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Workshops

FIRST SESSION (10am-1pm):

 

1. Transformations of labor and transnational strike I: new factory regime, precarization and changing composition of labor

organized by: Worker’s Initiative (Poland), TIE (Germany), Angry Workers (UK), Precarious Dis-connections (Italy),

The last 25 years have shown a remarkable change of the European productive structure, as well as of the composition of the labour force. This period has been characterized by the displacement of some productive segments from Western Europe towards Asiatic (China), Eastern European and Northern African areas. These are processes of relocation but also of re-concentration of industrial and logistical hubs in areas with lower salaries and where unions were made weak or non-existent. The manufacturing sector has been thus reorganized with a deep ramification in different countries on the basis of complex chains of value. One the one hand, while in Western Europe a diversified sector of services is emerging, in Eastern Europe the manufacturing one is still central. In both cases there is a large demand for precarious labour force. This condition of precarity does not concern only young people, but the whole labour force. On the other, the factory and its workers have been gradually displaced in the European countryside, hidden from public discourse. It is thus important to understand the transformations that this double relocation implies.

These transformations have changed power relations as well as subjective identities and expectations of workers in regard to own demands, rights and even the kind of democracy or organisation one wants to be part of. While new forms of struggle and organization emerge, the existing unions seem unable to produce effective mobilizations: not only because unions are often a bureaucratic machine with poor organizational capacities, and sometimes even favourable to the employers, but also because unions still refer to a stable and homogeneous workforce. Even where the aim is not negotiation at any price and there is a real will to challenge the power relations inside the workplace, strikes are weakened by the incapacity to involve the precarious and mobile labour force, and to address the transnational dimension of production.

Against this background, the aim of the first workshop on factory re-organization is to discuss the following topics:

a) How does factory work change in the light of the present transformation of industrial regime inside the factory and across space? Which are the forms of hierarchies present nowadays in the factories and what is the role played by unions in structuring them?

b) How to organize and build up a political communication among this new, divided, mobile and precarious labour force? How is it possible to create connections to attack the transnational dimension of the production and the value chains?

2. Transnational chains of care

organized by: Worker’s Initiative (Poland), Plan C (UK)

3. Migrant labor, the government of mobility and the transnational strike

organized by: Precarious dis-connections (Italy), Berlin migrant strikers (Germany), Syrena collective (Poland), No One is Illegal (Germany), Rome Social Strike Laboratory (Italy).

The proposed workshop starts from the assumption that mobility is the main feature of contemporary labor. Taking to the full the opportunities offered by mobility, precarious, migrant and industrial workers create a continuous tension inside the European space, challenging both the border regime and the capitalistic command imposed through wage and the international division of labor. In front of this process, the European Union and its States are reacting by developing a «government of mobility», that is a set of institutional, economical and geopolitical practices that, while fostering movements that are favorable to profit and in line with the regional organization of production, oppose the aspirations of millions of internal and external migrants. Deeming them as a disposable labor-force, the government of mobility hinders their ability to effectively choose where to go and where to live. While institutional racism is also used as a tool to manage the crisis, turning uncertainty into fear and producing violence, the condition of extra-European migrants is now shared by millions of other European workers who, especially through welfare cuts, are experiencing the partial and temporary inclusion and the consequent exploitation to which the migrants are subjected on a daily basis.

Through this lens we can also try to frame the governance of the «refugees emergency» of the last weeks. The oscillation between the brutal repression at the borders and the rhetoric of the hospitality proclaimed by Merkel deeply symbolizes the European government of the labor force of the last years.

By one side there are the closed borders, the discourse against the social tourism within Europe, the continuous attack to the worker’s contractual power and to the experiences of conflicting self-organization together with the systematic dismantling of social protections. By the other side the mechanism of differential selection of the «useful» and productive migrants and the use of the migration fluxes as a tool to lower the working conditions and the salaries of large sectors of the labor market.

The declaration of the German government about the availability to host half million refugees per year have to be read in combination with the declaration of the administrator of the Mercedes that promptly launched a campaign of recruitment in the center for refugees to select the qualified workers and insert them in the productive system at lower cost.

In this frame, several struggles are taking place throughout the European union. Migrants are materially challenging the European government of mobility by crossing borders and finding ways to gain space and time. Beside the manifold demonstrations against the border regime, the strike has started to be regarded as a way of accumulating the power necessary to fight against the political conditions of exploitation and the government of mobility. Groups and collectives of internal and external migrants are now starting to communicate and coordinate in order to foster this transnational project.

Only a social alliance between the exploited subjects (precarious, industrial workers and internal and external migrants) can try to deconstruct and fight the cruelty of the Fortress Europe and the social massacre happening inside the borders, before that xenophobic and nationalist options further develop.

This workshop aims to further discuss the possibilities of building a shared political discourse and common claims and of organizing on a transnational level starting from the accumulated experiences.

We therefore propose to organize this three-hours workshop according to four main issues:

1. The government of mobility: how is mobility and the measures approved and practiced to govern it restructuring the European space?
2. Internal migrations: what are the experiences of organization of internal migrants up to date, their limits and the tools that can be further developed?
3. Refugees crisis and European exploitation of the emergency
4. Mobility of labor and transnational strike: what are the tools and strategies which could provide a basis for connecting the struggles against the border regime and against the exploitation of migrant labor? How can we imagine to practically build a political communication on the issue of mobility and labor in the months to come?

4. Mapping labor struggles

organized by: My Prekariat (Poland), Rome Social Strike Laboratory (Italy)

We are already well experienced of putting events on a map during international days of solidarities or such, but this workshop does not aim to “show spots” that refer to the very same specific issue. This workshop would like to create a space of common inquiry that challenge what is already known, and try to be aware of other struggles and, above all, to learn from other experiences. This gesture of exploration aims to enlarge our vision on the ongoing processes of organization, protests, demand that continuously spread all over the European space. While the proliferation labor forms and the mobility of workers increase, mutual support and transnational organization should be rooted in this wide glance able to goes beyond our national or local specificity, but able to connect and share tools. During the meeting of Central and Eastern European Countries in Poland last August, a bunch of collectives and workers started this process of common inquiry about the existing forms of organization, labor campaigns, strikes, protests, and struggles which are spreading in different Eastern and Southern countries. We aim to enlarge and improve this first attempt to draw a common research able to strengthen our knowledge about workers’ struggles and their precarious conditions.

SECOND SESSION (3pm-6pm):

5. Transformations of labor and transnational strike II: new unionism, new forms of organization and common demands

organized by: TIE Germany (Germany), Worker’s Initiative (Poland), Angry Workers (UK), Precarious dis-connnections (Italy), Berlin migrant strikers (Germany), SUD commerce (France)

Social transformations such as deregulation, lean production and precarization have weekend traditional union organising and bargaining on a global level. These transformations have transformed power relations as well as subjective identities and expectations of workers concerning own demands, rights and even the kind of democracy or organisation you want to be part of. Starting from these changes and their impact on organizing and organisation, we want to reflect organising efforts of precarious jobs and discuss differences/joint challenges and possible cooperation to traditional labour organisations.

In this second part of the workshop on the transformations of labor, we want to discuss questions like:

Relation between ‘new’ and ‘traditional’ workers organisations and initiatives

• What makes the difference between traditional unions and new initiatives regarding the above-mentioned background?
• Which lessons to learn for organising efforts and union organisation: kind of participation or democracy? relation to other social groups? How to build power and movement? Relation of Representation and/or self-organisation? organising methods and strategies?
• Challenges of possible cooperation

Transformations of labor and their impact on organising and organisation:

• What have been the objective constraints of traditional instruments, approaches and thinking when organising workers with precarious job?
• What are constraints of our organisations (new initiatives and traditional organisiations)? Which issues and expectations are difficult to meet within our organisations?
• Which challenges, (new) contradictions and issues have been addressed?
• Which strategies and activities did we use?
• Which demands and expectations did workers have towards the ‘union’ or initiative?
• How is it possible to reinvent the strike in front of these transformations of production and the labour force? Can we produce new organizational instruments and claims able to talk to a labour force that continuously changes work place, also connecting the strike with the different forms of insubordination and sabotage inside the factories?
• What tools, methods and discourses can we use as practical tools to spread the whatchwords of the transnational strike into those working struggles that are still limited to specific sectors or on the national level?

6. How to unite different strikes in a coalition

organized by: Emilia-Romagna Social Centres (Italy), North East Social Centres (Italy), Rete della Conoscenza (Italy), Rome Social Strike Laboratory (Italy), Interventionistische Linke (Germany)

By now it’s clear that the ongoing production could not be shrinked to one single branch or subject. The multiplication of the labor’s forms had the effect of radically differentiating the conditions of working and exploitation, in addition to create a multitude of subjectivities not immediately speaking each other. This means that the old device of the strike, still essential for the workers’ safeguard and the rights’ improvement, needs to be re-imagined in order to regain its strength as a tool for our struggles through the interruption of the productive chain or other forms of activation: put differently, different strikes for different productions. But which are the different ways of striking that can be imagined in the actual context?
The development of further forms of production and profit-making, through the spreading of immaterial labour and the processes of commodification of knowledge and welfare, poses a further question: what does striking mean for the knowledge workers’ subjectivity? What tools can we implement to permit strikes or to interrupt the process of commodification?
There is also a second level of the problem. In front of the attacks of austerity measures against wages and rights all over Europe, we have to realize that the crisis is damaging all sectors in similar manners and we are facing the weakness of our struggles where they are isolated. A global production requires a common field of resistance and solidarity, in which all different figures can be involved to pursue the perspective of shared goals. That’s why it’s important to reflect on the need of linking in coalitions on a common terrain by connecting the different forms of strike, requests and subjectivities. How to intertwine the multitude of labor’s form, together with other productive processes? Can we create a striking cooperation for rights, wages and income? When can we experiment this process of coalition in a fruitful way?

7. Fighting against precarity and austerity – how to strike together?

organized by: Interventionistische Linke (Germany), Plan C (UK), Precarious Dis-connections (Italy)

The latest events concerning the Greek crisis made clear that the new normality of austerity is now imposed on Europe. This regime of austerity attempts to normalize conditions of precarity, exploitation and institutional racism across borders. At the same time, people have repeatedly struggled against the different consequences of austerity in their living and working conditions, showing their opposition to this attack from above and that they simply can take no more. However, a transnational perspective and connection in these struggles is crucial in order to develop the necessary political strength. In fact, to connect the struggles against precarity and the government of mobility and those against austerity is necessary in order for the former to get a wide political resonance, and for the latter to intervene in the everyday effects of austerity. This transnational workshop aims to jointly identify those instances where people struggle against slowly being strangulated. It starts from the recognition of antiausterity protests, like the one staged by Blockupy, as necessary spaces of trasnational political communication. In particular, we want to look at labour struggles and discuss the challenges and possibilities which arise when attempting to organize labour struggles and to connect them with a transnational perspective of anti-austerity. How are labour struggles organized under conditions of austerity? Can we connect precarious workers, industry workers and migrants? Is there a common denominator for labour struggles and struggles against the precarization of living conditions? How can social strike as both conceptual narrative and political strategy articulate those challenges and draw out commonalities? Could some discursive instruments (for example the common claims of European minumum wage, income, welfare, and unconditional visa for migrants) be useful to connect struggles on living and working conditions? To answer these question, we want to start sharing some experiences of struggles in the UK, Italy and Germany. Our goal is to reflect more concretely on next steps for a transnational social strike, imagining experiments and intermediate passages. Thereby, we ultimately also want to reflect on the viability of transnational social strike as revolutionary strategy.

8. The logistics of the struggles and the transnational chains of exploitation

organized by: ADL (Italy), Worker’s Initiative (Poland), Amazon workers (Germany/Poland)

The circulation of commodities is for sure a core element of ongoing capitalism: the international division of the labor makes it indispensable for the operation of the chain of production. Moreover, it’s becoming always more difficult to distinguish between circulation and production, both moments are so totally integrated to be only one in some cases. While the logistics sector was growing, also the number of the workers employed had increased but not the level of the rights and wages. Too much often it comes out that they are subordinated to terrible working times, with precarious contracts and humiliating conditions. The Amazon case is the most famous and international but also in the small and local cooperatives exploitation is the ordinary law. Which are the different conditions of exploitation in logistics firms on local levels? How many paths of workers organization are going on?

In last years we assisted to the development of many struggles in this branch. There is no place in Europe where strikes have not happened. Unfortunately, often we experienced the difficulty to gain results insisting only on single working places. As logistics built up a web of connections between firms, warehouses and shops, we need to intertwine the different struggles and workers if we want to obtain a general improvement of working conditions in this branch.

In which way the different hubs are connected? How can the logistics workers help each other? Which are the common requests we can ask for and in which way?

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