Non-Standard Professional Workers and the Demand of Representation: Do Knowledge Workers Need Collective Organizations?

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:06 PM
Room: 414
Oral Presentation
Guido CAVALCA , University of Salerno, Italy
David BENASSI , Dept. of Sociology and social research, University of Milan-Bicocca, Milan, Italy
Enzo MINGIONE , University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy
Ivana FELLINI , Dept. of Sociology and social research, University of Milan-Bicocca, Milan, Italy
Alberta ANDREOTTI , Dept. of Sociology and social research, University of Milan-Bicocca, Milan, Italy
Paolo BORGHI , University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy
Since at least 30 years, the processes of economic and social change in industrialized countries have been weakening the collective dimension of working conditions. This is especially the case for young non-standard workers experiencing a more individualistic relation with work and labour market. Indeed, the decreasing participation to unionism can be partly explained by the individualization of work. Italy is a particularly interesting case at this regard, as several labour market reforms took place since the end of the 90s pushing high-skilled young workers into non-standard contracts and positions.

The aim of the paper, based on a qualitative survey involving 75 young professionals living in Milan (Italy) and 16 organizations, is to understand whether high-skilled non-standard professional workers express a specific demand for representation, and what kind of answer traditional and innovative organizations are likely to offer.

Our leading hypothesis is that, as a consequence of a general disappointment towards politics and unionism and of the change of workers’ social identity, young professionals do not refer to unions but pursue individual strategies to solve their conflicts within the labour market. Non-standard workers constantly refer to rhetoric on personal autonomy and freedom against the ‘boring standard long life full time job’ (not existing any longer in the real life).

Our results in Milan, the Italian metropolis which usually anticipate national changes in the labour market, shows a mismatch between job conditions of these workers that have strongly worsened in the last decades, and the awareness that these conditions are shared by a large part of non standardworkers, and their (in)capacity of collective representation and action. The lack of sharing a common place of work is one of the elements to understand this mismatch. Given this scenario, the possibility for unions and other associations to organize these workers is very unlikely.