

Hadjisolomou A. & Nickson D. The way he looks: Sexualized Aesthetic labour in the gay tourism industry. Paper presented at International Labour Process Conference, Vienna 23-26 April 2019.

Cunningham, I. & Hadjisolomou, A. Blurring allegiances within the service triangle: Austerity, unemployment & customer abuse of migrant workers in the Cyprus food retail sector. Paper presented at AAIRANZ conference, Melbourne Australia 12-14 Feb 2019.

Research networks