‘Good when they want to be’: migrant workers in the supermarket supply chain

Paul Thompson, Kirsty Newsome, Johanna Commander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the increased attention paid to the role and effects of migrant labour in the contemporary economy, there has been insufficient attention to the role of employers and the employment relationship. Recent studies have highlighted distinctive labour power characteristics of new labour migrants from Central and Eastern Europe that make them ‘good workers’ in the eyes of employers. Drawing on multiple case studies across the supermarket supply chain, this paper explores what kind of human resource migrant labour is perceived to be, particularly be employers and what happens in practice as the dynamic tensions of the employment relationship unfolds in particular sector contexts. It argues that utilisation is conditioned more by the requirements of temporal flexibility – framed by the dynamics of employment within the supply chain - than any essential features of migrant labour power.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129–143
Number of pages15
JournalHuman Resource Management Journal
Issue number2
Early online date3 Jan 2012
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • migrant workers
  • human resource management
  • supermarkets


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