Ruth Dukes and Wolfgang Streeck gave an interview to the Jacobin, about the complexity, and the political necessity, of defending a vision of the status of work and workers. They reflect on several issues important to the Left, including the legacy of left-wing opposition to social democracy and the possibility of combating the low-waged and ostensibly status-free gig economy.

The ideas discussed here emerge out of their ongoing joint research project on the social and legal norms governing work. Part of this project will take the form of a forthcoming book, Democracy at Work: Contract, Status, and Post-Industrial Justice, from Polity.


Eleanor Kirk’s paper “Legal Consciousness and the Sociology of Labour Law” has been published in the Industrial Law Journal.

Building on recent calls to expand the field of empirical labour law research, this article seeks to delineate a special place for legal consciousness research within a new sociology of labour law. The idea that employment relations have become increasingly juridified has been used to justify important policy interventions such as reforms to the employment tribunal system, restricting the ability of workers to bring claims. Yet, we know remarkably little about work-related legal consciousness in order to assess the purported growth of ‘litigiousness’ in society and its implications for policy. This article provides an extended critique of a recent text in the field of legal consciousness studies, Nobody’s Law by Marc Hertogh.   What began as a straightforward review of Hertogh’s book became a defence of an earlier, seminal work by Ewick and Silbey,  which Hertogh seeks but ultimately fails to discredit. Ewick and Silbey’s critical approach stands up well against close scrutiny. The debate centres upon issues of legal hegemony, and on epistemology and ontology in the sociological study of labour law.

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Many thanks to those of you who attended the Work on Demand online workshop yesterday (the 2nd of July 2020). For those who couldn’t join, for whatever reason, please contact us so we can send you the details to access the recording.

Ruth Dukes will participate in the third LLRN summer webinar,  as one of four discussants offering commentary on Guy Mundlak’s new book Organising Matters

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WOK event UoG

The Work on Demand team is delighted to announce an upcoming online workshop on the 2nd of July 2020. The participants at the event will include Diamond Ashiagbor (University of Kent), Emily Rose (University of Strathclyde), Ruth Dukes (University of Glasgow), Gregoris Ioannou (University of Glasgow), Alessio Bertolini (University of Oxford) and Eleanor Kirk (University of Glasgow).

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In this blog post published by Open Democracy, Gregoris Ioannou writes on the authoritarian response of governments to Covid-19. He considers that authoritarianism, left unchecked to shape the public discourse, can self-propel and legitimise itself, diverting the blame for a degraded public health system from the state onto society.

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Gregoris Ioannou’s paper “The communicative power of trade unionism: labour law, political opportunity structure and social movement strategy” has been accepted for publication in The German Journal of Industrial Relations / Industrielle Beziehungen. With reference to a case study analysis of a successful strike by a weak trade union of precariously employed academics in Cyprus in 2018, the article makes a significant contribution to industrial relations theory because it illustrates the interplay of context and strategy and how the power dynamics in industrial disputes may be shifted.

This article argues that more emphasis should be paid to the communicative power of trade unionism because it may constitute a starting point or a privileged standpoint which a trade union may use to counter its weakness regarding its other sources of power. Reviewing the trade union revitalisation literature, it is argued that social movement theory in general and especially ‘political opportunity structure’, can complement and enrich the power resources approach which is a useful tool in the analysis of trade union action. The case study of a weak trade union winning a strike largely as a result of its successful utilisation of its communicative power is presented where the public communication of the two sides to the conflict is subjected to content and discourse analysis. The article argues that trade unions can enhance their position through the adaptation of social movement strategy and campaign tactics into trade union activity because social movements are more accustomed to orienting their action in the public sphere. In this effort trade unions may draw upon the more explicitly normative and substantive dimension of labour law as a resource to legitimise and garner support for the unions’ objectives framing in a more expansive manner the issues at stake so that a significant section of society can identify with the trade union struggle at hand.

Work on Demand: Contracting for Work in a Changing Economy
17-18 September 2020, University of Glasgow 

WOK event UoGWe are excited to announce an upcoming conference “Work on Demand: Contracting for Work in a Changing Economy”. In line with the aims of the Work on Demand research project, this conference focuses on the ever-evolving nature of contracts and contracting behaviour in the world of work. As the title suggests, a particular point of interest lies with the ‘gig’ or ‘on demand’ economy, however our interests extend to other forms of precarious or insecure work: casual and ‘zero-hours’ contracts, (bogus) self-employment. We wish in particular to understand how novel configurations of ‘contracting for work’ are shaped by public institutions and social structures: by social policy widely understood (employment law and policy, workplace regulation and enforcement mechanisms, taxation) and by the social integration and organization of sectoral and occupational workforces, as these both prefigure and respond to public intervention.

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We are delighted to announce that Dr Gregoris Ioannou has won a prestigious Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellowship.  Working under the supervision of Professor Ruth Dukes in the School of Law, Gregoris will use the two-year fellowship to conduct research on Collectivism in the Digital Era: Novel Approaches to Worker Mobilization and Interest Representation (CODE).  Against a background of trade union decline throughout Europe, the CODE project examines examples of revitalisation: new forms of trade unionism and or worker mobilisation, that harness social media and other forms of digital technology to reach and communicate with workers, including young workers. Using mixed methods, including contextual analysis and comparison across jurisdictions, it aims to identify (i) what kinds of worker mobilisation and collective action have been and are likely to be successful in the current digital era, and (ii) how interest representation and workers’ empowerment might be enhanced.  In this way, it aims to make a contribution of real theoretical and practical significance to the reversal of trends towards weakened trade unions and growing inequalities of wealth and opportunity.

Gregoris’ fellowship will begin in 2021, precise date to be confirmed. In the meantime, he will continue his WorkOD research on the experiences of young workers in precarious or insecure employment in the hospitality and catering sector.

Work on Demand project update
17 December 2019

The Work on Demand project began almost two years ago, on 1 January 2018, and will run until the end of 2022. In year 1, a new team of researchers was recruited, an advisory panel assembled and a launch event held.  We created a project website and twitter account (; @uofgworkod) and made significant headway with the design of individual programs of research. In year 2, the postdoctoral researchers have made further progress with their individual research projects. The team now looks forward to year 3 when we will be joined by two new PhD students. Ou Lin will return to us from China to begin a PhD on gig economy couriers in Shanghai and Beijing. Vera Hayibor comes from Nigeria to study the rights of immigrant women in the UK to start up small businesses. In September 2020, we plan to host a two-day conference in Glasgow, with speakers from throughout Europe and the US.

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Ruth Dukes’ most recent article “Regulating Gigs” has been published: (2020) 83(1) Modern Law Review 217-228.

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Ruth Dukes’ recent article ‘The Economic Sociology of Labour Law’ has been published: (2019) 46(3) Journal of Law and Society 396-422.

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Ruth Dukes has been interviewed by the Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance about the historical, political, economic and societal aspects of labour law and the rapidly developing field of ‘Economic Sociology of Labour Law’.

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Ruth Dukes’ most recent article ‘The Economic Sociology of Labour Law’ is to be published in the autumn issue of the Journal of Law and Society (46(3)).

Drawing on the work of Max Weber, the paper considers the utility of an approach to the study of labour law, which it calls the economic sociology of labour law (ESLL). It identifies the contract for work as the key legal institution in the field, and the primary focus of scholarly analysis. Characterising the act of contracting for work as an example of what Weber called economic social action oriented to the legal order, it proposes that Weber’s notion of the labour constitution be used to map the context within which contracting for work takes place. And it argues that, in comparison to traditional socio-legal approaches, ESLL has the significant advantage of allowing for account to be taken of the individual and commercial, as well as the social and legal, elements of contracting for work.

Gregoris Ioannou attended the UBER drivers’ “strike” street picket in Glasgow on Wednesday 8 May, talking with protesting workers and giving an interview to the Scottish news site ‘Common Space’. Ahead of UBER’s stock market launch that same day, the United Private Hired Drivers (UPHD) branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) had organised a 9am to 4pm “log off” from UBER’s platform in four major UK cities: Glasgow, London, Birmingham, and Nottingham. In addition to UBER taxi drivers from the UPHD, the protest in Glasgow was also supported by the International Workers of World (IWW) union, active among couriers and food delivery workers. The crowd gathered in Glasgow was not as big as in other cities but participation in the digital strike through turning off apps by workers and non-use by consumers nation-wide must have exerted some pressure on UBER, in conjunction with the substantial and largely positive media coverage of the strike and protests. As with other ‘gig’ workers, an additional barrier to union organising and mobilisation of Uber drivers is the isolation of workers and the over-dependence on social/community networks as opposed to work-based ones. The Glasgow UPHD union branch is, however, a new development and although currently small, it is expected to grow with the opening of a new Glasgow office of the IWGB later this month.

Brief coverage of the protest, including the interview with Gregoris can be found here.

Gregoris Ioannou will give a paper at the 14th Conference of the European Sociological Association, to be held in Manchester, 20-23 August 2019.  His paper is entitled, “Ideologies Within New Employment Forms: Precariously Employed Youth From The UK And Greece” and will be presented in the stream “The Gig Economy: Bright and Dark Sides of the Future Labour Market”.

In this blog post published by the British Association of Comparative Law, Ruth Dukes considers the labour constitution as a tool of comparative analysis.

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Eleanor Kirk is delighted to be among the nominees for the Sage 2019 Prize for innovation and excellence, for a paper she wrote that was published in the journal, Work, Employment and Society. Her paper, entitled, “The ‘Problem’ with the Employment Tribunal System: Reform, Rhetoric and Realities for the Clients of Citizens’ Advice Bureaux,” drew from data collected as part of a previous project she worked on with colleagues at the Universities of Strathclyde and Bristol and built on ideas developed in her PhD. The SAGE prize is awarded annually to one paper in each of the BSA’s prestigious journals: Cultural Sociology, Sociological Research Online, Sociology and Work, Employment and Society. The prize will be awarded to the paper published in the previous year’s volume judged to represent innovation or excellence in the field. The winners will be announced at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference in Glasgow, 24-16th April.

Gregoris Ioannou will give a paper to the 12th “International Labour and Employment Relations Association (ILERA) European Regional Congress” inDüsseldorf September 5-7, 2019. His paper is entitled, “The changing context of employment relations: Greece in a comparative south European perspective”.

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Normative  Lessons of Economic Sociology for Labour Law
20 May 2019, University of Amsterdam

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Center for the Study of European Contract Law (CSECL) and the Law and Justice Across Borders are proud to announce an upcoming joint presentation by Prof. Ruth Dukes and Prof. Wolfgang Streeck “Normative Lessons of Economic Sociology for Labour Law.” The discussion will start with a paper by Ruth Dukes titled The Economic Sociology of Labour Law. The discussion will continue with a broader commentary by Wolfgang Streeck titled Occupational Communities and the Legal Regulation of Contracts of Work, which will expand on Professor Dukes’ paper and tackle how insights of economic sociology of labor markets, or “contracting for labor”, could contribute to the normative mission of jurisprudence.

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Ou Lin’s paper ‘Applying the concept of ‘worker’ to on-demand work:  lessons from the UK’ has been accepted by Human Resources Development of China.  This is a leading peer-reviewed journal supervised by the National Development and Reform Commission and sponsored by the Chinese Human Resource Development Association – the most authoritative HRM journal in China.

Ou Lin is a lecturer at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law and has been working with the Work on Demand team since September 2018.  Her paper introduces the development of the third category of ‘worker’ in UK labour law as a group who benefit from a set of limited employment rights, and analyses the way in which the courts have used this concept to address the problem of on-demand work. It also describes the limits of the concept of ‘worker’ in dealing with the gig economy, including issues with tax and social security, and the limited rights enjoyed by the worker herself. Given the UK’s experiences and Chinese legal conditions, it argues that for the labour protection of platform workers in China, it is not necessary to introduce a new third category of ‘worker’. Instead the law should be modified to clarify the basic labour rights of the flexible employment groups in a manner which is coordinated with tax laws and social security systems.

Ruth Dukes will give a paper to the Conference of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) in New-York, June 27-29, 2019. Her paper is entitled “The Economic Sociology of Labour Law”.

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Gregoris Ioannou will give a paper to the “Canadian Association for Work and Labour Studies” Conference in Vancouver, June 4-6, 2019.  His paper is entitled, “Ideologies within new employment forms: precariously employed youth from the UK and Greece”.

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We are delighted to announce that Gregoris Ioannou has joined our team as a post-doctoral researcher since the beginning of January 2019. Gregoris is a political and media sociologist and a labour market expert. He will work on the internalisation of market and neoliberal norms and values by workers involved in jobs on demand.

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Eleanor Kirk will give a paper to the International Labour Process Conference in Vienna, April 24-26th. Her paper is entitled, “Worker consciousness and norms relating to contracting for work in a changing economy.”

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Eleanor will also join a panel on worker rights in the gig economy at the RebLaw, “rebellious lawyering” Scottish conference at the University of Glasgow on Feb 9th.

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Glasgow University study aims to shape future of UK labour law
Article in The Herald, published 27th September 2017

Ruth Dukes UoGTAXI-booking app Uber is rarely out of the headlines, with a 2016 Employment Tribunal case in which the company lost the right to class its drivers as self-employed one of the most well-known labour law decisions of recent times.
The firm is seeking to overturn that ruling in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, with a hearing set to get under way today. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the case has come to symbolize all that is wrong with the so-called gig economy, which blurs the lines between the employed and the self-employed and erodes workers’ rights in the process. (…)

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The Labour Constitution: the Enduring Idea of Labour Law 
Volume 9, Issue 2 of Jurisprudence 

The Labour Constitution - HardCoverA book symposium on Ruth Dukes’ 2014 monograph, The Labour Constitution: the Enduring Idea of Labour Law has been published in the journal, Jurisprudence. The symposium includes contributions from Karl Klare, Judy Fudge, Michael Fischl, Emilios Christodoulidis, Guy Mundlak and Ruth Dukes. These contributions were first presented at the LLRN2 Conference in Amsterdam in 2015, and are published now to mark the new paperback edition of the book (December 2017). Thanks are owed to Diamond Ashiagbor for compiling the collection.

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Labour Laws and Labour Markets: New Methodologies 
Volume 27, Issue 4 of Social & Legal studies

Social & Legal Studies Journal A special issue of Social & Legal Studies has been published on the topic Labour Laws and Labour Markets: New Methodologies. The special issue includes contributions from Judy Fudge, Diamond Ashiagbor, Simon Deakin, Shelley Marshall, Jenny Julen Votinius, and Robert Knegt, as well as an editor’s introduction by Ruth Dukes. The papers are the result of a collaborative research project carried out between 2015 and 2017, with funding from the Adam Smith Research Foundation and John Robertson Bequest. They were first presented at the University of Glasgow in November 2016.

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