RAISING A NEW COLLECTIVE VOICE THROUGH GREENFIELD UNION ORGANISING : The mobilisation and unionisation of workers and the establishment of a collective agreement at Foodora in Sweden

University essay from Mälardalens högskola/Akademin för hälsa, vård och välfärd

Abstract: Following an actor-centred approach to institutional change, the aim of the study was to explore the process of ‘greenfield organising’ through which unions and collective bargaining structures are established in workplaces where there are none initially. A qualitative theory-oriented single case study, using some principles of the grounded theory, analysed the organising process and negotiations at Foodora in Sweden that resulted in a collective agreement. Besides, a phenomenographic approach was employed to understand participants’ conceptions of an organising success. Riders and union officials of the Transport union were interviewed for both parts of the study. The empirical material of the case study also included a survey conducted by the union, the Transport and Foodora collective agreements, media reports and articles, organisational webpages, social media, and legal acts. The results showed that workforce fragmentation and isolation were obstacles to the riders’ mobilisation but social interactions, through which pre-existing networks were mobilised and new relations were built, were central to the organising process. These bonds facilitated the transformative agency exerted by the riders and the union, which was based on intense involvement, learning and strategy. Thereby, they were able to influence influential factors and to build new social structure through increased union membership and a new collective agreement. These outcomes might be considered emerging components of an organising success, which the participants conceive mainly in terms of high level of union membership, workers’ solidaristic engagement and knowledge of their rights, reaching a collective agreement, working conditions improvement. The main conclusions of the study are, firstly, that a relational approach to social reality is required to understand the mobilisation of actors and the significance of institutional contradictions for them. Secondly, resources mobilisation and strategic capabilities were key dimensions of the agency exerted by actors. Finally, this agency, albeit embedded in constraining structural conditions, was able to some extent to achieve institutional change.

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