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Presence and Pretence: Trade Unions and the Gig Economy

Conflict and Shifting Boundaries in the Gig Economy: An Interdisciplinary Analysis

ISBN: 978-1-83867-604-9, eISBN: 978-1-83867-603-2

Publication date: 30 March 2020


The definition and essence of a trade union is to provide a voice for the worker, enabling a balancing of the power gap between employer and employee. How does that shift in the gig economy when the worker lacks even the most basic elements of protection through employment law? This chapter interrogates the proposition that the trade union movement has until recently neglected to engage with the issues that these workers are facing and so has denied its own roots. One result of this has been the emergence of alternative forms of organising for collective voice. This shifts the boundaries between organisers of collective voice and representation with varying results. This chapter discusses the impact on trade unionism of the gig economy and critiques its approach and pace. It identifies the conflict engendered within the trade union of advocating for members only, as well as the shifting sectors in the broader economy and trade union responses to that. The importance of trade unionism moving forward is assessed through a series of interviews and secondary research using the lenses of social movement theory at macro-level, social network theory at meso-level and social identity theory at micro-level. These theories allow an interdisciplinary analysis of trade unions responses to assess the causes of responses of trade unionists to this emergent gigging workforce and its challenges. It identifies that there is a more recent intention and potential for trade unions to engage with giggers but that an innovative and international movement for voice is required.




Many thanks to the trade unionists who took the time to discuss the so-called gig economy and the conflicts and shifting boundaries that it raises for them.


Page-Tickell, R. and Ritchie, J. (2020), "Presence and Pretence: Trade Unions and the Gig Economy", Page-Tickell, R. and Yerby, E. (Ed.) Conflict and Shifting Boundaries in the Gig Economy: An Interdisciplinary Analysis (The Changing Context of Managing People), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 63-86.



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