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Global value chains and the labour process in South African textile cooperatives: workplace democracy and gender (in)equality

Crockett, Gareth (2018) Global value chains and the labour process in South African textile cooperatives: workplace democracy and gender (in)equality. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

Worker cooperatives are widely recognised as a promising device for the facilitation of workplace democracy and the promotion of gender equality. However, cooperatives can face the challenge of being socially progressive organisations embedded within capitalist economies, making them vulnerable to influences from the market and the supply chain. Further, the recent rise of global value chains has seemingly intensified commercial and competitive pressures on worker owned firms. This study addresses these concerns by exploring the extent to which South African worker cooperatives promote workplace democracy and gender equality, examining GVCs and worker cooperatives, the impact of emerging market institutions, the implications of a fragmented and gendered labour process, and the increased disintegration of work across supply networks. Findings reveal that the worker-cooperatives had integrated into hybridised networks, comprising a social enterprise and several worker-owned organisations, in response to economic challenges previously inhibiting their access to global value chains. In terms of the labour process, the female-owned cooperatives were responsible for the lowest value aspects of production, with higher value activities retained by the social enterprise. As a result, female workers were forced to endure insecure jobs with limited social protection, while male production workers in the social enterprise experienced much better terms of employment. At the same time, the social enterprise was able to dictate decisions to the worker cooperatives, thereby undermining mechanisms of workplace democracy and undermining the influence of (female) production workers. Therefore, the main contribution of this study is to bring together new institutional theory, GVC analysis and gender in the workplace. It reveals how social enterprises can use their position in a GVC to dictate the labour process in worker cooperatives, fragmenting the gendered labour process and fracturing labour power at the point of production. It also highlights how social enterprises can cause non-congruent isomorphism, emboldening neoliberal assumptions relating to governance and management in worker cooperatives. Ultimately, the overall outcome was social downgrading in the form of limited workplace democracy and gender inequality.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Management School (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr Gareth Crockett
Date Deposited: 04 Mar 2019 08:51
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2019 08:51
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/23108

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