Fulfilling the 'British Way': beyond constrained choice - Amazon workers' lived experiences of workfare

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This article makes a distinctive contribution to critiquing the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices (TRMWP). Rejecting TRMWP’s abstracted concept of 'choice' and its celebration of the 'British way' of job creation, it emphasises the degree of compulsion experienced by low-pay, temporary workers in local labour markets. The empirical focus is on Amazon’s ‘fulfilment centre’ at Swansea and draws on testimonies of 'associates', both permanent and, mostly, agency temps including migrant workers. The article situates these worker experiences in job-starved labour markets, considering the role of temporary worker agencies (TWAs) and the effects of workfare and benefit sanctions. The evidence compels a reconceptualization of the triangular relationship between TWAs, employers and temp workers as quadrilateral, emphasising the role of the state. A brutal, digitally-enabled lean workplace regime intersects with a brutal, digitally-enabled workfare regime which serves to thoroughly critique Taylor’s absurdly optimistic characterisation of choice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)438-458
Number of pages21
JournalIndustrial Relations Journal
Issue number5-6
Early online date7 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2018


  • Amazon
  • workfare
  • sanctions
  • Wacquant
  • Taylor review
  • coercion
  • temporary work


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