Retail Shift Workers: The Times and Rhythms of Emotional Labour. a Qualitative Case Study in Milan, Italy

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Seminarsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Annalisa DORDONI, University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy
Post-Fordism and the expansion of the service sector in the labour market have led to a substantial increase in young people employed in this sector, often in multinational companies of famous brands and in a condition of flexibility of contract terms. Shift work, in holiday, on Sundays, sometimes at night, up until only a few years ago was synonymous of factory work and blue collar workers. Today this is intertwined with the retail work, characterized by an empathic interaction between workers and customers in a condition of immediacy. Retail workers must identify with the customers and must empathize with them everyday with timing and pace of work fast and tight. Working with customers, they could perceive a condition of estrangement from themselves. This kind of alienation could be linked to the demand of instant satisfaction and the contraction of times and rhythms, the immediacy of relationships, in the shopping areas of the western metropolis. The topic of this empirical research is the retail shift work, in particular the signals of this specific kind of alienation in the perceptions and feelings of retail shift workers in Corso Buenos Aires, Milan, Italy. The methods used are qualitative methods: interviews, focus groups and ethnographic fieldwork. I worked three years as retail shift worker in a phone store in this shopping street in Milan. This research will carry on within another case study, Oxford Street in London. In Italy the legislation regarding shop opening hours has become total in 2012, while in England the opening hours are more regulated. This topic is actual and important in the public debate in Europe: both in Italy and in England there are campaigns against the deregulation and against working on Sunday supported by religious and secular groups and organizations, Keep Sunday Special and Libera la Domenica.