Research: Unacceptable forms of work Reply


Proff. Schenk and Blaauw

On 14 and 15 September 2017, Derick Blaauw along with his long time co-researcher, Prof Rinie Schenck of the University of the Western Cape’s Department of Social Work attended the 2nd Unacceptable Forms of Work: Global dialogue/ local innovation II workshop in Durham, England. They were invited by the organisers of a global research project on unacceptable forms of work, sponsored by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) in the United Kingdom. The Unacceptable Forms of Work project has been set up to investigate important questions at the heart of this worldwide phenomenon. The project leaders are Professor Deirdre McCann of Durham Law School, Professor Judy Fudge of Kent Law School and Dr Sangheon Lee of the International Labour Organisation. According to ILO Unacceptable Forms of Work can take many forms, but its core broad definition is as follows: “… work in conditions that denies fundamental principles and rights at work, put at risk the lives, health, freedom, human dignity and security of workers or keep households in conditions of extreme poverty”.

The project asks research questions such as: “What are the factors that cause Unacceptable Forms of Work to take root? What kinds of regulation can make an impact?; Can these local regulations be applied elsewhere?; Can global solutions be agreed?”

The immediate aim of the project is to set up a network of international researchers and policy-makers around the world to find answers to these questions. The workshop is part of this first phase of the project. An international network of researchers and policy-makers with knowledge and understanding of what’s happening in communities worldwide are being brought together. These people come from different disciplines and are working in both developed and developing countries. The approach is to actively “pair” countries from different regions and income levels. This is then followed by a process where several research agendas are being developed to tackle the overarching research themes. The case studies will focus on how a particular theme of Unacceptable Work is being tackled in each case.

Each team will for example assess initiatives and regulations that have been implemented to tackle the issue, and the relative success of each. This Global Dialogue II provided a platform where the proposed research agendas were presented and valuable inputs were received. Derick and Prof Schenck presented the proposed research agenda with the day labour phenomenon in the USA and South Africa as its core focus. The proposed Case Study will examine developments in day labour in the United States and South Africa to map prominent forms of disaggregated work, track violations of labour standards, and inform the development of policy and civil society responses including worker-led advocacy and practice.

The research team that Derick and Prof Schenck form part of, is led by Prof Nik Theodore from the University of Illinois, Chicago. Other proposed members include researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia as well as representatives from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in the USA and the Casual Workers Advice Office in South Africa. Both Derick and Prof Schenck is incredibly excited to be part of this project. Being able to form part of such a global network of researchers is a wonderful opportunity to link their research with a global audience.

More detail on the project and its various activities can be found at:


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