Public Policy Reforms, Organisational Change, and Workplace Resistance: Resistant Practices of Public Employment Angents in Switzerland

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 10:00
Location: Hörsaal 6A P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Myriam GAITSCH, Department of Political Science, University of Vienna, Austria
Under the growing economic pressures of recent years public employment services across Europe have been restructured. In an attempt to overcome old administrative structures seen as ineffective and bureaucratic, customer-oriented and service-oriented administrations were established with a strong output-focus. In my paper I present theoretical and empirical analysis of the perception and interpretative patterns of public employment agents dealing with various and often contradictory work requirements. I am particularly interested in the meanings they ascribe to public sector reforms and organisational innovations and their positioning within these meanings.

Focusing on the Swiss canton of Geneva, I draw from texts generated in interviews with emploment agents, from interviews with the organisational management as well as from protocols of participant observations of the actual work process. Interviews with labour union secretaries, document analysis of regulations of conduct and of policy documents complete my empirical data.

From a theoretical point of view, I intend to discuss the contradictions of entrepreneurial subjectivation, arguing for a Foucauldian perspective, where the subjectivity of the "whole person providing a service is at stake in an interplay of governance by others (the state or employment agency) and self governance. I discuss the rationale behind the "activation"-directive, focusing on power relations and tensions, which arise between state policies and regulations of conduct in employment agencies.

Taking the case of two consecutive strikes in autumn 2013 and spring 2014 of an important number of employment agents who work in the PES of Geneva as a starting point for my analysis, the paper contributes to the debate about organisational (mis-)behaviour and it illustrates the micro-politics of resistance within the institutional normativity and their impact on public policy making. Thus the paper aims at contributing to a fuller understanding of state transformation and post-Fordist gouvernementality.