Postgraduate research opportunities Sorry we missed you: The unheard voices of parcel delivery workers


Key facts

  • Opens: Monday 29 January 2024
  • Deadline: Wednesday 3 April 2024
  • Number of places: 1
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Funding: Home fee, Stipend


This project aims to advance understanding of the contemporary lives of parcel delivery workers. Despite attracting regular attention in the media regarding poor working conditions – including precarity, low pay, surveillance and limited employment rights – such workers have received limited attention in the extant voice and silence literature. Empirical evidence therefore remains very limited. The project will therefore advance understanding of the working lives of parcel delivery workers.
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Candidates should possess a first-class or upper second-class UK Honours degree, or overseas equivalent, in a relevant business, law, policy or social science related subject. A Masters degree, or overseas equivalent, is also desired, although there are often exceptions.

Strathclyde Business School is committed to supporting a diverse and inclusive postgraduate research population. We make decisions on entry by assessing the whole person and not relying solely on academic achievements. On that basis, please ensure that your application (via your CV and covering letter) can evidence your resourcefulness, commitment and resilience as demonstrated by broader professional and life experiences. This evidence should be centred on your ability to undertake and complete a PhD and contribute to a positive PhD community.  

If English isn't your first language, you'll need an IELTS score of 6.5 or equivalent with no individual element below 5.5.  

Your application must include:  

  • an updated curriculum vitae  
  • details of two academic referees, including email addresses  
  • academic transcripts, which must be certified copies  
THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner
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Project Details

Freedom of association and worker representation are key tenets of international labour standards, the International Labour Organisation Decent Work Agenda, and UN Sustainable Development Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth. Though precise definitions of ‘decent work’ vary, employee voice has long been recognised as a central dimension of fair work and good jobs (Wilkinson and Fay, 2011), while limited voice opportunities can have a detrimental impact on employee health and wellbeing (Johnstone and Ackers, 2015).

Yet while the value of employee voice is well-established, most research assumes a ‘standard’ employment relationship, where a job is continuous, full time and with a direct relationship between employer and employee (ILO, 2023). Less attention has been paid to employee voice in the ‘gig economy’, now estimated to employ up to 5 million people in the UK (Shenker, 2019). Though several studies have explored collective action and self-organisation in ride hailing and food delivery (e.g. Uber, Deliveroo), little is known about voice in a broader sense i.e. “the potential to influence organisational affairs through a variety of means including formal/informal and individual/collective opportunities” (Wilkinson, 2022). This is important as such workers typically have fewer employment rights and limited face-to-face interaction with managers/co-workers, and are often subject to intense technological surveillance and performance management.

The study will explore the working lives of parcel delivery workers - who frequently attract attention in the media because of exploitative working conditions (Guardian 2017, 2018, 2021) - but who whose voices remain unheard in the literature.

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Funding details

Fully-funded scholarship for three years covers all university tuition fees (at UK level) and an annual tax-free stipend. International students are also eligible to apply, but they will need to find other funding sources to cover the difference between the home and international tuition fees. Exceptional international candidates may be provided funding for this difference. 

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Dr Johnstone

Dr Stewart Johnstone

Work, Employment and Organisation

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Dr Briken

Dr Kendra Briken

Senior Lecturer
Work, Employment and Organisation

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Number of places: 1

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Work, Employment and Organisation

Programme: Work, Employment and Organisation

Start date: Oct 2024 - Sep 2025