Working in the voluntary sector in an era of public sector austerity

Ian Cunningham, Phil James

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution book


Increasingly the study of voluntary sector - state relations has adopted the notion of them operating within a ‘market bureaucracy’(Considine,
1996). That is in a context where competition is placed at the centre of relations between purchasers and providers of services, and contracts
between them are increasingly arms length, based on price and marked by a lack of promise of future business and the imposition
of highly detailed contractual specifications and related monitoring arrangements. It has been noted that the employment consequences
of such purchaser/provider relationships cannot be straightforwardly predicted as a result of the mediating role played by institutional
factors, the degree of resource dependency they encompass, and the activities and influence of boundary spanners (Marchington et
al, 2005). In line with this, while evidence suggests that the first two periods of New Labour rule saw a steady degeneration in pay and
conditions and rising work intensification in some voluntary organisations, it also indicates that in others this had not been the case (Cunningham,
2008). This paper utilises data from a longitudinal study of twenty four voluntary organisations to explore how far this picture of
variability in the employment consequences of voluntary sector - state relations remains valid, or whether even large mainstream voluntary
organisations are now being forced into a ‘race to the bottom’ over terms and conditions of employment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2010 ISBE Conference Proceedings
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventWork, Employment and Society Conference - Brighton, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Sep 20109 Sep 2010


ConferenceWork, Employment and Society Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • working
  • voluntary sector
  • public sector austerity


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