Research from the Work and Equalities Institute has provided an evidence base that has had a major impact at the national and international level, informing employment debates and policies.
“WEI research constitutes a very substantial, significant and sustained contribution to the understanding of how legal and collective measures promote decent work and inclusive labour markets. These issues are at the core of the work of the ILO, and the University of Manchester contribution has supported our efforts both in our global role in promoting labour standards and complementary employment policies and our specific work at the member state and region level in translating these policies into specific recommendations and policy advice.”
(Senior ILO specialist)
Researchers at the Work and Equalities Institute (WEI) have undertaken extensive comparative analyses of legal and collective interventions that promote inclusive labour markets, including minimum wage schemes, extending collective bargaining, extending the rights of precarious workers, and actions to close gender pay gaps.
They have influenced the thinking and policies of international policymaking bodies (European Parliament, ILO), national policy actors (Greek government, South African policy makers, Portuguese government) and international trade union organisations (European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).
The evidence base has emerged from specific WEI-coordinated European comparative projects on minimum wages, collective bargaining in manufacturing under austerity, and precarious work.
For instance, Collective bargaining under austerity was a major cross-national study which analysed data from seven European countries that were heavily affected by the financial crisis and required by the EU to restrict collective bargaining and extend employer rights to bypass collective agreements. It revealed that the policy outcomes were to weaken social dialogue and narrow collective bargaining coverage.
The study also highlighted the costs of dismantling more coordinated systems of labour relations and regulation, namely, lower wages, longer working hours, more inequality and less social cohesion for workers. The effects for employers included a more politicised and fragmented system of employee voice, and follow-up studies in Greece and Portugal confirmed these effects.
Impact on international policy bodies
The WEI team has longstanding relationships with the ILO which has 187 member countries and is responsible for setting international labour standards and shaping international debates and practices on employment.
WEI research on minimum wages, precarious work and the gender pay gap has been extensively utilised by the ILO in its flagship publications, including its biennial global wage reports, its 2016 non-standard work report, and its centennial year gender equality report.
WEI research on collective bargaining led to three ILO commissioned reports that influenced international and national policymaking.
Firstly, a background report evidencing how social dialogue contributes to economic performance fed into the new Global Deal, an initiative of the Swedish government in partnership with the ILO and the OECD aimed at promoting decent work and inclusive growth through social dialogue.
Secondly, a report evaluating the effects of the crisis-related reforms on Greek collective bargaining constituted one of the main ILO inputs to the consultation on a review of the Greek regulatory framework mandated by a Eurosummit in 2015 and was used for recommendations to Greek policy-makers.
Thirdly, in 2018 WEI was commissioned to review developments on collective bargaining since the economic crisis for a report on decent work in Portugal that informed the Portuguese government in its revision of the Portuguese Labour Code.
Impact on national policymakers
- South African minimum wage: From 2013 the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) led a campaign to introduce a national minimum wage, which was finally implemented in 2019. WEI research helped trade union associated actors to make the case that a national minimum wage could complement rather than substitute for collective bargaining and contribute to gender pay equality.
- Collective bargaining in Greece: The WEI ILO report on collective bargaining in Greece was not only used directly in discussions between the Greek government and EU and IMF policymakers but also fed directly into the decision to reinstate extension mechanisms for collective bargaining agreements.
- Collective Bargaining in Portugal: Research on changes in collective bargaining contributed to a report on decent work in Portugal, as acknowledged in the ILO report on decent work in Portugal.
Impact on international trade unions
WEI research both on collective bargaining under austerity and on precarious work provided important new evidence and arguments to support the work of the ETUI in shaping employment policy debate in Europe.
For example, WEI research on segmentation and precarious work that contributed to an ETUI book enabled the ETUI to support the ETUC in its work as the lead social partner for safeguarding and promoting workers’ interests in the European Union, specifically when challenging the notion that employment deregulation promotes labour market inclusion.