Emerging topologies of transnational employment: ‘Posting’ Thai workers in Sweden’s wild berry industry beyond regulatory reach
Linn Axelsson, Stockholm University, IMI Visiting Fellow
Wednesday, 31 May 2017, 1pm to 2pm
Seminar Room 1, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB
This presentation argues that there is the need to pay closer attention to how employment increasingly is stretched across multiple regulatory regimes in order to explain why governments, which rely on national legislative frameworks, struggle to protect the interests of transnationally mobile low-skilled workers. Following a topological approach to state regulation and authority, the presentation demonstrates how powerful actors have reconfigured employment in Sweden’s wild berry industry in a spatial sense by engaging transnational subcontractors. Transnational subcontracting, the presentation illustrates, inserts distance into employment relationships, thereby creating precarious migrant workers whose simultaneous absence and presence in multiple regulatory regimes places them partly beyond the regulatory reach of any one nation-state or nationally based trade union. The presentation also argues that the Swedish government’s response to precarious working conditions in the wild berry industry can be understood as a series of attempts aimed at drawing transnational employment relationships within its regulatory reach. Drawing upon a topological spatial vocabulary, it shows how these attempts are less about the movement of state infrastructure into transnational space than about the stretching and folding of space itself in an attempt to establish a powerful Swedish presence across distance. Yet, transnational subcontracting opens up a space for powerful wild berry actors to circumvent regulations and, as such, it remains very difficult for the Swedish government to reach into employment relationships in the wild berry industry.