The Representation of Non-Standard Workers: Theory and Culture of Collective Bargaining

TitleThe Representation of Non-Standard Workers: Theory and Culture of Collective Bargaining
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsCella, Gian Primo
JournalTransfer: European Review of Labour and Research
Pagination171 - 184
Keywordscollective bargaining, collective bargaining theory, non-standard workers, representation, trade union cultures, unionism

This article starts by looking at the intriguing similarities between the ends of the 19th and 20th centuries as far as the relationships between work and systems or structures of production are concerned. It considers the possible options for representing non-standard (or atypical) workers that can be usefully drawn from the past. Work is termed atypical as compared to the institutionalized forms dominant in the era of Taylorist-Fordist industrial production, although atypical work today has significant precedents in the 19th century. With regard to trade union cultures and policies, the thesis is that only by changing the logic and the practice of bargaining action, drawing inspiration from the theory of the Webbs, can suitable forms of representation be found for those components of non-standard labour more distant from the well-defined, stylized figure of the worker of the industrial age. This is a perspective that can represent both extremes of workers that offer their labour on the market: the highly skilled semi-independent worker, and the contingent worker with generic skills, who is possibly a member of the working poor. This could open the way for a unionism under which few would be excluded from collective representation, even if not ‘collective’ in the way understood in the past.