Práce za pokladnou : flexibilní organizace v supermarketech a prekarizace práce
Working at the checkout : flexible organisation in supermarkets and the precarisation of work
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Research on precarious work and the working conditions of lowwage workers often stresses the role of the labour market or state institutions in either creating or exacerbating already precarious working conditions. However, it often ignores their organisational aspects. At the same time, in organisation studies there is a large body of literature that focuses on internal organisational structures but disregards working conditions. This article is based on a case study of supermarket cashiers and deals with the flexibilisation of their work. Firms use two forms of flexibility as a cost-cutting strategy: numerical and functional flexibility. Numerical flexibility divides workers into different groups according to their work contract. This enables firms to employ as much labour as they need at a particular point in time. In effect firms reduce the number of employees while intensifying the work of the employees they retain. In the case of functional flexibility the duties and responsibilities attached to a job are redefined. In this respect, I show that the duties of the cashiers in my case study are increased beyond the scope of tasks traditionally attached to this occupation and head towards the model of a universal worker. This shift leads to a decline in qualifications that, combined with technological changes, results in the degradation of work. As a result, flexibilisation processes deepen existing asymmetries in employer-employee relationships and thereby enable firms to transfer a significant amount of market risk onto the shoulders of workers. Moreover, the negotiating position of workers remains weak and their wages low.
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