diversity and exclusion in construction

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diversity and exclusion in construction
No 3/2012
CLR News
Diversity and
Exclusion in
Construction
CLR
European Institute for
Construction Labour Research
www.clr-news.org
Contents
Note from the Editors ································································································4
Subject articles·············································································································8
Marchen V Petersen, Elsebet Frydendal Pederson, Charlotte Baarts, Accident
prevention - still a complicated matter: the case of Eastern European migrant
workers in construction in Denmark ········································································8
Lefteris Kretsos, Young Precarious Workers in Greece: An old and on-going
story ························································································································13
Valerie Francis, Women in the construction trade sector in Australia ·················22
Linda Clarke, The dangers of hidden exclusion from the construction industry:
blacklisting ··············································································································30
Matthew Hallowell, The impact of language proficiency and age on positions
within small safety networks in the US··································································37
Research Reports ·······································································································41
Paul Chan, Queer Voices in Construction·······························································41
Kate Sang, Abigail Powell on Construction Management and Economics,
special issue on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Construction Industry ···45
Reviews························································································································50
Darren Thiel, Builders: Class, gender and ethnicity in the construction
industry ····················································································································50
Nicolas Pons-Vignon, Phumzile Ncube, Confronting Finance, Mobilising
the 99% for economic and social progress ···························································53
CLR News 3/2012
3
Note
from the editors
Jan Cremers,
Linda Clarke,
Paul Chan
With a slight delay, we bring
you the third issue of CLRNews for 2012. We are approaching the 20th anniversary of our Journal; more
about it in the number four
issue. In the meantime, work
has been done in several areas of the (European) social
agenda. A group of researchers has cooperated with the
EFBWW and the European
Parliament on a new initiative
in the field of asbestos. This
has led to the idea to produce
a new book in the series CLRStudies; hopefully ready to be
launched during our AGM in
2013. Other activities involve
the continuing story of the
Posting debate. The EC proposal for an Enforcement Directive related to the functioning of the Posting Directive will stay on the agenda for a while. And with the
withdrawal of the so-called
Monti 2 Regulation, the political dimension of the Enforcement Directive might become
even more important. We
hope to bring more about
this debate in one of our next
issues.
This issue has been co-edited
by Linda Clarke and Paul
Chan. Under the general
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heading of diversity and exclusion, they have collected a
broad range of contributions.
The themes of this issue have
not (yet) been tackled prominently in relation to the labour processes in construction
(apart from the position of
migrant workers and of women – for instance in the CLRbook Women in construction).
The core meaning of social
exclusion is usually bound up
with social isolation and segregation, and with a lack of
social mobility. The contributions in this issue partly cover
the headings of the construction industry and the production of the built environment
(labour process, labour market
participation), besides the important issue of health and
safety for special groups on
the labour market.
The theme diversity is a sensitive issue in the sector. Construction workers are often
associated with macho behaviour: She walks through a
group of construction workers
who are eating lunch in a line
along the pavement. Her
stomach tightens with terror
and revulsion; her face becomes contorted into a grimace of self-control and fake
Note from the editors
unawareness; her walk and carriage
become stiff and dehumanized. No
matter what they say to her it will be
unbearable. She knows that they will
not physically assault her or hurt her.
They will use her body with their
eyes (Meredith Tax, Women’s Liberation: Notes from the Second Year,
1970, p. 12). And the general notion
is that gender and ethnic minority
exclusion is a common practice in the
industry. Yet, there are other forms
of exclusion that have hitherto been
given scant attention in construction
labour research. For example, the
lived experiences of lesbians, gays,
bisexuals and transgendered (LGBT)
individuals in the construction industry remain underrepresented. Issues
of class and race continue to be ignored in much contemporary writings about construction work. Indeed, these constitute very fertile
opportunities for future research as
we aspire to build a more equal, diverse and inclusive construction industry.
In this issue, Petersen, Pederson and
Baarts discuss health and safety practices in the Danish construction industry given the influx of migrant
workers following EU enlargement
in 2004. They explore how language
and communication barriers, alongside poor employment conditions
especially of the ‘hidden’ migrant
workers working in the informal
economy, serve to promote dangerous work in the sector. Matthew
Hallowell and Rayyan Alsamadani
also examine, using social network
analysis, how language proficiency
plays a crucial role in facilitating
effective communication of safety
messages in the construction workplace. Their findings suggest that
multi-lingual workers, as well as
younger workers (i.e. below the
age of 35), play a significant role as
connectors of safety information
within social networks at the workplace.
Of course, securing the future for
young workers is vital for sustaining the construction industry. Yet,
Lefteris Kretsos paints a rather grim
picture of the employment prospects of young people in the
Greek construction industry. He
argues that the growing precarious
employment conditions for young
workers is not simply a consequence of structural adjustments
due to the global financial crisis,
but also a legacy of social, cultural
and economic conditions that predate the 2008 crisis. Two further
articles explore the dynamics of
exclusion in the construction industry. Valerie Francis discusses the
Australian situation, highlighting
the limits of growing participation
of women in construction work;
women still occupy much of the
CLR News 3/2012
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Note from the editors
administrative positions in the Australian construction industry whilst
participation in craft work remains
low. Linda Clarke provides an update
of the blacklisting scandal in the UK
construction industry, as she weaves
together a series of interview quotes
from victims of blacklisting in the
1960s to illustrate the far-reaching
implications of such ‘hidden’ exclusion.
This issue also contains a number of
news reports. Paul Chan writes
about the marginalisation of queer
voices in construction as he puts out
a call for participants in a study on
sexuality and construction. Kate
Sang and Abigail Powell also set the
scene for a forthcoming special issue
on equality, diversity and inclusion in
the construction industry, to be featured in Construction Management
and Economics in 2013. Two book
reviews conclude this issue. Chris
Wall reviews Darren Thiel’s Builders:
Class, Gender and Ethnicity in the
Construction Industry, praising its
rich ethnographic context whilst posing further questions on employment relations and the production
of masculinities at the workplace.
Jörn Janssen reviews Nicolas PonsVignon and Phumzile Ncube’s Confronting Finance to raise concerns
over future directions of the global
labour movement.
A number of critical themes have
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emerged from the collection featured in this issue:
 Often, scholars have tackled the
challenges of building a more
equal, diverse and inclusive construction industry by focussing
on the structural characteristics
of construction work and the
sector (e.g. transient nature of
construction projects, physical
demands of the work, maledominated etc.). Yet, the articles
presented in this issue show that
exclusionary forces in the construction industry cannot simply
be explained through structural
means, but that one should also
consider the interplay between
social, cultural and economic
concerns and how these serve to
produce and reproduce the
structural characteristics of the
sector.
 From the contributions presented in this issue, there appears to
be a developing tension between the decline of collective,
social institutions and the rise of
an informal (oftenunderground) economy and
working practices. Whilst the
CLR community is more familiar
with the marginalisation of collective, social institutions, there
is certainly scope for more research attended to the socialisation of informal practices at the
workplace and how these pro-
Note from the editors
mote or prevent the creation of a
more equal, diverse and inclusive
industry.
 With the rise of youth unemployment across Europe, there is a
need to place more emphasis on
researching age in the construction industry, an issue that has
been given scant attention in the
study of equality, diversity and
inclusion in construction.
 Finally, although much discussion
about diversity in the construction industry focuses on what
goes on at the workplace, the
consequences of exclusion is often felt beyond the realms of organisational life. It is therefore
useful to note that a number of
articles found in this issue explore
the connections between living
conditions and employment conditions, and between personal
(private) lives and what goes on
in employment and organisational (public) life.
We hope you find the articles, reports and reviews of books worthwhile to read. Enjoy this issue and
we look forward to receiving your
feedback.
CLR News 3/2012
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Subject
articles
Marchen V
Petersen, COWI
Elsebet Frydendal Pedersen,
FrydendalConsult
Charlotte
Baarts, Department of Sociology, University
of Copenhagen
Accident prevention – still a complicated
matter: the case of Eastern European
migrant workers in construction in Denmark.
Introduction
This is a presentation of preliminary findings from a project
about migrant workers from East Europe working in Denmark
in the two most important industries in terms of GMP and
number of jobs, i.e. in construction and agriculture. Apart
from their economic importance the two industries offer
many workplaces for migrant workers. Added to this, they are
both among the top five most dangerous industries in terms
of work accidents.
But they are also very different.
The construction industry is characterized by:
 Project organisation
 High degree of changes on the production site
 Migrant workers working in the industry tend to be middle aged, skilled or semiskilled male workers from Poland
and Lithuania
The agriculture industry (cattle farming) is characterised by:
 A family based production structure
 Daily performances of repetitious jobs
 Migrant workers are in the main young male and female
trainees from Ukraine or Romania, often with skills from
other industries.
The two industries thus both complement each other and
maybe more important they also contrast with each other so
that prevention can be focussed on in new and challenging
ways. In this presentation we shall concentrate on the construction industry.
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Subject articles
The influx of migrants to Denmark after the EU enlargement in 2004
Since EU enlargement in 2004, the number of migrant workers employed in Danish workplaces has increased, not least in
the construction industry. Exact numbers are hard to obtain,
but the social partners estimate that approximately 15,000
migrant workers are presently working in the Danish construction industry. Foreign firms have to register in the Registration of Foreign Service Providers (RUT), for tax purposes
and to allow public surveillance of regulations. Currently,
1523 construction firms have registered which is not considered adequate.
Migrant workers are linked up with the Danish construction
industry in three different ways:
 Those working on equal terms to the Danish workers.
 Those primarily coming as subcontractors. In this group,
work, health and safety conditions vary greatly - from acceptable to critical conditions - description that also often
characterises Danish firms in this category.
 Those described as 'hidden' workers, whose working conditions and accommodation are characterised as very poor
and highly critical. This group calls for a lot of concern.
Limited knowledge of risks for accidents for migrant
workers
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work showed
in 2007 in a literature study that migrant workers are
overrepresented in 3D jobs being ‘dirty, dangerous and demanding’ and that they often do more physically demanding
jobs, work longer hours and are paid less than native workers
(European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Nov. 2007).
A Danish study also from 2007 confirmed these findings in
construction, and also highlighted that the relation between
the working environment and workers’ national background.
Workers from East European countries in particular seem to
be less focused on safety. Explanations offered for this include
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Subject articles
language problems, limited education, and inadequate
awareness toward working environment and limited
knowledge of the Danish regulations. Furthermore migrant
workers often work together with colleagues from their own
country and not in Danish gangs, so that transfer of
knowledge through practical work situations is limited
(Spannow 2007).
Sharing knowledge and being included in the working partnership whether you are native or not can be difficult due to
sociocultural differences and possible problems with language. But since this issue also has a strong impact on how
the migrant worker handles risks, it is a crucial factor - as
shown in two other Danish studies (Baarts 2004 and 2009a).
A Spanish study showed in 2009 that working accidents
among migrant workers were higher than for native workers
with an incidence per 100,000 workers of 81.1 for the migrant
workers and 71.6 for the Spanish workers. The incidence per
100,000 workers for fatalities was 11.8 and 8.8 (Iñigo I, 2009).
Statistics from the Danish Working Environment Authority
show that the incidence of accidents among all Danish construction workers has risen from 25 persons per 100,000 workers in 2001 to 30 in 2006. It is especially prevalent in navvy
work, bricklaying and carpentry work. The Danish Working
Environment Authority also confirms that the construction
industry is among the five most dangerous industries in Denmark not least due to a high number of deaths. 13 persons
died in 2003, 8 in 2004, 17 in 2005 and 7 in 2006. Accidents
and fatalities at work related to migrant workers in construction are however, subject to considerable uncertainty and
have only been systematically registered by the Danish Working Environmental Authority since 2009. Numbers do nevertheless indicate that migrant workers in the construction industry have a more than 60% higher incidence (per 10000
workers) of accidents compared to Danish construction workers (Arbejdstilsynet, 2007).
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Subject articles
The project: Preventing the risks of work accidents for
migrant workers working in the Danish construction
industry and primary agriculture
Our assumption, based on data and literature, is that migrant
workers are at particular risk of work accidents and for various reasons cannot fully make use of the accident prevention
initiatives in Denmark. In order to further reduce the risks of
accidents, initiatives targeted at migrant workers' specific
work situations are thus needed.
The Danish Working Environment Authority’s Research Fund
has from 2011 to the end of 2012 funded the project aimed
at:
 Establishing knowledge about migrant workers’ working
situation in the construction industry and in agriculture in
Denmark
 Developing a catalogue of ideas, facilitating implementation of preventive initiatives targeting work accidents and
migrant workers in the two industries
Data has been collected through:
 Literature studies - European and Nordic literature
 A questionnaire survey aimed at cattle farms and construc-
tion firms
 Interviews with OHS professionals in both industries
 Interviews with representatives from the migrant workers
social network
 Interviews with representatives from the works work
sphere in both industries
 Interviews with migrant workers in work conducted with
interpreters
Preliminary findings in construction
The professional respondents from the construction industry
indicate that the migrant workers generally are skilled and
have a sufficient knowledge of the tasks, tools and machines
from their homeland. Communication and lack of common
language is often a problem. Stories of Danish workers' animosity toward the migrant workers are told, which concerns
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Subject articles
foul play and underpayment. In relation to health and safety,
migrant workers work hard often to critical fatigue, with an
impact on their safe work performance. Use of technical aid
among migrant workers is limited.
Migrant workers for their part point to the following issues in
relation to their work situation and safety:
 The particular Polish conduct and way of thinking, which
may have implications for safety. Workers usually do as
ordered without reflecting on the impact of the job and
often continue to work beyond fatigue.
 The employment status seems to be a key factor.
 A general understanding that the Polish employers do not
have as much emphasis on safety as the Danish.
 The need for more control of middlemen, temping agencies, public authorities, etc.
 Communication being hampered by poor language skills.
 Information from safety meetings and construction meetings is not handed on.
 No socialisation between migrant and native workers in
the work situation.
 Socially-related issues of missing family and friends, measly accommodation and extensive consumption of alcohol
are also considered serious risk factors.
 It is primarily young workers that use the Internet as contact and information source, having an impact on how
information can be distributed.
Conclusion
The project is in its final face, winding up the findings and
working on the catalogue of ideas to facilitate the implementations of preventive initiatives to reduce work accidents for
migrant workers. The catalogue will be targeted at the various actors who have both the obligation and - in a wider political sense - an interest to reduce work accidents i.e. the
Danish state, the social partners, the employers, colleagues
and migrant workers themselves.
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Subject articles
References:
 Analyse af stigning i anmeldte arbejdsulykker 2003 til 2006. Baggrundsrapport. Arbejdstilsynet, januar 2007
 Baarts, C. (2004) Viden og Kunnen – en antropologisk analyse af sikkerhed på en byggeplads. Ph.d.afhandling, Institut for Antropologi, Københavns Universitet.
 Baarts, C. (2009a) Collective Individualism: The social processes of practicing safety in a high-risk work environment. Construction management
and Economist 27 (10): 949-957.
 European Agency for Safety and Health at Work Nov.2007. Literature
Study on Migrant Workers. http://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/
literature_reviews/migrant_workers
 Hviid K, Flyvholm AM (2010). Udenlandsk arbejdskraft i Norden – Sammenfatning af landerapporter fra forprojekt til Nordisk Ministerråds
globaliseringsprojekt. TemaNord 2010:588.
 Iñigo Isusi (2009). Migrants subject to poor working and employment
conditions. European Working Condition Observatory (EWCO), Sept.
2009.
 Spannow U. (2007). OSH of migrant workers in Denmark. The Danish
Federation of Building and Wood Workers.
Young Precarious Workers in Greece: An
old and on-going story
Introduction
Long before the upsurge of the current economic crisis, the
labour market in Greece provided either limited or lowquality job opportunities for young people. In this article the
emergence of the young precarious generation is examined
based on data from Eurostat and OECD. It is argued that precarious employment in Greece has structural characteristics
and that the continuation of social and employment disadvantage for youth should be conceptualized not only as a
consequence of the current crisis, but as part of the historical
interplay between social, cultural and economic forces with
opposing interests. The article concludes by suggesting that
the difficult labour market situation of young workers, including those in construction industry, is likely to be further exacerbated in the future, as the economic crisis deepens and
CLR News 3/2012
Lefteris Kretsos,
University of
Greenwich
(London).
Email:
[email protected]
c.uk
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Subject articles
more people find it harder to make ends meet due to rising
trends in precarious employment and unemployment.
The long-term dynamics of precarious youth employment in Greece
In all European countries young people (defined for the purpose of this article as people between the ages of 16 and 30)
face more difficulties than older workers in gaining entry into
the labour market and in finding stable and well-paid employment despite their higher level of educational attainment. According to a recent EU Youth at Work Report (2010)
and several Eurostat publications, the work opportunities of
young people in Europe have been particularly badly hit by
the economic and fiscal crisis since 2008. In most EU countries
unemployment levels among young workers are significantly
higher and have risen faster than for other age groups. In
Greece and Spain especially, unemployment levels amongst
young workers have hit more than 50%, while young workers
are far more likely than other age groups to find themselves
in precarious employment in part as a consequence of structural labour market aspects and employer behaviour in responding to economic difficulties (Figures 1 and 2).
Precarious employment could be defined as employment
characterized by the absence of security elements associated
with typical full-time, permanent employment that was considered as a major historical achievement of trade unions in
the post-war period. It is also closely associated with the absence of other features of good work and with similar concepts such as “insecure work” (Heery and Salmon, 2000) and
“vulnerability at work” (Pollert and Charlwood, 2008). The
precarious social and economic position of young workers is
likely to be exacerbated in the future if we take into account
recent employment policy initiatives, especially in the countries of Southern Europe facing increasing pressure from the
economic crisis1.
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Subject articles
Figure 1
Figure 2
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Subject articles
The interplay of social and economic forces in Greece involves
not only a set of different interests, such as militant employer
groups, right wing think tanks, the media, successive governments and organized labour, but also factors including the
informal economy and familialism (Karamessini, 2008). Greece
has among the largest underground economy across the 21
OECD countries. Between 1999 and 2001, the rate of undeclared work stood at 30% of GDP (Schneider and Enste, 2000
and 2002). Katsios (2006: 71) has argued that the underground economy is as high as 28.2% of Greek GDP compared
to the OECD average of 16.3%. As apparent from Table 1,
major improvements were long urgent in the regulation of
work in Greece. In such a disorganized socio-economic setting, social institutions themselves may represent broader risk
traps for young people (Beck, 1992; Quintini et al. 2007).
Table 1: Key Employment Statistics prior to the Crisis: Greece and OECD
countries
1999
2008
2009
OECD
Temporary employment
12.9
11.5
12.1
11.6
Part-time employment
8.0
7.9
8.4
16.2
2.107
2.116
2.119
1.739
12
7.8
9.6
8.3
Youth unemployment rate
31.7
22.1
25.8
16.4
Long term unemployment rate
55.3
47.5
40.8
23.6
Employment rate
55.4
61.9
61.2
64.8
Average annual working time
Unemployment rate
Source: ILO (2010)
OECD and Eurostat statistical evidence on youth labour markets indicate that between 1980 and 2007 Greece had one of
the highest scores for involuntary part-time and temporary
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Subject articles
employment. Further, according to relevant data from the
Structure of Earnings Survey (SES), young workers receive lower wages than their EU15 counterparts and are also dramatically different from the rest of the Greek population (Kretsos,
2010a). Low paid employment and youth work poverty, not
only restricted to young workers in manual occupations, require urgent political action given traditionally limited state
support in Greece and the rising cost of living (Guillén and
Matsaganis, 2000).
The impact of the current crisis
Since 2010 Greece has become an international point of reference and analysis due to its unfortunate pioneering role in
the current economic crisis. Loan agreements and financial
support from the Troika [European Commission (EC) on behalf
of the European Union, the European Central Bank (ECB) and
the International Monetary Fund, (IMF)] have been conditional on one-sided reductions in public deficits and public spending, thus initiating drastic labour market reform and welfare
state retrenchment unprecedented in the post-war period
(Hall, 2010 and 2011). The main youth employment policy initiatives taken by governments ruling Greece since 2010 have
been lower minimum income scales and easing dismissals by
reducing compensation payments and relaxing justifications
required of employers when making redundancies2. Such policy and collective bargaining measures have resulted in transferring the burden of the economic crisis onto workers, and
especially onto young people, through the widespread use of
cheaper, more atypical and temporary contracts, leading to
the gradual expansion of a new underclass of low-paid, precarious and more insecure youth3. Not surprisingly, most of
those losing their employment during the crisis have been
young people under 29 years of age; more specifically, seven
out of ten workers losing their job between 2009 and 2010
were young men (Κρητικίδης, 2010). In comparison with 2008,
the year when the crisis broke out, the working population of
young people up to 30 years old has significantly decreased.
After five years of stark economic recession, unemployment
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Subject articles
and youth unemployment respectively reached levels as high
as 25% and 55.4% (of which female youth unemployment is
62.1%)4.
A report issued by the Labour Inspectorate (SEPE) on developments in employment contracts during the first four months
of 2012 showed that 46% of new contracts in the private sector were for flexible forms of work such as part-time work
and work rotation5. Compared with the first four months of
2011, the conversion of full-time employment contracts to
flexible forms of employment increased by 47%, with 4,909
employment contracts switching to part-time employment.
About 7% (or 513 cases) of work contracts changed to work
rotation schemes with the agreement of the employee, whilst
169% (or 3,328) were imposed unilaterally by the employer
(Stamati, 2012). In this ocean of deregulation, the enactment
of a special employment regime with lower wages for young
workers and the recent reforms of cutting unemployment
benefits by about 25% for seasonal and 32% for young workers are obviously a low credit government response to the
economic and employment crisis that hits the country6.
Youth Precarious Employment in Construction industry
Employment in the construction industry in Greece was
marked by an Olympic boom effect and a post-Olympic crisis
that was exacerbated after 2008. Neither the Olympics, as a
mega event of mass scale investment, nor the strong economic growth observed in the case of Greece for a significant period (1994-2008) were enough to establish new rules and conditions on how work is organized and regulated across the industry (Kretsos, 2010b and 2011c; Tarpagkos, 2010). Relevant
reports by SEPE between 2002 and 2008 indicate that the industry was characterized by widespread labour law violations,
fatal and workplace accidents and symptoms of an industry
where workers are not highly protected in comparison to other economic sectors. Despite the increased reliance of GDP
growth on construction, the sector has continued to be linked
to employment of a seasonal and temporary nature. It also
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Subject articles
became the job shelter of massive flows of undeclared young
migrant workers from the early 1990s, making precarious employment a much more pronounced form of employment
than in the past. The urgency to complete certain projects on
time and the interdependency of many contractors and work
groups only increase the pressure at work.
The on-going economic crisis poses further challenges for future employment in the industry and the establishment of
decent work practices. There were 295,000 employees in
1998, increasing to 400,000 ten years later following the Athens 2004 Olympics boom, and dropping to 242,000 in the
third quarter of 2011. For young workers the problem is twofold. First, many lose their jobs; within three years (2008-2011)
157,000 jobs were cut in the construction industry - more than
in any other sector of the Greek economy - and one and half
times more than the jobs created for an entire decade (1998 2008). Further, 176 out of a total of 712 registered construction firms in the period 2004-2011 disappeared, 37 in 2011
alone (http://www.grreporter.info.en 2012)7. Secondly, in such
tough conditions those who are still employed have to make
significant compromises to save their jobs, such as not being
paid for months, working only a few days or hours per week,
searching for a second or third job etc. (Lampousaki, 2011).
A recent report published by the Association of Greek construction companies for the second half of 2011 leaves no
room for complacency, as the share of the construction sector
in GDP growth has declined for nine consecutive quarters,
reporting its lowest value for the last 12 years - only 3.9% in
the third quarter of 2011. Total gross investment in the industry is the lowest in the last 13 years. New tenders with a budget of over 2 billion euros in 2011 have been reduced by almost
30% in comparison to 2010. Private housing and building activity is at its lowest value for the last 31 years. Public spending and investment funding by the State have been drastically
reduced due to commitments set by the loan agreements
signed between the Greek government and the Troika. In this
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Subject articles
context the discussion on precarious employment in the construction industry has entered a new stage: a stage of not talking about it.
Conclusions
Precariousness among young people was a trademark of the
Southern labour markets and, despite various efforts from different governments, has never been eradicated even in the
periods of high economic growth between 1994 and 2008. Being both a young adult and having a precarious job in Greece
means finding oneself in a very difficult situation, given also
the weak development of the Welfare State. This difficult situation was exacerbated after the economic crisis in 2008, as
Greece entered an increasingly destandardised employment
regime. In essence, the crisis feeds further the beast of unemployment and precarious employment amongst youth and the
example of the construction industry does not represent the
exemption to the rule.
——————————
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
20
For example, the Greek government has significantly reduced minimum
wages for young workers (-32%) and unemployment benefits (-22%).
According to a recent study, the reduction in the cost of firing resulted in
a dramatic boost to unemployment figures (Koutentakis, 2012).
Indicative of the orientation of public policy towards youth was the termination of work-placement contracts of about 50,000 young workers
(stagiaires) in the public sector in October 2009. This was one of the first
measures taken by the new socialist government some months before the
conclusion of the first loan agreement with Troika and the subsequent
drastic labour market deregulation and welfare cuts (Koukiadaki and
Kretsos, 2012; Kretsos, 2011b).
Greek youth unemployment is the highest in Europe (Spain follows with
52.9%),
http://www.tovima.gr/finance/article/?aid=462019 See also http://tvxs.gr/
news/ellada/sepe-kakos-ergodotis-sxedon-1-stoys-3
More specifically, the law provides for a reduction of the minimum wage
paid to workers under 25 years of age to 84% of the minimum wage and
to minors of 15-18 years of age to 70% of the minimum wage. In addition, the Manpower Employment Organization (OAED) announced a new
scheme for the “acquisition of work experience” through the employment of 10,000 16 to 24 year old unemployed persons. Nevertheless, the
scheme is problematic as: it is addressed only to private sector enterprises;
it provides for a wage and insurance for beneficiaries; it has a specified
duration (6-12 months); only those aged 16-24 years are eligible.
CLR News 3/2012
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7.
The rate may be higher if we add into our calculation those companies
that are still active but face very difficult circumstances due to the reduction in public investment, the delay in the payment of arrears by the
state for already completed works, and the broader economic recession
that continues to hit the country hard.
References:
 Beck, U. 1992. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage.
 Guillén, A. and Matsaganis, M. (2000) Testing the “social dumping” hypothesis in southern Europe: welfare policies in Greece and Spain during
the last 20 years. Journal of European Social Policy 10 (2) 120- 145.
 Hall, D. (2010) Why we need public spending, PSIRU Report, November
2010, PSIRU University of Greenwich. http://www.psiru.org/sites/default/
files/2010-10-QPS-pubspend.pdf (accessed 2 October 2012).
 Hall, D. (2011) Greece: Cuts Watch November 2011, PSIRU University of
Greenwich.
http://www.psiru.org/sites/default/files/greece-cwbriefNov2011.pdf (accessed 12 October 2012).
 Heery, E. and J. Salmon (2000), The Insecure Workforce (London,
Routledge).
 ILO (2010), ‘Laborsta’. Retrieved 25 October 2012 from http://
laborsta.ilo.org/STP/guest
 Karamessini, M. (2008) Still a distinctive southern European employment
model?, Industrial Relations Journal, vol. 39, no. 6, pp. 510-531.
 Katsios, S., 2006. The shadow economy and corruption in Greece. SouthEastern Europe Journal of Economics, v.4 (1), pp.61-80.
 Koukiadaki, A. and Kretsos, L. (2012) The case of Greece in MC Escande
Varniol, S. Laulom, E. Mazuyer (Eds.) What social law in a Europe in crisis? Brussels: Larcier. pp. 189-232.
 Koutentakis, F. (2012) "Unemployment dynamics in the Greek crisis,"
Working Papers 1205, University of Crete, Department of Economics.
 Kretsos, L. (2010a), ‘The Persistent Pandemic of Precariousness: Young
People at Work’, in J. Tremmel (ed.), A Young Generation Under Pressure? (New York, Springer) pp. 14–35.
 Kretsos, L. (2010b) The effects of the crisis on the Greek Construction
Industry’, Construction Labour Research, no. 3, pp. 7-23.
 Kretsos, L. (2011a) Grassroots Unionism in the Context of Economic Crisis
in Greece Labor History, 52 (3): 265-286.
 Kretsos, L. (2011b), ‘Union Responses to the Rise of Precarious Employment in Greece’, Industrial Relations Journal, 42, 5, 453-472.
 Kretsos, L. (2011c) ‘A critical assessment of the 2004 Olympic Games in
Athens in the context of the current economic crisis in Greece’ Construction Labour Research, no. 2, pp. 30-39.
 Κρητικίδης, Γ. (2010), ‘Απασχόληση και Ανεργία στο Ά τρίμηνο του
2010’ [Employment and Unemployment in the first quarter of 2010],
Ενημέρωση, issue 174, July-August, (Athens: ΙΝΕ/ ΓΣΕΕ-ΑΔΕΔΥ), 2-25.
CLR News 3/2012
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Subject articles
 Lampousaki, S. (2011), ‘Sharp increase in flexible forms of labour’ (accessed 4 October 2012) http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/
ewco/2011/05/GR1105029I.htm
 Pollert, A. and A. Charlwood (2008), ‘Vulnerable Workers and Problems
at Work: Who Experiences Problems at Work, What Problems Do They
Experience, What Do They Do about Them and What Happens as a Result’, UWE Working paper, no. 11. (accessed 12 September 2012) http://
www.uwe.ac.uk/bbs/research/cesr/esrc/WP11.pdf
 Quintini, G., Martin, P. and Martin, S. 2007: The Changing Nature of the
School to Work Transition Process in OECD Countries. Discussion paper
2582. Bonn: Institute for the Study of Labor.
 Schneider, Friedrich and Dominik Enste (2000): Shadow economies: Size,
causes, and consequences, The Journal of Economic Literature, 38/1, pp.
77-114.
 Schneider, F., Enste D. (2002). The Shadow Economy: Theoretical Approaches, Empirical Studies, and Political Implications, Cambridge (UK):
Cambridge University Press.
 Stamati, A. ‘Continuity and Discontinuity in Employment Policy for.
Young Workers after the Crisis: The Greek case’ paper presented at the
ESRC Seminar, Policy Reactions to the Rise of Precarious Employment
among Young Workers, University of Greenwich-London, 21/09/2012.
 Tarpagkos, A. (2010) ‘Construction Industry: From the golden decade
(1995-2004) to the hype-accumulation crisis (2004-08) and collapse (200810)’, (Accessed: 4 September 2012) http://aristerovima.gr/2010/
Valerie Francis,
University of
Melbourne and
(currently)
ProBE, University of Westminster
22
Women in the construction trade sector
in Australia
Introduction
Whilst women comprise around 45% of the total labour force
in Australia, like many industrialised countries their participation rates varies significantly according to their occupational
category and industry of employment. For instance overall in
Australia, women comprise over 70% of workers in the clerical and sales category, over 50% of all professionals but just
10% of all tradespersons. With construction being the second
most male-dominated industry in Australia (second only to
mining, which is a much smaller industrial sector) it is therefore not difficult to surmise that the number of women in the
construction trade sector will also be quite low. But how low
and how has this changed since the introduction of initiatives1
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which were aimed to address inequity and assure equal employment opportunity for women in Australia? This short article provides an overview of women’s involvement in the construction industry in Australia, with a particular focus on the
trade sector.
Data source
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) household census
collects whole population data on a five-yearly basis, with the
latest available being 20062. Specific datasets were requested
from the ABS for two specific reasons. Firstly publically available data was deemed inadequate as it is reported at only 1 or
2-digit occupational level data, making it impossible to identify individual occupations. Secondly the sample size, of around
30,000, for the regularly published ABS labour force data, was
too small for minority groups such as women in construction,
particularly in the trades’ area3. Four-digit occupation data
from 1986 to 2006, for the construction industry only, and all
industries was requested4.
Women in the Australian construction industry overall
An analysis of the data revealed that although the number of
women employed in the construction industry in Australia
overall had risen, from 55,170 in 1986 to 94,110 in 2006, representing a growth of 70.6%, their relative participation has
only increased marginally since 1986. Overall participation
rates had increased from 12.9% in 1986 to 13.8% in 1991,
dropping to 13.4% in 1996, where it has remained relatively
static.
Whilst the overall participation rate of women was 13.3% in
2006, these rates changed quite significantly, depending upon
the occupations women chose within the industry. Using the
ABS classifications and 2006 census data, Figure 1 illustrates
these differences5.
As can be seen, like most industrialised countries, the majority
of men in construction are employed in the “Tradespersons
and related workers” category, whilst the majority of women
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are employed in the “Combined clerical, sales and services”
category. The largest portion of women (around 58% of all
women) working in the industry are employed in these more
traditionally “female” occupations, however this had fallen
from 81% in 1986; indicating a greater portion of women in
the industry are now undertaking what would be considered
as more “non-traditional” tasks. Interestingly the number of
women who are professionals and in the trades was relatively
similar.
Figure 1: Construction industry employment by selected occupational classification and gender, 2006.
Source data: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing, Customised cross
tabulations. Occupation by Sex for Persons employed in the Construction
Industry (excluding Overseas Visitors).
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Women in the construction trade sector
Women’s participation rates, compared to their male counterparts, were lowest in the “Tradespersons and related workers” occupational category. It has remained virtually stagnant,
having been 1.66% in 1986, 1.52% in 1991, and falling from
1.68% in 1996 to 1.6% in 2006. Participation numbers overall,
between 1986 and 2006, however have risen for both men
(196,676 to 324,729 respectively) and women (3,313 and 5,293
respectively). While there has been little change in women’s
overall participation rates in the trades, on closer examination
of a number of key occupations, some changes are evident
and these are outlined in Table 1.
Table 1: Percentage women in selected construction industry trades, 19862006.
1986
1.2
1991
1996
2001
2006
1.3
1.4
1.1
1.0
Carpentry & Joinery Tradespersons
0.7
1.0
0.9
0.8
0.8
Construction Tradespersons nfd
1.7*
1.4*
2.3
2.4
2.6
Electrician
1.7
1.4
1.2
Final Finish Constr. Trades nfd
4.7
5.8
6.9
Floor Finishers
3.5
3.1
3.1
Bricklayers
Painters, Decorators and signwriters
3.5
4.4
4.7
5.1
5.2
Plasterers (all)
1.4
1.5
1.8
1.8
2.0
Plumbers
1.3
0.9
1.1
1.2
1.1
Roof slaters & Tilers
1.7
1.8
1.8
1.6
1.2
1.3
1.8
1.0
2.7
3.0
2.5
Structural Constr. Trades nfd
Wall & Floor tilers & Stonemasons
2.6†
2.8†
Source data: ABS 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006 Census of Population and
Housing, Customised cross tabulations. Occupation by Sex for employed persons (all industries). nfd not further defined. *known as building tradespersons nfd, †did not include stonemasons in 1986 and 1991. Changes in the
ASCO classifications makes reporting in some 1986 & 1991 categories difficult
and some cells left blank when comparable occupations could not be identified.
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Whilst representation by women was low, some growth was
evident in the painting and decorating, and plastering trades
and in the final finishes nfd and construction tradespersons
nfd. A decline in participation in seven of the twelve trades
investigated was observed. Actual employment numbers of
men and women are also worthy of review, as they provide a
startling picture of the lack of women. As can be seen in Table 2 for instance, in 2006 there were only 263 female floor
finishers and 223 bricklayers in Australia. The area with the
highest number of women was in the painting, decorating
and sign writing area, with 2,266 women in 2006 (up from
2053 in 2001). This is a pattern repeated across most industrialised countries.
Table 2: Employment numbers in selected construction industry trades, 2006.
Males
Females
Bricklayers
21715
223
Carpentry & Joinery Tradespersons
86358
677
Construction Tradespersons nfd
1710
45
Electrician
88771
1061
Final Finish Constr. Trades nfd
3246
242
Floor Finishers
8238
263
Painters, Decorators and signwriters
41264
2266
Plasterers (all)
20977
428
Plumbers
56103
605
Roof slaters & Tilers
5727
72
Structural Constr. Trades nfd
2692
27
Wall & Floor tilers & Stonemasons
17230
436
Source data: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing, Customised cross
tabulations. Occupation by Sex for employed persons (all industries). nfd not
further defined.
The age of men and women in the trade sector overall was
also investigated and the results for 2006 are illustrated in
Figure 2. These demonstrate that the construction trades had
a larger number of younger men and their participation decreases with age. This reduction with age may indicate move26
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ment from the trades into more managerial roles, an attrition
of men into other careers or loss due to occupational injury.
Figure 2: Age categories for ‘Tradesperson and related workers’ by gender,
2006.
Source data: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing, Customised cross
tabulations. Occupation by Age for Persons employed in the Construction
Industry (excluding Overseas Visitors).
What was surprising was that this trend was not replicated in
the female sample. The largest percentage of women was in
the 40-49 year age cohort, compared to the 15-29 year age
cohort for men. This could due to a number of reasons. Firstly
efforts were made in the 1980s to encourage women into non
-traditional careers in Australia. However, if this is the cause
then these women may not have had similar career opportunities as their male counterparts. Another option could be
that women enter construction training at a later age than
men, which does support anecdotal evidence. Unfortunately
age data on training could not be obtained to verify this.
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Final words
The participation rate of women in construction overall, and
in the trades in particular, appears to be impervious in Australia and highly resistant to change. The patterns of vertical
segregation, stagnant participation in many roles but a relative influx of women into professional roles, evident within
the Australian census data are comparable to those in many
other industrialised countries. In seven of the twelve trade
occupations investigated, participation rates by women had
declined overall. Some growth was apparent in some of the
finishing trades (plastering, painting etc.) rates and while
rates in carpentry and joinery were more in 2006 than in
1986, they have been declining steadily since 1991.
Whilst it is unclear why women have elected to enter the finishing trades, over and above the substructure and superstructure trades, based on discussions with trade teachers and
those on site, this may be due to the nature of the work itself.
It has been suggested this work may be “less intimidating”,
requires an eye for detail which many women possess and
may provide more opportunities for part time work. Access to
an apprenticeship, and other training, which is often highly
dependent on a person’s personal and familial networks
could be an issue for women in all trade roles. With more
women in the finishing trades, there may perhaps be a greater acceptance, so women obtain apprenticeships more easily
and finish training more frequently.
The age profile demonstrated that the trade sector is dominated by younger men, with women’s average age being
higher. Access and entry to training will be an area of further
research, demonstrating the usefulness of the census data.
In this short article it has not been possible to cover the many
reasons put forward as to why women are less likely to
choose the trades. Previous research does provide some evidence. For instance some consider occupational choice to be
shaped by gender socialisation6, and the relatively negative
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public image of construction may do little to sway opinions.
Some research suggests that women’s lower physical capacity,
compared to men, may be another explanation, while other
research points to discriminatory practices and perceptions of
work-life balance as influencing choice. Male-dominated industries such as construction do not appear as receptive to
flexibility, part-time work options and the availability of policies to assist employees who foresee family responsibilities in
the future. In addition access to apprenticeships and training,
as noted earlier, may be more difficult for women to obtain,
and perhaps endure, if a supportive work environment is
missing. More recent research has suggested that women, and
in particular mothers and sole parents, select roles which are
considered safer and involving less physical risk.
However, it seems clear that attracting and retaining more
women could go some way to alleviating impending skills
shortages, particularly in the largest employment sector of
the construction industry. In the past, immigration has been a
means of solving skill shortages in Australia; however demographic changes, which will contract the labour force, are not
just a local issue but part of a global phenomenon. The reality
is that in the long term overseas workers may not be available
to solve Australian skill shortages, and some would argue the
morality of attracting skilled workers from countries facing
similar shortfalls, when other opportunities are just being
overlooked.
——————————
1. For instance the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act in 1984, Human
Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 and the Affirmative
Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986
2. 2011 data will be available to researchers in Dec 2012
3. These categories were typically left blank and noted as the “estimate is
subject to sampling variability too high for most practical purposes”.
4. All industry data is useful when investigating specific occupations closely
aligned to the construction industry as it better defines occupational
numbers. For instance a plumber working for the large retail company
would be classified within retail rather than construction. Data from 1986
was considered appropriate as it was just after the introduction of the Sex
Discrimination Act in 1984. Please note data was only available electronically from 1981; however changes in occupational classifications make
CLR News 3/2012
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comparisons between 1981 and 1986 difficult.
5. Please note for the sake of clarity only seven categories have been provided (rather than the nine ASCO) and “Combined clerical, sales and services” includes “Advanced Clerical and Service Workers”, “Intermediate
Clerical, Sales and Service Workers” and “Elementary Clerical, Sales and
Service Workers”.
6. Simply stated this refers to attitudes and behaviours learnt from family,
friends, the media etc. about what is, and is not, appropriate for girls and
boys to do.
Linda Clarke,
University of
Westminster
The dangers of hidden exclusion from
the construction industry: blacklisting
The background
Only since the Employment Relations Act 1999 Blacklisting)
Regulations of 2010 has it become unlawful for: anyone to
compile, supply, sell or use a 'prohibited list' in Britain; an employer to refuse employment to a job applicant, to dismiss an
employee, or to subject an employee to any other detriment
for a reason related to a 'prohibited list'; or an employment
agency to refuse to provide its services to an individual for a
reason related to a 'prohibited list'. A ‘prohibited list’ must,
first, contain 'details' of people who have been or are either
trade union members or have taken part in trade union activities and, second, have been compiled with a view to employers or employment agencies discriminating either in recruitment or during employment on the grounds of trade union
membership or activities. Following this legislation, and especially over the past year, the issue of blacklisting in the construction industry has been gathering pace as more and more
cases come to light of workers barred from construction sites.
As a result, the UK building industry could face enormous
compensation claims following a legal battle launched by
some of the workers affected.
The increasing amount of information on the nature and extent of blacklisting in Britain (e.g. UCATT 2009) follows a raid
by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2009 of an or-
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ganization called the Consulting Association, used by 44 construction firms (including Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty,
Costain and Skanska Construction) to check the backgrounds
of workers. This organization went under the earlier guise of
the Economic League, which especially targeted building
firms at a time when the state was keen to discover as much
as it could about migrant Irish workers (Guardian 5th March
2012). Through the raid, 3,200 files were uncovered, containing information on workers and others (including Professor
Charles Woolfson formerly of Glasgow University) so detailed
that it could only have come from the police or M15 – the
British secret service (Observer 4th March 2012). Just recently
it has been revealed that these files represent only 5% of all
the files held by the Consulting Association (Financial Times,
18th October 2012). Currently, an enquiry on blacklisting in
employment is in place by the House of Commons Scottish
Affairs Committee, which is exposing a great deal more about
the long-standing practice. An early day motion to the Houses
of Parliament has been tabled on the issue and Member of
Parliament Chuka Umunna, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, has queried why further investigations on the extent of
blacklisting have not been carried out, including on the Olympic site (Construction News November 2nd 2012).
In my own research, stretching over nearly 35 years, there has
often been reference to blacklisting. Construction firms I interviewed in the early 1980s were open about referring to a
blacklist when recruiting workers. More recently – and revealing the more widespread use of the blacklist than just confined to the construction sector - a global finance company in
the City of London, when queried about how potential employees were vetted, outlined three methods used: a CV
checking agency, criminal check, and the blacklist! When
quizzed further, it was explained that the blacklist covered
‘people on G20 demonstrations’ and similar. Many building
workers we have interviewed in a recent oral history project
focused on the construction of major projects of the 1950s
and 1960s have also given detailed accounts of blacklisting
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and police informers – including on Sizewell A Nuclear Power
Station in the 1950s, Stevenage New Town in the early 1960s,
and following the Barbican dispute in the late 1960s when
even those not directly involved were blacklisted
(www.buildingworkersstories.com). Each of the various cases
of blacklisting cited related to trade union activities, often
about health and safety issues on sites or unworkable bonus
systems. They point too to the wider implications for the industry of applying such practices.
Implications
The implications of blacklisting are many and various, at a
personal level and for the industry and society in general. For
many workers it has meant a lifetime experiencing enormous
difficulties finding work, despite being well-qualified, and
extreme hardship for their families. As described by a worker
following the Barbican dispute of the mid 1960s:
My wife used to have to go out to work and I’d look after
the kids … we had a terrible time…and…it had its effect
on my family as well…they grew up, a lot of them, despising trade unionism and…the effects that it has on people
…who suffered the consequences that I did from…
standing up for what I thought were my legitimate rights.
The blacklist was not evenly applied; those affected were, for
instance, not necessarily active in the union. Indeed, all those
who had been on the Barbican site were somehow tarnished.
Even in times of extreme labour shortage, when jobs have
been plentiful, the blacklist has continued to be used. Mick
Houlihan, a scaffolder on the Barbican and on South Bank
Arts Centre describes how:
I went into the Poplar Labour Exchange– and this chap, he
said, “You’ve been coming in here for a while now” and of
course, he’d been reading the evening papers and seeing
all the adverts for scaffolders. “I’ll get you a job,” he said to
me. He was three-quarters of an hour on the phone – he
phoned up this one, that one. He phoned up Taylor Woodrow’s, and they quite openly told him, “Not only would we
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not employ Mr Houlihan in London, but nowhere in the
United Kingdom!”.
A plumber who had worked on the Barbican shared a similar
experience:
I’d had a bit of redundancy, I’d worked for the company
about 10-odd years or more, and so I’d gone round, to different companies that were advertising for plumbers, and,
some of them, you’d ring up, you’d give your name, and
they’d just say, “Oh, hold on a minute…oh, no, those jobs
are gone now.” Sometimes, you’d go down for an interview and between the time you’d phoned them and went
down for an interview, the jobs had gone.
The irony of this situation is that many, even the vast majority, of those excluded in this way were highly qualified and
skilled. This was apparent in the case of Mick Houlihan who
described how, on one instance when he found employment:
…the foreman came down and he said, “Mick, I can’t understand this…They’ve told me that I’ve got to sack you …
Your work is perfect”
For the industry, therefore, such exclusion represents a serious
waste of training effort and a cavalier disregard of skilled
workers, just in order to avoid entering into a social dialogue
with trade unions over issues of concern to workers, in particular health and safety and wages. The cost to the industry is
inestimable, particular if we consider that in today’s terms it
can cost up to £100,000 in total just to fully train a skilled
worker – costs which are usually seen to be recovered over a
working life. Just as with those more recently blacklisted
through the Consulting Association list, the rationale in the
past was also invariably because health and safety conditions
or the wage structure were contested. As the same former
Barbican plumber explained:
…some would transfer onto other jobs as the jobs were
winding down, they were taking on new contracts or were
involved in new contracts…some of them would be made
redundant, the ones that weren’t up to their normal standCLR News 3/2012
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ards, but most of the regular men apart from me and John
were transferred off the job, in stages. I’d been a thorn in
their side….I got …an average bonus system brought in,
which …they didn’t want to be brought in. It cost them a
bit of money. They weren’t making as much profit as they
wanted to, obviously.
Those excluded – now and in the past - are not only often
highly skilled, but very committed individuals, standing up for
their rights and fighting to improve employment and working
conditions in the industry. Their loss also therefore represents
a considerable loss to the industry in the sense that it has excluded those committed to its improvement. We can only
guess what it would look like today if this had not occurred,
more on a par with the Scandinavian countries, with their far
higher productivity, good employment and working conditions, and structures in place to ensure constructive social dialogue and worker involvement and participation. In Britain,
compounding the situation in the past was, however, that
workers did not always receive support from their union. As
the same plumber explained:
I was made redundant. I was on the blacklist. I went to
my union and said, look, I’m on the blacklist, you’ve got to
do something kind of about this – for being active for the
trade union movement, then you’re getting blacklisted
and, you’re not able to get employment and, you should
be doing something about it, basically. If we’re working on
your behalf, you should be protecting us. But Frank Chapel
was the General Secretary then and for whatever reason,
he didn’t particularly like activists. …In fact, …there were
plumbers on that site as it was winding down that were
union members and they supported the union, but they
wasn’t active or militant at all in any way, who got blacklisted as well and they wouldn’t have gone onto another
site and tried to organise it. If it was organised, they’d
have been happy to be involved in it, but they wouldn’t
have done it themselves.
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The result was in many cases that the industry lost altogether
those it had blacklisted, as occurred with the same plumber:
I happened to be in my local pub talking to a friend of
mine, and he was saying, “Don’t normally see you during
the day,” … I said, “No, I’ve been made redundant and I
can’t find any work at the moment.” So he said, “Well, go
down the labour exchange and sign-on because your
stamp will be paid.” So I went down there on the Friday. I
got interviewed and told them what I did, and he said,
“I’m sure I’ve seen a card in the files – they’re looking for a
plumber at the Post Office Tower on building maintenance.” Anyway, he found it, rung up the number, “Is the
plumbers’ jobs still going?” so was told yes, so he said,
“Well, we’ve got a plumber here, he’s been a plumber
for…” so long, and so I was asked would I go down for an
interview that day, and I started on the Monday.
Similarly with Vic Heath, another scaffolder interviewed, who
had worked on the Barbican, and who eventually ended up –
as did many workers – working in Direct Labour Organisations, the local authority building departments. In this case:
Where did I go after the Barbican? I couldn’t get a job in
the construction industry for quite some time..I was blacklisted … first, I went out and worked out in Welwyn Garden City for …maybe six months, but it was just a small
job, scaffolding, and I couldn’t get a job anywhere, I ended
up going to work for London Transport. The convener at
Acton Works was a bloke named Don Cook, who was quite
famous in his own right in later years. He led the rent
strikes in Camden. I went up there for a job, and they give
you a lot of tests – eyesight, for obvious reasons, working
on the line, and hearing – you’ve actually got to hear the
train coming – and they asked me a lot of questions. First,
they weren’t going to allow me to start because the blacklist, and …Don said, “If you can’t give me a legitimate reason why he can’t start work here, I’ll stop the Works,” It
was fantastic. So, they just let me start …I worked in the
blacksmith’s shop for a while
CLR News 3/2012
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Subject articles
The implications of blacklisting, of what can be regarded as an
explicit policy of exclusion affecting not just trade unionists
but also women and those from ethnic minority groups, extend to the very structure of the industry. Mick Houlihan’s account is important in illustrating this much wider impact:
…on this job …in the city, they had…the stewards, if you
applied for a job, you were put down, and when your turn
came, you were employed. …So, when my turn came, McAlpine sacked all their scaffolders, their directly-employed
scaffolders, and formed Foremost Scaffolding –to block me
from going on. That’s how vicious it was… you were like a
terrorist!, the lengths they would go to, to deprive you of
being employed …it’s logical – imagine yourself to be in the
employers’ side. If that was effective, then, at their meetings, that would be passed on to other employers and they
would do likewise. So, that’s when all these…subcontractors
came into being, and then, later on, labour-only subcontracting, which was further down the line, where each individual was responsible for his own welfare and whatever …
it’s like a game of chess, isn’t it? They move – they do this.
The unions… just allowed it to happen, until it got to a
stage where union membership was decimated, and the
employer was totally back in charge again, whatever conditions they offered – you either accept or you’re out of work.
The suggestion is that the enormous expansion of selfemployment and labour-only subcontracting in the 1960s and
1970s, which so distinguishes the industry in Britain from other
leading European countries, can in part be attributed to its exclusionary policies. We can only dream how the sector would
look like today if an inclusive policy had been followed. This
does suggest that it is not just a question of enforcing antiblacklisting legislation, but that an enquiry into the operations
of the industry as a whole needs to be launched.
——————————
Reference:
UCATT (2009), Ruined Lives: Blacklisting in the UK Construction Industry: A
report for UCATT, Keith Ewing, August
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Subject articles
The impact of language proficiency and
age on positions within small safety networks in the US
Matthew R.
Hallowell and
Rayyan Alsamadani, University
of Colorado
Hispanic workers, who account for 23% of construction workers in the US and 30% of workers in the State of Colorado,
have a fatality rate 20% higher than non-Hispanic’s workers
(Pew Research Center 2012). One of the numerous potential
explanations for this disproportionate injury rate is the fact
that many Hispanic workers cannot speak English at a proficient level. In fact, a recent statistic reported by The Center
for Construction Research and Training (2007) shows that
nearly 42% of all US construction workers do not speak English fluently. This is problematic because most safety resources
in the US are in English only, including training, signage, and
work plans.
The importance of effective safety communication among all
parties in a construction project cannot be overstated. As Vecchio-Sadus (2007) argue, effective safety communication must
include: open communication and frequent interaction between employees and supervisors; encouraging safe behaviour by providing verbal feedback to all organization members; and employing a lesson-learned program for safety. As a
part of a long-term goal of better understanding the safety
dynamics within small multicultural work teams, we aimed to
study the relationship between language proficiency and position within safety networks in small crews in Colorado. We
consider language to be one of many important aspects of
culture.
Our primary mode of data collection was interviews, the results of which were used to perform social network analysis
(SNA). We collected data from 23 different crews who represent 11 trades by interviewing workers on on-going building
projects. Using SNA we generated quantitative network output data (see an example figure 1) that we correlated with
CLR News 3/2012
37
Subject articles
the relative safety performance (RSP), a safety metric that
compares crew safety performance (see Alsamandai et al.
2012 for more detail on the RSP).
Figure 1- Sociogram for one sample crew
Our findings were both interesting and unexpected. First, as
hypothesized, we found moderate evidence that unilingual
work crews have better RSP values than multilingual work
crews when at least 20% of the crew members are not fluent
in the predominant language (p-value = 0.10). Interestingly,
in connection to this finding, we observed that, regardless of
the predominant language used on site, all training, signage,
safety resources and pre-task safety meetings were conducted
in English. The implications of this finding are that multilingual crews may be more challenging to manage than unilingual crews. Such crews should be monitored closely.
Second, bilingual workers are integral to all safety communications within multilingual crews, having SNA ‘centrality’ values, on average, 2.4 times greater than unilingual workers (pvalue<0.01). A worker’s ‘centrality’ value is equal to the number of network connections that an individual has with all
other members of the crew divided by the total number of
possible connections. For this project, a connection is an ex-
38
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Subject articles
change of safety information between two crewmembers. As
shown in Figure 2, bilingual workers form the core of effective safety networks, where the squares represent bilingual
workers, the circles represent English-only-speaking workers,
and the diamonds represent Spanish-only-speaking workers.
These bilingual workers represent the ‘gatekeepers’ among
the otherwise disparate groups, filling an absolutely essential
role. There are strong implications associated with this finding. Particularly, if bilingual workers are few within a crew,
their absence would create severe holes within the networks
where subgroups would no longer be able to communicate.
Such fragmentation could be devastating when one considers
the necessity for real-time, clear safety communication when
in occupational environments as dynamic as construction.
Thus, a strong recommendation is for contractors to create
redundancy within their multilingual crews by hiring and retaining multiple bilingual workers.
Figure 2 - Sociogram for multilingual work crews
CLR News 3/2012
39
Subject articles
Finally, an unexpected finding was that there is evidence that
workers who are 35 years of age or younger have a 56% higher degree of centrality, on average, than workers who are
older than 35 with (p-value 0.11). Interestingly, workers who
are 25 years old or younger have an average degree of centrality 18 times greater than workers older than 56 years of
age (p-value < 0.05). In other words, younger workers have
been found to play a much more crucial role in connecting
members of work crews in the exchange of safety information
than older workers. This finding was counter to our prior intuition. The implication of this finding is that younger workers should be acknowledged for the important roles they play
in the strength of their safety communication networks. The
finding also suggests that older workers may not be the key
members in sharing of knowledge as many may expect. There
is clear merit in investigating the role of age in small construction networks in the future.
——————————
References
 Alsamadani, R., Hallowell, M.R., and Javernick-Will, A. ‘Measuring and
modeling safety communication in small work crews in the US using social
network analysis’, Construction Management and Economics, doi:
10.1080/01446193.2012.685486 (published online ahead of print)
 CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training. (2007). Construction Chart Book the U.S. Construction Industry and its Workers. 4th
ed. Silver Spring, MD: CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and
Training.
 Pew Hispanic Center. (2012). The Demographics of the Jobs Recovery.
Washington,
Dc.
Retrieved
June
24,
2012,
from
http://
www.pewhispanic.org/files/2012/03/PHC-Labor-report-FINAL_3-21-12.pdf
 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2011). Hispanic Population of the United
States. BLS Washington, DC. Retrieved March 7, 2012, from http://
www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf
 Vecchio-Sadus, A. M. (2007). ‘Enhancing safety culture through effective
communication’, Safety Science Monitor, (11) 3, 1-10.
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Reports
Paul W Chan,
University of
Manchester
Queer voices in construction:
call for participants
Despite over two decades of interest in encouraging equality,
diversity and inclusion in the construction industry, and numerous initiatives aimed at promoting participation of nontraditional recruits such as women in the construction labour
market, the number of women employed in the construction
industry remains stubbornly low (see Chan and McCabe,
2010). Moreover, women continue to be employed in low
wage, low status occupations in construction (see Byrne et al.,
2005, and; Potter and Hill, 2009). This on-going study seeks to
challenge conventional wisdom on researching women in
construction by calling for an alternative, queer approach to
equality, diversity and inclusion.
Early proponents of equality, diversity and inclusion in construction have often attacked structural characteristics of the
sector to seek redress on (gender) imbalances in construction.
For example, the macho image of the industry has often been
blamed for being hostile to the entry of minority groups like
women into construction occupations (see e.g. Devine, 1992;
Gale, 1994). Much of the extant literature has rendered this
macho image as problematic, typically embodied in negative
aspects of male dominance and female subordination. Scholars such as Whittock (2002) and Watts (2007; 2009) have noted how men in construction tend to maintain power over
their female counterparts by expressing their sexual identity
at the workplace through swearing, pornographic imagery
and making inappropriate sexual comments or even advances.
Others have highlighted how the physical demands of construction work – dirty and dangerous work, long hours, and
transient nature of construction projects – prevent women
from entering or staying in the industry (e.g. Lingard and
Francis, 2004, and; Clarke and Gribling, 2008).
Without a doubt, research on women’s experiences in the
CLR News 3/2012
41
Reports
construction industry has been extremely valuable in offering
perspectives of an often-ignored group. There is a growing
critical mass of research explaining how gendered identities
are created and performed in construction, and the consequences of a male-dominated gendered identity. The conclusions tend to be rather bleak in that men are to be blamed
for the exclusion of, and troubles imposed on, women and
other minority groups working in the industry. Yet, in the
pursuit of more equal opportunities for men and women in
construction, such 'them' and 'us' distinctions are not very
helpful. Besides, there are likely to be men working in the
industry who would share similar experiences of marginalisation and challenges posed by the ‘macho’ image of the sector
as women.
Indeed, early scholarship into equality, diversity and inclusion
in the construction industry has often considered the ‘macho’
characteristic of the industry as problematic, and rarely problematized the construct of what constitutes this ‘macho image’. In so doing, there is a tight coupling between masculinity and male-ness in the construction industry. At the same
time, much research has been informed by traditional feminist assumptions that sought to study and theorise “from the
perspective of those who have been systematically denied
access to power (Stein and Plummer 1994: 180).” Such an approach has often taken gender categories for granted, and by
doing so, sought to reinforce gender categories and social
divisions at the expense of genuine assimilation and integration (see e.g. Richardson et al., 2006, and; Hakim, 2010).
In this on-going study, it is argued that one needs to move
away from gender divisions and problematize masculinity in
construction; this, it is suggested, requires an alternative approach to studying gender relations in construction to consider sexuality and queer theoretical perspectives. As Stein and
Plummer (1994) defined, sexuality constitutes power relations
unlike those of gender in that membership in a group is fluctuating and largely invisible. Put another way, sexuality is a
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CLR News 3/2012
Reports
fluid concept; the purpose of queer theory lies not in the social construction of identities, but the deconstruction of sexual subjects (Green, 2007). Rather than locking the analysis of
social relations in stable and static gendered categories (i.e.
men and women), the study of sexuality through a queer theoretical lens disrupts categories (see e.g. Butler, 1990) and
seeks to provide deeper scrutiny of the social practices that
help produce and reproduce the structure of social relations
(see e.g. Richardson et al., 2006, and; Bendl et al., 2008).
By adopting a queer perspective to study the dynamics of sexuality in construction, this study hopes to address a few gaps
in the literature on equality, diversity and inclusion in construction, including:
 Much research has centred on the dynamics of equality,
diversity and inclusion at the workplace. By focussing
mainly on the (gender) order of organisational life, there
is relative neglect of how personal (private) lives intertwine with the daily occurrences in organisational (public)
life. Indeed, sexuality remains a marginalised area of study
in the realm of organisational and management studies,
in part because of the long tradition of treating organisational life as sexless (Hall, 1989) and recognition that sexuality is distinct from the “orderly conduct of everyday life
(Bhattacharyya, 2002: 148; emphasis added).” By emphasising sexuality in this on-going study, it is hoped that a
better understanding of social practices that can afford a
more equal, diverse and inclusive construction work-place
can be developed.
 With a few exceptions (e.g. Wright, 2011), there is an
overwhelming lack of studies into sexuality in construction. By focusing on construction workers’ perceptions of
sexuality, it is hoped that this on-going study can shed
some light on the manifestations of sexuality at the construction workplace, and their consequences on equality,
diversity and inclusion in construction.
 This on-going study also seeks to recover the voices of
queer people in the construction industry, a largely igCLR News 3/2012
43
Reports
nored and invisible group of workers. So, the study seeks
to explore the lived experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgendered (LGBT) individuals working in the construction industry to redress the under-representation of
this marginalised group of workers.
To date, a position paper detailing the need for queer perspectives in construction was also presented at the 2011 Annual Conference of the Association of Researchers in Construction Management (ARCOM) – see also a summary reported in CLR-GB Newsletter 2/2011. Nine in-depth interviews
have also been undertaken with LGBT construction workers to
explore the life stories of these individuals. At the time of
writing this report, a provisional analysis of these life story
interviews has been written up and submitted to the special
issue of Construction Management and Economics (see report
by Kate Sang and Abigail Powell in this issue) for review. At
this stage, we are still interested in interviewing more LGBT
people working in the construction industry, and are also expanding the research sample to include heterosexual workers
who are open to participating in an interview about sexuality
and construction work. If you are interested in taking part,
please get in touch with Dr. Paul W Chan (email
[email protected]) for more information.
——————————
References:
 Bendl, R., Fleischmann, A. and Walenta, C. (2008) Diversity management
discourse meets queer theory. Gender in Management: An International
Journal, 23(6), 382 – 394.
 Bhattacharyya, G. (2002) Sexuality and Society: An Introduction. London:
Routledge.
 Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble. New York: Routledge.
 Byrne, J., Clarke, L. and Van Der Meer, M. (2005) Gender and ethnic minority exclusion from skilled occupations in construction: a Western European comparison. Construction Management and Economics, 23(10), 1025
– 1034.
 Chan, P. W. and McCabe, S. (2010) Emerging disparities: Exploring the
impacts of the financial crisis on the UK construction labour market. In: C.
O. Egbu and E. W. Lou (Eds.) Proceedings of the twenty-sixth ARCOM
annual conference, Association of Researchers in Construction Management, 6 – 8 September, Leeds, pp. 523 – 532.
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Reports
 Clarke, L. and Gribling, M. (2008) Obstacles to diversity in construction:
the example of Heathrow Terminal 5. Construction Management and
Economics, 26(10), 1055 - 1065.
 Devine, F. (1992) Gender segregation in the engineering and science professions: a case of continuity and change. Work, Employment and Society,
6(4), 557 – 575.
 Gale, A. W. (1994) Women in non-traditional occupations: the construction industry. Women in Management Review, 9(2), 3 – 14.
 Green, A. I. (2007) Queer theory and sociology: locating the subject and
the self in sexuality studies. Sociological Theory, 25(1), 26 – 45.
 Hakim, C. (2010) Erotic capital. European Sociological Review, 26(5), 499 –
518.
 Hall, M. (1989) Private experiences in the public domain: lesbians in organizations. In: Hearn, J., Sheppard, D. L., Tancred-Sheriff, P. and Burrell,
G. (Eds.) The Sexuality of Organization. London: Sage. pp. 125 – 138.
 Lingard, H. and Francis, V. (2004) The work-life experiences of office and
site-based employees in the Australian construction industry. Construction
Management and Economics, 22(9), 991 - 1002.
 Richardson, D., McLaughlin, J. and Casey, M. E. (2006) Intersections Between Feminist and Queer Theory. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
 Stein, A. and Plummer, K. (1994) “I can’t even think straight”: “Queer”
theory and the missing sexual revolution in sociology. Sociological Theory,
12(2), 178 – 187.
 Watts, J. H. (2007) Porn, pride and pessimism: experiences of women
working in professional construction roles. Work, Employment and Society, 21(2), 299 – 316.
 Watts, J. H. (2009) ‘Allowed into a man’s world’ Meanings of work-life
balance: perspectives of women civil engineers as ‘minority’ workers in
construction. Gender, Work and Organization, 16(1), 37 – 57.
 Whittock, M. (2002) Women’s experiences of non-traditional employment: is gender equality in this area a possibility? Construction Management and Economics, 20, 449 – 456.
Stop Press: Forthcoming Special Issue of
Construction Management and Economics on Equality, diversity and inclusion in
the construction industry
Kate Sang, Heriot-Watt University and Abigail
Powell, University of New
South Wales
The construction sector, at least in Europe, remains predominantly white, male and able-bodied. This is despite a range of
initiatives targeted directly at addressing this and a wealth of
research providing evidence that this remains the case (see for
CLR News 3/2012
45
Reports
example Dainty and Bagilhole, 2005). Yet, the industry continues to be threatened by a shortage of skilled workers in spite
of the global financial crisis because of the sector’s failure to
attract and retain people across a diverse breadth of the population. Indeed, the construction industry has a reputation for
disregarding the ideals of social justice, equality and inclusivity for all. Minority groups such as women and ethnic minorities are often under-represented and marginalised. For instance, evidence in the UK and Australia indicates that women, ethnic minorities, people with a disability and older people represent less than 1 in 7 construction workers. The underrepresentation of minority groups in construction also exists
elsewhere, including for example: women in Nigeria
(Adeyemi et al., 2006), Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and
Spain (Byrne et al., 2005), Zanzibar (Eliufoo, 2007), Bangladesh and Thailand (Hossain and Kusakabe, 2005), Singapore
(Ling and Poh, 2004); migrant workers in Denmark, Italy, the
Netherlands and Spain (Byrne, et al., 2005), Malaysia (AbdulAziz, 2001); ethnic minorities in Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain (Byrne et al., 2005); and disabled workers in
the Netherlands (Clarke et al., 2009).
In much of the extant literature on equality, diversity and inclusion in the construction industry, women and other marginalized groups are implicitly compared to a white, male,
able-bodied, often-heterosexual norm which has rarely been
problematized or adequately described and analysed. Thus,
there is a tendency to focus on minority groups, such as women, being treated the same as men, irrespective of their differences. Such prevailing assumptions fail to recognize differences between and within minority and majority groups, and
for implying that the goal of equality can be achieved if subordinated groups assimilate to the culture of the dominant
group (Pilcher and Whelehan, 2004). Therefore, this special
issue seeks to open up fresh theoretical, methodological and
empirical perspectives for advancing our understandings of
the nature and dynamics of equality, diversity and inclusion in
the construction industry.
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A number of areas are of particular interest in framing the
call for this special issue, including:
 While there is growing interest in researching the experiences of minority groups in construction, especially in
terms of the challenges faced by women working in the
industry, there is still scope for more empirical research
into the performance of gender in construction, as opposed to taking gender differences for granted.
 Associated with the performative aspects of gender, further work is also required to understand how masculinities
and femininities play out in construction work, and the
consequences for creating a more equal, diverse and inclusive construction industry. So, for example, it is naive to
treat women and men as homogeneous groups; while
some women are likely to relish working in a male dominated culture such as construction, it is equally likely that
some men in the industry find the culture problematic.
Here, there are immense opportunities for engaging with
fundamental social theories to understand the persistent
marginalization of women and certain groups of men in
construction, including concepts such as hegemonic masculinity (as developed by Connell, 1982) and gender performativity (Butler, 1990, 2004) to help explain how gender norms manifest within the sector in a way that does
not take gender for granted.
 There is also scant attention paid on investigating the experiences of construction employees with a disability (Gale
and Davidson, 2006). The construction sector is a major
disabler of individuals, with construction workers at greater risk of developing certain health conditions than average (Brenner and Ahern, 2000). Common health conditions affecting construction workers include back injuries,
injuries due to hits or falls, respiratory infections, arthritis
and hearing deficiencies, (ibid; see also Clarke et al., 2009).
Lingard and Saunders (2004) found that in Victoria, Australia, few construction companies had rehabilitation or
return-to-work programmes for injured workers. They
found that small construction firms lacked the resources
CLR News 3/2012
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Reports
and knowledge to support injured and disabled workers.
Disabled workers are also hindered by employer attitudes.
Many people with disabilities can work safely on construction sites with suitable support and physical barriers to
working in office-based roles should be minimal (Lingard
and Saunders, 2004). However, Lingard and Saunders
(ibid) for example, found that employers were hostile and
suspicious of workers’ motives in occupational rehabilitation, which may result in workers feeling blamed, discouraged or punished after an injury.
 Finally, there is little research on age discrimination in
construction, which is significant given the extent of the
ageing populations in many Western countries, at least.
The most recent data available suggests that in England
and Wales older workers aged 55 years or over are slightly
overrepresented in the construction workforce (15.4%
compared to an average 13.4%). Yet literature exploring
discrimination against construction employees on the basis
of age appears to be sparse. There is some anecdotal evidence that young construction professionals, or those who
appear young, may experience negative attitudes from
site workers (Sang, 2007). Data from other sectors suggests that stereotypes about older workers can significantly and negatively affect employees’ willingness to work
with older workers (Chui et al., 2001).
As of October 2012 the special issue has received over 20 submissions which cover gender, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity and disability and we are excited about the overall quality
of manuscripts. At the time of writing, all submissions are either under review or in the process of being revised by authors. This promises to be an important special issue of Construction Management and Economics, contributing to both
our theoretical and empirical understanding of the work culture in the construction industry in a range of countries and
settings. The special issue is due for publication in 2013.
——————————
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References:
 Abdul-Aziz, A.-R. (2001) Foreign workers and labour segmentation in
Malaysia's construction industry. Construction Management and Economics, 19(8), 789-98.
 Adeyemi, A. Y., Ojo, O., Aina, O. O. and Olanipekun, E. A. (2006) Empirical evidence of women's underrepresentation in the construction industry in Nigeria. Women in Management Review, 21(7), 567-77.
 Brenner, H. and Ahern, W. (2000) Sickness absence and early retirement
on health grounds in the construction industry in Ireland. Occupational
and Environmental Medicine, 57, 615-20.
 Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble. London: Routledge.
 Butler, J. (2004) Undoing Gender. London: Routledge.
 Byrne, J., Clarke, L. and Van der Meer, M. (2005) Gender and ethnic minority exclusion from skilled occupations in construction: a Western European comparison. Construction Management and Economics, 23(10),
1025-34.
 Chui, W.C.K., Chan, A.W., Snape, E. and Redman, T. (2001) Age stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes towards older workers: an East-West
comparison. Human Relations, 54(5), 629-61.
 Clarke, L., Van der Meer, M., Bingham, C., Michielsens, E., and Miller, S.
(2009) Enabling and disabling: disability in the British and Dutch construction sectors. Construction Management and Economics, 27(6), 55566.
 Connell, R. W. (1982) Class, patriarchy, and Sartre’s theory of practice.
Theory and Society, 11:305-20.
 Dainty, A. and Bagilhole, B. (2005) Guest Editorial, Construction Management and Economics, 23(10), 995-1000.
 Eliufoo, H.K. (2007) Gendered division of labour in construction sites in
Zanzibar. Women in Management Review, 22(2), 112-21.
 Gale, A. and Davidson, M. (Eds.) (2006) Managing diversity and equality
in construction: initiatives and practices. Abingdon: Taylor and Francis.
 Hossain, J.B. and Kusakabe, K. (2005) Sex segregation in construction
organizations in Bangladesh and Thailand. Construction Management
and Economics, 23(6), 609-19.
 Ling, F.Y.Y. and Poh, Y.P. (2004) Encouraging more female quantity surveying graduates to enter the construction industry in Singapore. Women in Management Review, 19(8), 431-6.
 Lingard, H. and Saunders, A. (2004) Occupational rehabilitation in the
construction industry of Victoria. Construction Management and Economics, 22(10), 1091-101.
 Pilcher, J. and Whelehan, I. (2004) 50 Key concepts in gender studies.
London: Sage.
 Sang, K.J.C. (2007) The health and well being of architects and the role
of gender. PhD thesis, Loughborough: Loughborough University.
CLR News 3/2012
49
Reviews
Christine Wall
Centre for Research into the
Production of
the Built Environment
(ProBE),
University of
Westminster,
London.
Darren Thiel, Builders: Class, gender and ethnicity in the
construction industry. London: Routledge 2012
There have been very few ethnographic studies of the construction industry and it escaped the attentions of sociologists
during what has been termed, ‘the golden age‘ of industrial
sociology in the 1960s. The one exception is Sykes’ study of
labourers working in Scotland on the construction of a hydroelectric dam, where he worked and lived in the site camp for
six months (Sykes 1969). This book is therefore a welcome addition to the scarce resources which document working life in
the construction industry.
Darren Thiel spent 51 weeks as a participant observer on a
repair and refurbishment contract in central London. Starting
as a general labourer for three months he then spent time
‘helping out’ on site while he conducted his interviews and
finished up spending seven weeks working alongside the
painters: an occupation in which he had previously worked in
for seven years. This has resulted in a book which describes in
very rich detail the life on a building site in the words of
those who work there and also the particularities of this type
of contracting in contemporary Britain. The general contractor responsible for the entire project, worth £4.6million, directly employed only the site managers and quantity surveyors: all other labour was subcontracted via 29 different specialist firms. These specialist firms in turn subcontract to other
smaller outfits, who employ casual labour paid by the job, the
day or the hour, and he cites the chilling example of the sandblasters engaged to clean the building facade, where two
men cleaned the brickwork but five layers of ‘middle-men’
organised their employment.
The strength of the book lies in the words of the workers who
describe their ethnic and social backgrounds, approaches to
work, money, family life, aspirations and their opinions of the
social hierarchy within the building site itself. Alongside this
are extracts from Thiel’s own ethnographic diary of his time
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on site, which provides very detailed observations of building
site life and work. Thiel obviously became a trusted co-worker
for many an account reveals personal views and information
from other workers, on ‘time-banditry’ or in non-sociological
language ‘skiving’, and pilfering, which are very funny and
enterprising. The spoken word is presented in all its blasphemous vibrancy giving a real sense of the present and the recounting of recently felt and experienced incidents. The interviews also include white-collar workers in the site office
providing very instructive accounts of the difference between
having a career in the construction industry and being a manual worker ‘on the tools’.
For this reviewer, the weakest part of the book is the section
on gender, or in the words of the author, ‘building masculinity’. This is an attempt to explain, and to some extent justify,
the level of violence encountered on an everyday level on
site. But this is done within the restrictive polarities of traditional notions of ‘masculinity’ and’ femininity’ and conflated
with class location. Thiel suggests that Elias’ historical explanation for the emergence of ‘gentlemanly’ middle-class masculinity, which emphasises self-control and ‘mental’ resources
in opposition to the somatically bound working classes, still
has resonance in the present. The builders revere and utilise
their corporeal strength as a cultural resource and indicator of
social status between them, but which is devalued by broader
‘polite society’ (Thiel 2012:123). Although the author is aware
of the myths that abound around gender attributes he is committed to using ‘physicality’ as ‘the material reality onto
which gender constructs are inscribed’. This approach, which
focuses on strength and the potential for violence as an indicator of masculine status, has the danger of falling into essentialism, especially as there is nothing in the nature of the
work described that could not be done by a woman. The absence of any women in the workplace means they are included offstage as a ‘controlling’ presence in the men’s lives in
their traditional role of running households. But as the author
notes in citing Connell, masculinity is actively produced, in
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variant forms, in collective processes and in institutions and
cultures. He writes very compellingly of the social backgrounds and deprivations some of the builders have encountered in their pasts, and in some cases, still encounter, including the real and constant threat of violence on the street. He
also describes the risks of being casually employed ‘off the
books’. Working under these de-regulated conditions, where
subcontractors not infrequently disappear without paying
their workforce, the threat of violence is a useful form of insurance, but would it still be necessary if the men were directly employed, with all the associated benefits, and also earned
a decent wage?
Very few of the men he worked alongside, with the exception
of the electricians, had been through any formal training, in
fact most seem to have either drifted in to building or entered through existing family traditions and networks, as in
the case of the Indian carpenters and the Irish labourers. This
lack of any formal qualifications reinforced their dependence
on informal social networks for employment contacts: it also
barred them from any prospect of a career in the construction
industry. In many ways this book is a depressing account of
the building process in Britain. It describes casual labour, drug
-taking, corruption and ‘backhanders’ at all levels from subbies to general contractors and including construction professionals, occurring in an all-male environment, which frequently uses the threat and language of violence. It’s not a pretty
picture. But it also includes descriptions of the ‘crack’, the humour found on building sites and the strength of family and
community networks.
Thiel does not elaborate on skill or quality of workmanship in
his analysis of workplace relations, but at the same time he
describes work that commands knowledge, precision and
speed. In one of the most interesting sections he writes of his
own satisfaction at being able to finish a painting job in time
and to a high standard (Thiel 2012:69). Workers are described
as having ‘autonomy’, which is equated with craft skills, in
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that they controlled the speed at which they worked and
were largely outside any formal management structure. This
is seen as being simultaneously associated with having no employment rights or security, not one of the workers in this
study was unionised, so that the site he describes, being outside any regulatory framework, is governed by the ‘pragmatic
cultural practices’ of the builders themselves. This sets the scene for an in-depth sociological study of a building site and, as
such, it would not be wise to generalise from this to the entire industry; new-build, high profile schemes are run differently. Nevertheless, it makes compelling reading, is a very important addition to existing literature and is highly recommended to everyone engaged in research on, or with an interest in, today’s construction industry.
Pons-Vignon, Nicolas, Phumzile Ncube (eds), Confronting
Finance, Mobilising the 99% for economic and social
progress. International Labour Office, Geneva 2012, ISBN 978
-92-2-126213-8, EUR 22,-; website: www.lio.org/publns
Jörn Janssen,
6 September
2012
The title of this booklet, published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), proclaims a programme for the labour movement. What do the 22 articles of this volume contribute to implementing this programme?
The preface by Dan Cunniah is promising, it addresses the
core challenge the labour movement is confronted with at
present, ‘the disequilibrium of private wealth and public misery’ (X), and promises ‘a starting point to catalyse ideas and
stoke debate.’ (X f.)
The volume consists of four parts, 1st on the present situation
of ‘Europe’s turmoil’, 2nd on the dynamics of ‘neo-liberalism’,
3rd on forms of labour disputes and ‘new mobilisations’, and
4th putting forward six points for political action. Generally,
the on average about four-page articles are very disparate,
some not even dealing with the financial crisis and its impact.
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I shall focus, therefore, only on those which are relevant contributions to ‘Confronting Finance’.
In the first part two articles stand out analysing two aspects
of the financial crisis: the impotence of national defence
against global capitalism by Vasco Pedrina and the passivity of
the state vis-à-vis private financial markets by Elmar Altvater
and Birgit Mohnhaupt.
In the second part Conor Cradden’s article on World Bank statistics really does not fit into the book. Only Sebastien Dullien
provides substantial information on ‘the costs of the financial
crisis’ to wage earners, wealth owners, and governments and
suggests who should pay for them.
Among the articles in the third part three are worth reading.
Cathy Feingold presents a valuable account of recent strikes in
the United States of America. Steven Toff and Jamie McCullum assess the impact and potential of Occupy Wall Street for
the trade union movement in the US. Finally Andreas
Bodemer and Ellen Ehmke highlight the importance of social
protection for the living conditions of wage earners and the
need to establish a global ‘social protection floor’.
The fourth part sets out strategic priorities for the 99%. Hein
Marais, though this bears no relation to the financial crisis,
argues in favour of a “universal income grant … to all citizens.”(87) Richard Hyman advocates ‘economic democracy’ as
a means to direct production according to social needs instead of financial interest, a new regime in which “economic
democracy offers a vision of popular empowerment.”(94)
Based on transnational comparisons, Malte Luekber suggests
a high level of taxation, raised from the rich, as a means to
stem the ‘tide of inequality’. In the same vein Toby Sanger
advocates the various ways of ‘taxing finance’, predominantly
through transaction taxes. The last two articles wish to see
“… the old model (of capitalism, J.J.) to be regenerated” (111) - Christian Kellermann - and to be fixed by “turning
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‘bad’ jobs into ‘good’ jobs” (117) through vocational education and investment in infrastructure - Edward Webster. The
latter contributions seem to be rather counterproductive for a
programme “mobilising the 99%”.
The collection contains some articles which provide valid arguments and stimulus for political action, e.g. those by Hyman, Pedrina and Luebker. Conversely, it informs the reader
of the rather haphazard unfocussed political views gathered
under the roof and around the ILO. This is pretty depressing.
Luckily, it does not take too much time to read the 118 pages,
because of the layout. The articles, allowing much space for
the headings, always start on the right hand side leaving
many empty pages. All articles are also available online under
the Global Labour Column - http://column.global-labouruniversity.org.
CLR News 3/2012
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Editor
Jan Cremers
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Jörn Janssen
Phone: +44/207/7007821
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Phone: +32/2/2271041
fl[email protected]
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CLR News 3/2012 ISSN 1997-1745

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