Just Work: fairness and justice at work in Greater Manchester
The project aims to study the development of working lives in the Greater Manchester area with a view to reviewing the impact of attempts to enhance and improve labour standards and social inclusion.
The project examines the public and private sector in terms of employer practices and public body attempts that aim to improve working conditions. It involves a wide range of researchers within the Work and Equalities Institute.
To date the research has focused on the lives and work of those on the margins and those who are not gaining from the supposed successes of Manchester’s regeneration. The reality of lives on the periphery have deteriorated in many ways as they confront zero-hour contracts, poor working conditions and an increasingly problematic and reduced level of welfare support. Whilst many projects on Manchester focus in an almost a heroic way on its successes and new flexible and internationalised economy, the Just Work project has increasingly focused on the realities of exclusion by interviewing a range of workers from various backgrounds.
The project has also begun to look at greater individualisation and freelancing in sectors such as the creative industries. It is trying to see how initiatives such as the development of MediaCityUK impact on the quality of work of related professionals. The project has produced two reports that map the economic background of the area - and its changes - and the way regulatory bodies such as ACAS, local councils and others are trying to coordinate codes of practice and initiatives aimed at raising labour standards. These reports have been complemented by the publication of a human development report for Greater Manchester - focused on inequalities across the life course in Greater Manchester.
The project has also been researching the agencies developed by the state to assist those on the social margins who are trying to get back in to work. There is an increasing amount of training and mentoring initiatives within local councils and dedicated bodies that aim to assist disabled and long term unemployed workers back into employment. They are part of a whole ‘return to work’ culture and their operations form part of the focus of the study. These are bodies that are more directly interventionist and they build links with employers such as warehouse based corporations in places such as Rochdale, for example. Once more, the project has revealed the need for greater support in such areas and greater organisational coordination across the public and private sector. In general, many bodies are finding it a challenge to create common policies or joined up thinking on social inclusion and worker rights.