Challenges for Workers and Unions
Edited by Carole Thornley, Steve Jefferys and Beatrice Appay
Chapter 1: Introduction: Globalization and Precarious Forms of Production and Employment: Challenges for Workers and Unions
Carole Thornley, Steve Jefferys and Beatrice Appay INTRODUCTION When the collapse of one American finance house in September 2008 can set in train a process that the International Labour Organization (ILO) forecast led to 20 million people losing their jobs within a year, it is not surprising that globalization is now attracting an intense interest. Whilst economic globalization has been a tendency throughout the era of capitalist organization, the increases in its speed and spread in the last few decades,1 aided by forms of new technology and global deregulation, have made research in this area ever more pressing. Production has nearly everywhere become a movable feast. It can be switched off and switched on, or relocated much more easily than ever in the past. With respect to production, a deepening deindustrialization process in the mature capitalist economies has seen important shifts of manufacturing and also some service activities to the newly industrializing countries (NICs), the former command economies within the Russian sphere of influence, India and China/South East Asia. Simultaneously wholesale shifts in governmental ideologies and policies have seen sweeping privatizations in both goods and services sectors, and a blurring of the public/private boundaries more generally. As a result of these processes, both production and employment are becoming systematically more precarious. While the main transmission mechanisms for these changes have been finance markets and transnational corporations (TNCs),2 the employment effects of the increasing concentration of world economic power in a few tens of thousands of huge firms have...