Labour Power Control and Resistance
Precarious Migrant Factory Workers Under the Agency Labour Regime in Chongqing and Shenzhen, China
Keywords:agency labour regime, China, high-tech manufacturing, mobility power control, precarious agency workers
Under the process of global capitalism, neoliberalism, and globalisation, many studies have discussed the dormitory labour regime and the student labour regime in the Chinese manufacturing industry. There are also many studies on the working conditions of Chinese agency workers. However, very little of the literature has been concerned with why Chinese agency workers still lose their freedom of mobility and freedom to choose where and to which employers they sell their labour services under the agency labour regime. Chris Smith (2006) argues theoretically that the indeterminacy of labour structures and worker relations exists between workers and employers as a result of mobility power, which is one of two important components within labour power (the other is effort power). Mobility power focuses on dynamics that arise from workers’ abilities to change employment (Smith, 2006). In this article, I apply this theory to the case of China, and I argue that labour agencies use three managerial strategies to control agency workers’ mobility power: checking workers’ employment experiences; checking workers’ ID cards on recruitment systems if re-entering the same labour agencies; penalising workers with delays and salary deductions if they quit the job without any notice or in violation of agency procedures.
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