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Inaugural Lecture: Structural Injustice and Workers' Rights

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Bentham House

4-8 Endsleigh Gardens

London

WC1H 0EG

United Kingdom

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Current Legal Problems Lecture Series 2019-20

About this Event

Inaugural Lecture

Speaker: Professor Virginia Mantouvalou (Faculty of Laws, UCL)

Chair: Professor Hugh Collins, Cassel Chair in Commercial Law, LSE

Abstract

An increasing number of jobs are precarious, making workers vulnerable to various forms of ill-treatment and exploitation. The UK Government's main approach has been to criminalise the actions of unscrupulous employers who seek to exploit these. This approach, however, has been ineffective, partly because it ignores the broader socio-economic structures that place workers in conditions of vulnerability. This lecture develops an alternative solution, seeking to identify structures that force and trap workers in conditions of exploitation. It focuses specifically on what I call ‘state-mediated structural injustice', where legislative schemes that promote otherwise legitimate aims create inadvertent vulnerabilities that force and trap workers in conditions of exploitation. I use examples such as restrictive visa regimes, welfare conditionality programmes, and zero-hour contracts to illustrate the unjust structures. I finally assess whether these legal structures are compatible with human rights, such as the right to private life, the prohibition of slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour, and the right to fair and just working conditions, and make proposals for legal reform.

About the Speaker

Virginia Mantouvalou is Professor of Human Rights and Labour Law at UCL Faculty of Laws since 2017. She joined UCL as a lecturer in 2011, and holds a PhD in Law from the London School of Economics. She is a member of the Editorial Committee of the Modern Law Review, and was previously joint editor of Current Legal Problems. Virginia has published extensively on human rights and labour law. Her work has appeared in journals such as the Modern Law Review, the Journal of Law and Society, Theoretical Inquiries in Law, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, and the Industrial Law Journal. Her most recent co-edited book on the Philosophical Foundations of Labour Law (with Hugh Collins and Gillian Lester) was published by OUP in 2018.

Virginia has also worked as specialist advisor to the UK Joint Committee on Human Rights on ‘Business and Human Rights’, and as consultant for projects of the International Labour Organisation. She is on the management board of Kalayaan (organisation working on the rights of migrant domestic workers), the Equal Rights Trust (organisation promoting equality), and on the Executive Committee of the Institute of Employment Rights. In 2017, Virginia received the UCL Provost Public Engagement Award for her research and collaboration with Kalayaan on migrant domestic workers.

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Location

Bentham House

4-8 Endsleigh Gardens

London

WC1H 0EG

United Kingdom

View Map

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