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Oya, Carlos and Schaefer, Florian (2020) The politics of labour relations in global production networks: Collective action, industrial parks, and local conflict in the Ethiopian apparel sector. IDCEA Working Paper n. 076. London: SOAS University of London.

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In this paper we examine the emerging politics of labour agency as new manufacturing locations are incorporated into existing global production networks, using the example of the Ethiopian apparel industry. The Ethiopian state has employed an active space-based industrial policy to attract leading apparel manufacturers into a series of new industrial parks in the country. At the same time, the global apparel industry has undergone a global restructuring process in response to cost and productivity pressures exerted by lead firms. We argue that the consequences for workers depend not just on state action and lead firms, but also on responses by organised and unorganised labour. We extend existing frameworks which combine analyses of global production networks with local labour processes by highlighting the variegated forms of labour agency used by Ethiopian workers and the interactions of factory-based labour grievances with local political conflicts. To capture these factors and their interactions, we combine a quantitative large-N survey of factory workers with in-depth qualitative interviews with managers, workers, trade union representatives and government officials. We demonstrate how industrial parks emerged as spaces of particularly intense contestation between workers, company managers and government officials at both national and subnational levels. Many industrial conflicts result from the collision of productivity imperatives on part of manufacturing firms tied into demanding, but low value-added, segments of global production networks with the expectations of workers with limited or no prior experience in industry but are compounded by the contradictory actions of different state agencies.

Item Type: Monographs and Working Papers (Working Paper)
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Development Studies
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2021 12:53
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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