Launch of the Work on Demand Project
On 18-19 October, the Work on Demand (WorkOD) research project was launched at the School of Law, University of Glasgow. The full title of this ERC-funded project is ‘Work on Demand: Contracting for Work in a Changing Economy’. It aims to investigate the current viability of systems of labour law in the face of an increased use of casual contracts, work on demand and ‘gig’ jobs in contemporary labour markets. In addition to the principal investigator, Ruth Dukes, the WorkOD team includes three research associates, Dr Alessio Bertolini, Dr Eleanor Kirk, Dr Gregoris Ioannou, two PhD students, Jennifer Hall and Megan Dyer, and a research assistant, Aude Cefaliello.
Professor Dukes has long been interested in understanding different approaches to the study of labour law. In her monograph The Labour Constitution (2014), she addressed the question of whether traditional legal concepts and frames of reference, developed during the industrial era, could still be applied to contemporary working relationships, in an era of post-industrialism, globalisation and rapid technological change. With the WorkOD project, she aims to develop a novel approach to the study of labour law and the key legal concept of the contract for work, drawing on several social science disciplines, including economic sociology, political economy and sociology of law. The project also aims to explain current trends in the field of work organisation and working relationships and to contribute to scholarly and policy debates in providing solutions to the problem of the division of responsibilities and risks between workers and those for whom they work.
The WorkOD Launch Event was attended by several renowned scholars from Europe and beyond, including members of the project’s advisory panel: Wolfgang Streeck (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies Cologne), Karl Klare (Northeastern University), Kerry Rittich (University of Toronto), Simon Deakin (University of Cambridge), Sabine Frerichs (Institute for Sociology and Social Research Vienna), Diamond Ashiagbor (University of Kent), Fred Block (University of California Davis) and Emilios Christodoulidis (University of Glasgow).
On 18 October, as part of the project Launch, Ruth Dukes gave an Inaugural Lecture entitled Critical Labour Law: Then and Now. The lecture can be viewed here.
On 19 October, an opening session was dedicated to the presentation of the overall project by Ruth, followed by the presentation of the three individual sub-projects developed by each of the research associates. Eleanor’s project will investigate the role of workers’ and HR managers’ legal consciousness in affecting contracting behaviour. Alessio aims to analyse policy makers’ and policy stakeholders’ understanding of the policy issue and identification of policy solutions to the regulation of work on demand. Finally, Gregoris intends to consider the internalisation of market and neoliberal norms and values by workers involved in jobs on demand.
In the second part of the event, the advisory panel members provided feedback and suggestions on the project proposals and on a position paper written by Ruth, ‘The Economic Sociology of Labour Law’. The proposals were well received by all members of the panel and the scope of the project was regarded as innovative, while its aims were judged as extremely ambitious and valuable. Several members of the audience provided their positive feedback and contributed to the discussion. Overall the event was characterised by a very friendly and inclusive atmosphere, testified also by the fact that several of the discussions started during the sessions were continued informally over the lunch and coffee breaks. The event was closed by Ruth, thanking all participants for their insightful comments and encouragement, and expressing her hope that they should all meet again in due course to share the developments and findings of the WorkOD project.