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Work and Equalities Institute

Student profiles

Our students work on a wide range of research within the field of work and inequalities.

Find out more about what's happening at the Institute through the work of our researchers:

Daina Bellido De Luna Mayea

Division: People, Management and Organisations
Supervisors: Miguel Martinez-Lucio and Stephen Mustchin 

My research focuses on trade union renewal strategies in the Chilean food manufacturing sector. One of the key issues in trade unionism today is how to manage the social and economic challenges caused by neo-liberalism. As a response to these challenges, trade unions have been engaging in a range of activities. These activities are being performed by unions in a process called renewal of the labour movement. These strategies have been discussed mainly in relation to European and North American countries and there does not appear to be any systematic discussion on the implementation of these and other renewal strategies in Latin-American countries.

One Latin American country with an important tradition of unionism is Chile. Despite being regarded as highly politicised and innovative, Chilean unions have been facing neoliberal state policies that have weakened their movement over the last three decades. In addition, employer strategies have also restrained the types of actions that Chilean unions can implement. Despite this, trade unions in Chile are addressing these difficulties.

Through case study analysis my research compares three cases in the food manufacturing industry on the trade union renewal practices implemented at the workplace level. The main purpose of my research is to understand the process of trade union revitalization in Chile and identify the specific activities and practices implemented in the food manufacturing industry to face revitalization of the labour movement. My research ultimately argues that trade unions in this sector are taking steps towards renewal by mainly engaging in labour-management partnerships and servicing. Such strategies are the result of increased employer hostility, little state intervention and general national-level isolation that further fragment the Chilean labour movement.

Sajia Ferdous

Division: People, Management and Organisations
Supervisors: Jill Rubery and Jenny Rodriguez 

My research explores the opportunities and challenges faced by older women in the labour market in the Greater Manchester area. The study adopts an intersectional lens that brings together gender, age, race, class and religion to examine the impact of turning points as well as the role of their self-agencies in navigating work transitions in their life courses. In particular, the study will focus on some of the stereotypical age discriminatory attitudes by the employers (e.g. job intensification, long working hours, balancing between work and care responsibilities at home, ill health conditions etc.) and the support that these women seek and receive in order to overcome those challenges.

The study uses semi-structured narrative interviews with British White women and non-white Asian Muslim women aged over 50 who are in routine or low skilled occupations according to standard classifications and/or unemployed/inactive but under pressure to find employment. This group is of importance because a key aspect of these women’s needs for more flexible employment conditions has been consistently undermined, forcing many of them to accept poorer working conditions, lower rates of pay and lower status jobs, which is, to a large extent, the result of persistent occupational segregation in the labour market and nonlinear career paths throughout their life courses. Furthermore, with changes in the state pension age, these women are also being expected to extend their working lives and understanding how they re-think/plan their work/career following these changes is crucial, for, these will help making sense of how things play out for the labour market in Greater Manchester considering the ageing population. This research, therefore, significantly contributes in unearthing the nuances related to the inequalities of gender, age, race, class and religion coming together and impacting women’s lifelong work experiences.

Eva Herman

Division: People, Management and Organisations
Supervisors: Jill Rubery, Gail Hebson and Silvia Galandini

My research investigates how employers use existing gender divisions and notions of reproductive labour to shape particular forms of employment, leading to specific forms and dimensions of precarious work. The way precarious work is shaped, and its interplay with gender leads to heterogenous forms of work and degrees of insecurity. The study is of increased importance taking place in the midst of political and social change.

Mixed methods approach will be taken to explore how precarious work is shaped and experienced at institutional, employer, individual and household level. Greater Manchester will form the site of study. This is a region where recent austerity cuts and benefit changes are empirically seen to have an adverse effect on workers. Alongside this, this area forms part of the devolution project, with which comes a push for new investment and the development of a new Employment Charter; which are seen to have the potential of changing employment relations. Quantitative analysis of labour market statistics will map and categorise dimensions of precarious work. Additionally changes in benefits and employment regulation will be investigated and their impact of employment patterns. This data will help select the sites (in Greater Manchester) for qualitative research which will be participant lead and experiment with co-production. Focus groups will be held with two distinct groups of women, capturing those who experience multiple dimensions of precarious work, this will frame the further investigation and further continuum of precarious work. Interviews with employers will be held to discuss their employment strategies, to explore how these create employment characterised by different dimensions of precarity and its gendered dimension. Workers will be interviewed to explore their choices of precarious work and whether these intersect with those of employers. Finally, through the use of diary studies impact and choices of precarious work and benefits will be explored at the household level.

My research will endeavour to contribute to understandings of interplay of precarious work with gender and class and the role of employer strategy in these processes. There has been a growth of interest in precarious work in recent years. The concept of precarious work itself is ‘fuzzy’.

Kara Ng

Division: People, Management and Organisations
Supervisors: Helge Hoel and Karen Niven

My research aims to understand the moral processes of bystanders in workplace bullying. I am seeking to integrate existing moral and ethical decision-making theories into a new conceptual framework. I am also interested in understanding how certain individual and organisational factors may affect bystander perceptions and reactions to workplace bullying.

Bystanders have often been in the periphery of workplace bullying as researchers focus on the bully-victim dyad. The role of the bystander has traditionally been that of a passive, extended victim. Recent work has challenged such representations and has suggested that bystanders have the agency and ability to affect the development of workplace bullying. In fact, bystanders have been shown to be able to act in a variety of non-constructive ways when encountering workplace bullying, such as failing to the bullies, failing to help the victim, or even joining sides with the bullies. Bystanders have also been shown to react in anger or show little sympathy towards bullying victims. Such behaviours go against previous theoretical work grounded in deontic theories of justice which suggest that bystanders are compelled to either help the victim or punish perpetrators when confronted with unethical behaviour. Doing otherwise would cause psychological distress as a result of the discrepancy between internalised moral standards and real actions.

Our research aims to understand and explain the behaviours of employees who witness incidents of suspected workplace bullying yet fail to respond constructively by either helping the victim or punishing the perpetrator. We present a new theoretical framework by integrating theories of sensemaking and moral disengagement to explain how bystanders are able to act non-constructively and maintain moral self-image, thereby allowing negative behaviours to continue. We argue that ambiguity is a key factor influencing how bystanders make sense of and respond to a situation. We suggest that bystanders are able to activate moral disengagement mechanisms, allowing them to reconstruct how they perceive the bullying situation, the effects of the bullying, or even the characteristics of the victim. Further, we present organisational characteristics theorised to increase ambiguity, which enhances opportunities for moral disengagement, ultimately resulting in more non-constructive responses when encountering bullying. A qualitative study was conducted using focus groups and experimental vignette methodology. Participants were asked to imagine themselves as employees in a fictional work team, in which colleagues were bullying a victim. While each vignette used the same setting, various organisational factors were described in experimental conditions. Participants were asked to read vignettes one at a time and discussed their reactions to each story. Focus groups were transcribed and thematic analysis was used to gather themes from the sessions. Results showed that certain organisational factors, particularly role ambiguity, significantly influenced the likelihood of moral disengagement and subsequent nonconstructive responses in bystanders.

Nathaniel Tetteh

Division: People, Management and Organisations
Supervisors: Stephen Mustchin and Miguel Martinez-Lucio

My study is looking into the labour practices of five subsidiaries of the world’s largest multinationals (MNCs) operating in Ghana in the minerals, manufacturing and private security sector. It will specifically delve into examining the strategies of two British MNCs within the latter sectors in order to highlight strategies taken to weaken collectivism in the form of trade unions.

This study adopts a qualitative case study approach to understand the behaviours of MNCs within the developing country context in light of their commitment to the ethos of corporate social responsibility, that of soft regulation whilst utilising a variety of data sources. This study purposively sampled and interviewed 65 participants operating within five MNCs, encompassing representatives from the trade unions, management, civil society and civil servants in ministries concerned with all matters relating to employment.

The private security sector in Ghana is dominated by the world’s largest private security company that is signatory to an international framework agreement (IFA) with a global union federation promising to follow international and national labour law in its relations with workers as a part of the wider corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda. The thrust of the IFA exercise was to ensure consistency in trade union and employee relations. However this study has found breaches in its commitment to the freedom of association specifically restricting senior staff from organising, and the subjection of its workers to unsuitable working conditions. It has also found that the firm is engaged in a wider strategy of industry domination through its creation of an association that is to assume a regulatory role in the industry, eliminating competition and keeping an active ‘blacklist’ of workers, as well as serving as powerful body that lobby’s the state in relaxing rules on the ‘use of weapons’. The other firm being examined is a subsidiary of global leader in beverage alcohol with a wider commitment to the observance of human rights as part of its CSR agenda. There is an understanding in literature that core labour standards, in international law are considered to be irreducible human rights (Ladbury and Gibbon, 2000). In this light breaches were also identified with regard to the workers freedom of association, as an active union exclusion strategy was in play; done through the reclassification of certain workers and introduction of non-union voice mechanisms (Dundon et al, 2002).