Hidden on the line: labour contracting in the Korean automobile industry

Lee, Jong-Woon (2010) Hidden on the line: labour contracting in the Korean automobile industry. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Not only is there an increase in the use of contract workers in some of today’s workplaces, but a qualitative shift has also taken place in the nature of labour contracting, as the operation of labour intermediaries has expanded from peripheral services to the main production activities of companies. This new phenomenon implies the greater integration of labour contracting into the production process, together with changes in employment practices and the rights of workers. This thesis aims to better understand how the changing nature of labour contracting affects employment relationships by undertaking an empirical investigation of in-house contracting arrangements in the South Korean automobile industry. In so doing, it examines roles and relationships between workplace actors involved in labour contracting; namely, user firm management, contractors, labour organisations, user firm employees, contract workers and the state. This analysis sheds light on the process of change in labour contracting and the consequences of increased labour contracting in the workplace.

The thesis argues that the coordination of workplace changes brought about by increased flexibility attained through the use of contract workers is fraught with tension, which influences the ways in which employment relationships are shaped in the context of any particular firm. The essence of such tension lies in the pursuit of organisational flexibility and quality control in the production process, both of which are considered to be necessary to ensuring the performance of firms. Contradictions arise from the attempts of user firms to avoid employment-related responsibility for the labour force, while at the same time exerting managerial control over contract workers. Such tensions and paradoxes are associated with conflicts of interest, and compromise between and within workplace actors. A case study of the Korean automobile industry is provided that explores the contradictory nature of the labour contracting system, as contract workers with fewer employment entitlements are brought into core production processes; and investigates the manner in which inherent tensions play out in shaping employment relationships and the orientation of labour contracting practices. The findings of this thesis could help in the further understanding of the implications of change in labour contracting practices, and contribute to overcoming the current limits of thinking with regard to labour flexibility and employment relationships in the context of in-house contracting.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: Institute of Development Studies
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labour
H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and communications
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2011 11:43
Last Modified: 13 Aug 2015 14:18
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/6274
Google Scholar:2 Citations

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