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Friday Oct. 3, 2014 – Saturday Oct. 4, 2014
McMaster University
Hamilton, ON

The School of Labour Studies, McMaster University and the Canadian Association for Work and Labour Studies (CAWLS) is pleased to announce a call for papers and streams as part of a short conference to be held at McMaster University Oct 3-4, 2014.

The conference will kick-off Friday evening with a keynote address from Distinguished Visiting Professor Paul Thompson (University of Strathclyde) entitled, Dissent at Work: Departures, Directions and Dead-ends.

Building on Thompson’s observation that, despite new forms of work organization such as high performance workplaces, and theoretical approaches that claim a shift to soft control, electronic monitoring and worker buy-in; ‘all is not quiet on the workplace front’. And that further, that worker disengagement, often termed dissent, has not replaced resistance (Thompson and Ackroyd 1995).

Instead, new forms of resistance have developed in relation to workplace restructuring, subsequent changes in the labour process, and the larger context of neoliberalism. This conference will explore the central question of how are workers responding to the way that work is being restructured, including disengagement, compliance and collective and individual resistance at the level of the workplace, sector, union, and other workers’ and community organizations. Theoretical, empirical and policy papers are welcome, particularly those dealing with resistance at the level of the workplace.

Proposals for streams exploring particular kinds of work such as retail, care, manufacturing, service, mining and extraction are also encouraged. Submission details are included below.


Please submit a 200 word abstract outlining the kinds of issues the proposed stream will include and central questions it will address. Abstracts will be peer reviewed. The stream coordinator will be responsible for promoting the stream and attracting papers, and will be asked to participate in reviewing abstracts submitted to the stream.

The coordinator will need to inform those submitting to be part of the stream that they must clearly indicate in a separate line at the bottom of the abstract that they want to be considered for inclusion in the stream. Those proposing streams will be notified by early April. Once a stream is accepted, all abstracts should be submitted through the regular process outlined below.


Please submit a 150 word abstract including central thesis and arguments. Abstracts need not be attached to a stream (general sessions will be included) but all will be peer reviewed. Authors will be notified of decisions by early July.

Please submit abstracts or questions to Professor Donna Baines and Associate Professor Stephanie Ross.


Those requiring overnight accommodation will receive a McMaster discount at a nearby hotel. Details to follow.


Streams for the Dissent and Resistance Conference

1. Restructuring and Resistance in Care Work


Care work is comprised of many forms (nursing, child care, social work, community development, long term care, home care, early life education, etc.) provided in and across a variety of settings (home, community, institutions) and delivered in a variety of sectors (private, public, non-profit and home).

Since the 1980s, waves of restructuring have shifted the lines between these settings and sectors, and in the process increased management and government control of the workforce and subsequently, of service users and communities. A highly gendered and, increasingly, racialized sector with women comprising the majority of the workers, service users and volunteers, the opportunity to live one’s values on the job is often argued to compensate for poor wages, conditions of work and decreasing autonomy under management models such as “lean” and New Public Management.

The work force’s commitment to altruism can act as a catalyst for resistance to shifting management control, though self-exploitation is often part of resistance and this workforce is rarely mobilized unless strategies include an explicit commitment to the improvement of care. Calls for professionalism and the use of metrics such as outcome and performance measures, e-monitoring and quality committees have been used by management both to dampen resistance and to incite it.

This Stream invites papers that explore aspects of care work, control and resistance. Workplace and case studies are especially appropriate but larger empirical, theoretical and policy studies are also encouraged.

Please submit your 150 word abstracts directly to the conference, indicating your interest in being considered for this stream and cc-ing Donna Baines on your submission. Questions can be sent to Donna.

2. Common Struggles: Organizing at Canadian Universities for Struggle, Solidarity and Success


A Panel Organized by Studies in Political Economy

Given the context of increasing competition and creeping commercialization at Canadian universities, what can we learn from Canadian university workers’ on-going struggles and solidarity initiatives? What are the conditions that have led to strong engagement, mobilization and/or labour victories or success? What are the lessons learned from struggles to accomplish these goals, no matter their outcome?

University workers and students in Canada are responding to changing working conditions and management approaches with a broad range of organizing and bargaining strategies. Sometimes acting as separate employee groups and at other times in solidarity, university faculty, contract instructors, teaching assistants, security workers, maintenance workers, clerical and support workers, food services workers, students and others are resisting measures that seek to maximize productivity and minimize cost through changes to work organization.

These groups share some concerns, while diverging on others. All of the groups are affected by re-structuring measures that include privatization, de-skilling measures, increased work intensity, increased management control and discretion and many others. Issues such as shifts in scholarships and other student funding, often tied to highly competitive research funding and research commercialization, affect some groups and not others. But at the same time, unions, employee groups and student organizations share the challenge of engaging and mobilizing members whose intensified working days, including workplace, community and household responsibilities, leave them little time or energy for participation. At the same time these groups may diverge around key issues.

This panel aims to bring together theoretical, empirical and policy scholarship on Canadian university workplaces that takes up the challenges and promise of organizing dissent and resistance on and across campuses.

Please submit your 150 word abstracts directly to the conference, indicating your interest in being considered for this stream and cc-ing Susan Braedley on your submission. Questions can be sent to Susan.

3. Stream on Poverty and Precarity


Many studies assume that employment precarity is associated with low income and poverty. A significant number of workers in many labour markets do experience both precarity and poverty and one theme taken up by this stream will be how this affects individual and family wellbeing and how this group of workers seeks to improve their situation as this context also calls for new strategies for those trying to defend precarious workers and for the workers themselves.

As well, this stream will explore the spread of precarious employment to higher income occupations in the media, in the arts, in the public sector, in health and many jobs classified as knowledge work. Many of these sectors worked under the standard employment relationship in the past, but today face various forms of less secure employment including contract work, freelancing, own account self-employment. As a result socio-economic groups that in the past were large insulated from insecure employment now face increased economic insecurity. This raises new question about the link between employment precarity and poverty and its impact on individual and family well-being for those not in poverty.

Please submit your 150 word abstracts directly to the conference, indicating your interest in being considered for this stream and cc-ing Wayne Lewchuk on your submission. Questions can be sent to Wayne.

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