Kallum Pembro

Thesis title:

Worker Organisation in the UK: A Taxonomy of Struggle in the ‘Gig Economy’


The last few years have witnessed a notable shift in labour markets towards types of digital platform-mediated work that are further characterised by ‘self-employment’, ‘flexibility’ and infrequent working hours. In the UK, as many as 1 in 10 adults are currently engaged in platform mediated forms of work, such as for Uber and Deliveroo. With increasingly more people working in the so-called ‘gig economy’, trends that challenge traditional meanings of employment, workplaces and the labour process are becoming highly significant.

Many studies have discussed working conditions that people experience within gig economy platforms. It has also been observed how workers in this sector are engaging in new forms of political organising. However, much of the previous research conducted on worker political organising in the gig economy has focused on limited, or non-UK case studies. There has been no broad taxonomy of the types of worker political organisation happening now in the UK. Specifically, there is a question about how these new forms of political organising relate to the specific social and working conditions experienced by workers in this sector.

Operaismo, a current in Italian Marxism, whose origins lay in the factory struggles of the 1960s, offers a potentially fruitful avenue for theorising the relationship between social and workplace conditions and forms of political organisation present in the gig economy. One of Operaismo’s central theoretical innovations was ‘class composition analysis’. The core principle of this form of analysis is that there is a close relationship between workplace conditions and the form of worker political organisation. As such, this study will examine the specific social and workplace conditions present in the UK gig economy; it will further examine how these conditions give rise to new forms of worker political organisation. The result will be a taxonomy of worker political organisation happening in the UK.

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First supervisor:

Hanlon Gerard


5 -Work, Organisations & Business Management