New frontiers around ‘citizenship at work’ and how multilevel-governance institutions can be designed to maximise value, was the topic of a 15th April seminar delivered by Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing (WOW) guest, and Canadian Research Chair on Globalisation and Work (University of Montréal),Professor Gregor Murray. So what is ‘citizenship at work’?

“‘Citizenship at work’ is a set of minimum conditions around work that are related to security… ‘Industrial citizenship’ [has] for Canada historically, offered a meta-narrative of rights at work.Social rights such as healthcare, employment insurance, pensions, family allowances; gender equality;…labour law and public policies about work; and the success of work systems [consequently affecting] human rights”, explains Gregor, are the phenomena bound up with ‘citizenship’.

New contexts around employment, however, are influenced by globalisation; reconfigured organisational forms; a weakening in collective bargaining; an erosion of the social state; and an increasing gap around the models of work and the institutional frameworks set up to support them which have combined to significantly change our notion of ‘citizenship’. What part then does ‘citizenship’ play in the narrative around industrial relations?

Professor Gregor Murray (image courtesy of University of Montreal)

Professor Gregor Murray (image courtesy of University of Montreal)

Professor Murray(pictured left), notes, as a paradigm that considers both workers’ rights, institutional governance and both parties’ participation, ‘citizenship’ is useful in contemporary applications to describe and measure what is happening in the workplace to prompt labour market action and to facilitate coherent social transformations. He suggests we look at:

  • Areas which are contested — consider how we want to think about people’s lives at work: is a respect of human capacity, dignity, gender equality, fundamental human rights etc. part of the discussion?
  • Interactions between the different spheres of the work/ life process — family responsibilities, mobile labour markets, the transnational division of labour, identifying the ‘value chain’ both locally and internationally, linking identities, the meaning of work, the environmental sustainability of work, and the ability to stimulate human agency and human capacity; and
  • The processes employed by the actors involved — the negotiated and experimental nature of contemporary ‘citizenship at work’.

“You want to study the struggles where they’re happening, and study the organisational forms”, saysGregor. While contexts do make a difference, he believes we can “make a set of rules that act as a barometer when applied to different [workplace] contexts.”

Gregorwas a guest of the Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing for two weeks in April. He is also the Director of the InterUniversity Research Centre on Globalization and Work at the University of Montréal.