The purpose of this paper is to explore the development of the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter – a top-down soft regulation initiative that has been framed as a “movement” to promote good employment across the local area.
The research draws on 24 semi-structured interviews with policy officers, trade unions, employers and civil society actors and various professional and employer bodies who have been involved in the charter since its inception. The interview data are complemented by documentary analysis.
The findings underline the importance of institutional factors such as political access points and the mobilising structures of the state in creating a space for progressive employment policies such as charters to emerge. We also find that the framing of the charter as a mechanism to achieve both social justice and improved productivity allows diverse actors to engage, but at the same time this results in a degree of ambiguity over the normative and substantive reference points for “good employment”.
The article contributes to our understanding of the changing nature of top-down political initiatives that seek to change business practices by engaging a wide range of stakeholders as Allies not adversaries. We argue that while charters are a potentially useful demand side intervention, in the absence of significant workplace or grassroots engagement and without coordinated mechanisms of monitoring and enforcement, their effects on low wage labour markets will be limited.
Funding: This work was supported by the UKRI/Medical Research Council [Grant number MR/T019433/1].
Johnson, M., Herman, E. and Hughes, C. (2022), "Co-produced or co-opted? Reflections on the “movement” to promote good employment in Greater Manchester", Employee Relations, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/ER-01-2022-0042
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