Restructuring and health at work

Prof. Jonathan Winterton (Toulouse Business School, France)

ISSP Seminar Room, Cairnes Building, NUI Galway 13:00 :: 9th January 2013

Europe is in the midst of a restructuring wave caused by the layered effects of global economic shift, the 2008 global financial crisis and the 2010 Eurozone sovereign debt crisis. Further job losses and organisational changes can be expected in 2013, especially in the automotive and steel sectors, but also in telecommunications, financial services and the public sector.

Using a model of restructuring comprising five inter-related dimensions (financial, industrial, institutional, organisational and technological) the distinctive effects on work and workers of each dimension will be explored in turn before considering more general effects such as job losses and work intensification which may arise as a result of various restructuring initiatives.

Drawing on evidence from diverse sectors during different historical and geographic settings, it will be argued that there is sufficient evidence of generic, although not necessarily universal, tendencies towards a degradation of employee health and well-being associated with the insecurity and change generated by restructuring.

The roles of different stakeholders will also be discussed, not only employers, trade unions and governments, but also those involved in health provision and initiatives to support individuals facing insecurity in the labour market. Evidence from France suggests that there is a wide range of potential support but insufficient multi-agency cooperation, which if developed further could lead to more efficient and effective targeted intervention.

Despite the policy rhetoric of ‘more and better jobs’ from the Lisbon Strategy to Europe2020, in the current economic context, there is a very real risk that job creation will take precedence over improving job quality and this will inevitably have continued adverse implications for worker well-being.

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