Publication details

Práce za pokladnou : Flexibilní organizace v supermarketech a prekarizace práce

Title in English Working at the Checkout : Flexible organisation in Supermarkets and the Precarisation of Work

BEK Tomáš

Year of publication 2019
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Sociologický časopis
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Web článek - open access
Keywords flexible organisation; numerical flexibility; functional flexibility; precarisation of work; working conditions
Attached files
Description Research on precarious work and the working conditions of low-wage 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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