'How could management let this happen?' Gender, unpaid work and industrial relations in the nonprofit social services sector

Ian Cunningham, Donna Baines

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Abstract

This article explores recent strike action in two highly gendered nonprofit social services agencies who had long term union agreements, a history of labour peace (upwards of twenty years) and a reputation for participatory, cooperative IR cultures. Drawing on qualitative interview data collected in case studies in two liberal welfare states namely Scotland and Canada, the article investigates a management shift resulting from government funding restraints (passed on down to the line to agencies, workers and service users), as well as a concomitant shift in industrial relations culture in which management moved away from more cooperative, participatory approaches to more hostile, oppositional approaches. Drawing on the following three components - - the voices of workers in our data, mobilisation theory (Kelly 1998) and feminist political economy - - the article analyses union-management relations in under-funded, contracted-out government services in both countries studied. The objectives of the article are to explore: 1. whether conditions still exist for a progressive culture of management-union relations given widespread restructuring and what that means for this highly gendered sector; 2. moblisation theory and feminist political economy, particularly in relation to gender and the NPSS; 3.whether austerity policies such as government funding cuts are leading to a possible convergence between private and nonprofit approaches to union-management relations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-33
Number of pages33
JournalEconomic and Industrial Democracy
Early online date24 Aug 2017
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Aug 2017

Keywords

  • industrial relations
  • social justice
  • social services
  • unpaid work
  • female workers
  • gendered work

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