Informal Workers: From Atomised Objects to Collective Subjects

Resource Library

University of Sydney, Wednesday 19 July 2023

This workshop organised jointly by the Sydney Employment Relations Research Group at the University of Sydney Business School, the Futures Network of the Australian Trade Union Institute at the ACTU, and Unions NSW.

Informal or irregular workers – those not reached by labour law, such as domestic workers, undocumented migrant workers, contract workers and on-demand workers – were for decades seen as atomised actors in the economy, working informally as a ‘survivalist’ reaction to the absence of other options. However, there has been a recent explosion of global research on how informal workers organise to build power and defend their rights as workers.
In this workshop, Professor Chris Tilly from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs drew on his research as well as that of others to explore key lessons from these experiences of organising. The lessons have implications not just for informal workers, but for their formal counterparts, many of whom are experiencing more precarious conditions that bring them closer to informality.
Professor Tilly’s presentation was followed by case study presentations from unions that have led successful campaigns to organise and improve the position of irregular workers in Australia: Thomas Costa (Unions NSW), Shane Roulstone (AWU), Anthony Byrne (United Workers Union), Cassie Derrick (MEAA) and Miriam Thompson (Cleaning Accountability Framework).

About the presenter

Chris Tilly is Professor of Urban Planning and Sociology at UCLA. He holds a joint PhD in Economics and Urban Studies and Planning from MIT.  For over 30 years, Professor Tilly has conducted research on bad jobs and how to make them better.  His books include Half a Job: Bad and Good Part‑Time Jobs in a Changing Labor Market, Stories Employers Tell: Race, Skills, and Hiring in America, The Gloves-Off Economy: Labor Standards at the Bottom of America’s Labor Market, and Are Bad Jobs Inevitable?  His current research includes ongoing examination of how implementation of digital technologies is transforming US retail jobs, as well as separate research on informal worker organising around the world.  Prior to becoming an academic, he spent seven years doing labor and community organising.



Publisher / Organisation: ,


Content Length: 1 hour 53 mins


image Attribution CC BY

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