Charles Umney on BBC Radio 4

Research by members of the TEMS team into the labour market conditions facing freelance musicians has been featured on the most recent episode of the BBC Radio 4 programme Thinking Allowed, broadcast on the 29th October 2014. Dr Charles Umney was invited into the studio to talk about his paper entitled “Creative labour and collective interaction: the working lives of young jazz musicians in London” (written with Dr Lefteris Kretsos). The paper, which is published in the current issue of the journal Work, Employment and Society, describes and categorises the various kinds of work settings encountered by young workers seeking to establish careers as jazz musicians. It examines the precarious nature of working conditions, and the trade-offs between creatively and materially rewarding jobs.

The show can be listened to using the BBC iPlayer at the following address:


New report on industrial relations in Europe’s public sector

A new report by Jane Lethbridge, Ian Greer, Lefteris Kretsos, Charles Umney, and Geoff White has been published by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Working and Living Conditions (EUROFOUND). In ‘Industrial relations in central public administration: Recent trends and features’, we provide a 27-country comparison of strains on industrial relations across Europe’s public sector. We find that austerity has not only put pressure on workers terms and conditions of employment but also produced a deterioration in the quality of social dialogue.

The report maps current developments in industrial relations systems in the central public administration sector in all EU Member States except Croatia. The report explores to what extent there is formal industrial relations processes within the sector, including the organisation of unions and employer representatives, and the role of collective bargaining and consultation. It also examines the specific features of the sector in terms of both industrial relations processes and worker outcomes and charts reforms that have been carried out since 2008: changes in collective bargaining and in the balance of negotiation versus unilateral imposition of change by the employer, and the responses of trade unions. Finally, the report addresses the role of the social partners regarding the outcomes for employees of the recent austerity measures on issues such as wages, job security, working time and pensions.

The full report can be found here.

Inside the ‘Black Box’: Ten theses on Employment Services in Britain

In a new report, Ian Greer, Lisa Schulte, and Graham Symon present initial findings on the UK from a project funded by the Hans-Boeckler-Foundation on the marketisation of employment services in the UK, Germany, and Denmark. They present findings from interviews with front-line staff, managers, claimants groups, and trade unionists, as well as publicly available statistics and reports. We convey what is distinctive about the UK by developing ten theses on the so-called ‘Black Box’, the UK’s highly centralised and privatized approach to organizing services.

The full paper can be found here.

More information on the project, the Marketization of Employment Services in European Comparison (MESEC) is here.

Kretsos & Umney new paper ‘That’s the experience’

The new paper ‘That’s the experience’  by Lefteris Kretsos and Charles Umney looks at jazz musicians in ’emerging adulthood’ and their ambivalence to precarious work. Precarious employment is an important consequence of structural changes in labour markets. Precarity has had profound effects on young workers in particular, often disrupting the process of ’emerging adulthood’. This paper looks at precarious employment in the creative sectors, specifically among jazz musicians. It explores their experiences of and attitudes towards precarity. It shows how participants sought to manage and sometimes embrace precarity as part of the life course, but also argues that this managed embrace was dependent on factors such as family background.

Click here for full paper

Greer Symon paper on workfare regimes

A new working paper by Ian Greer and Graham Symon examines the spread of punitive welfare reforms aimed at enforcing work and discouraging unemployment, what we call ‘workfarism’. While standard comparative theories predict that these policies should be confined to countries with ‘liberal’ political economies such as the US and UK, elements of workfarism have appeared in other countries with more generous welfare states, including Germany. We describe and compare workfarist policy shifts in Germany, Great Britain, and France.

Our comparison highlights two important but neglected factors: the use of markets in public administration and the central power of the state. We also highlight the importance of direct state intervention at the bottom of the UK labor market and call into question the standard characterization of it as a ‘liberal market economy’.

The full paper can be found here.


Lefteris Kretsos on the crisis in Greece

Over the past four years, Greece has been “rescued” on countless occasions. Over the past four years, state legislators across the country and supranational institutions have launched an unprecedented series of reforms aimed at lowering labor standards, weakening trade unions, and eroding workplace and welfare protections. The country has become almost a byword for “structural adjustment” and drastic labour market reforms across Europe. Financial support from the Troika and especially the IMF has been conditional on reductions in public deficits and public spending, initiating drastic labour market reform and a welfare state retrenchment unprecedented in the post war period. Structural reforms and labour market restructuring policies have been undertaken in line with the loan agreements based on the Troika’s premise that labour market regulation and social protection in Greece constituted a significant barrier to growth and a main driver of public debt.

The rest of the summary is here, and here is the full report.

Postdoc position on the TEMS project

We are looking for an expert on Central and Eastern Europe for our research project on the consequences of marketization. This is a three-year fixed term position as part of the five-member TEMS team.  Funded by the European Research Council, we use an in-depth qualitative examination of four countries and four sectors to explore the causal links between changes in market structure and increases in inequality. This post is suitable for a qualitative researcher who either holds a PhD or is close to completing one, and who has strong language skills, a strong grounding in one or more strands of theory, and a clear research trajectory. You should have a background in an interdisciplinary field such as industrial relations, European studies, or social policy, or in a relevant sub-discipline within sociology, political science, economics, anthropology, or geography.

The full job advertisement is here:

For more information on our research group please look at our research unit’s blog (, and if you are interested in applying please get in touch with Ian Greer (

The totalising market and Marxist theory

What are the connections between the concept of ‘the market’ and Marxist theory? How much power should be attributed to the former by the latter? And what is the relationship between the state and the market? These are the questions considered by Charles Umney in the two articles posted below. In the first, entitled ‘The Totalising Market in Marxist Thought’ he traces two different analyses of ‘the market’ as they have historically appeared in Marxist writing. In one, the market is subordinate to production and can be undermined depending on the strategic actions of capitalists. In the other, it exerts an ‘alien power’ over individuals and society. He argues that in analysing neoliberalism, these aspects need to be interwoven in a multi-level critique of the ‘totalising market’. In the second, he applies this concept to Marxist state theory, arguing that the nature of the totalising market imposes a ‘quasi-rationality’ on the state, obscuring its capacity to make decisions.

The two papers can be downloaded here:

The totalizing market in Marxist thought

The Totalising Market and the Marxist Theory of the State

As these are works in progress and comments and criticisms are welcomed. Please contact

Two new papers

The Marketization in Europe team has been busy this summer. Today we have uploaded two outputs from our writing endeavors. One is a semi-final version of the paper by Ian Greer and Virginia Doellgast’s paper laying out the basic ideas behind the TEMS project. A second is Nick Krachler’s writeup of the NHS marketization story, which applies these ideas through a particular case study.

Graham Symon’s notes from Detroit

On Thursday 18th July 2013, Detroit became the biggest US city yet to formally declare bankruptcy; an almost inevitable consequence of decades of decline, questionable governance and an unfavourable position in the fiscal and political hierarchy. It simply cannot raise the income to pay its bills and honour its crippling debts. It will possibly surprise many that metropolitan Detroit actually only has a population of around 700,000, similar to some medium-sized British cities like Leeds and Nottingham. Detroit arguably occupies greater prominence in the collective consciousness for two reasons: its population used to be much bigger – almost three times the size; and, more importantly, it played such a symbolic role in shaping industrial capitalism in the twentieth century.

Ian Greer and myself visited Detroit in early June this year and found much of the tragic declinology to be in evidence: derelict houses – indeed, streets; long-abandoned factories; boarded-up shops and small businesses; poorly maintained roads; clearly dispossessed citizens; an eery quiet that one does not associated with a great city.

For more, read here…