Current Legal Problems Lecture Series 2013-14
Evolutionary Trajectories for Transnational Labour Law: Trade in Goods to Trade in Services?
Prof. Tonia Novitz (Bristol)
Thursday 30 January 2014
from 6 - 7pm
Labour lawyers are familiar with what has been termed an ‘International Labour Code’, namely a collation of transnational norms established by institutions such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and European Union (EU). These norms reflect a political accommodation largely imposed by high income countries on others, which was closely related to the then dominant forms of trade, being concerned with the treatment of labour in the manufacture of goods. It is now trade in ‘services’ rather than ‘goods’ which generates an estimated 70-80% of output (and employment) in the North. In the expansion of the EU services market, we have witnessed significant modification to otherwise applicable labour standards. Globally, complex subcontracting mechanisms have led to re-labelling as ‘services’ what might have once been described as labour concerned with the manufacture of goods, so that the fundamental injunction (set out in the ILO Constitution) that ‘labour is not a commodity’ has been challenged. An open question remains the extent to which the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) can facilitate such changes and future challenges. This paper considers the opportunities that these cumulative variations in forms of trade offer to the South in terms of overcoming old (and new) patterns of dependency and underdevelopment, so that they may seek a fresh political accommodation. Given the significance of non-State actors, particularly corporate interests, such opportunities do seem limited. The analysis offered in the paper draws on Simon Deakin’s recent thinking on the use of evolutionary theory and systems theory when considering scope for adaptation and inheritance. In so doing, it highlights the potential for various alternative trajectories for transnational labour law.
Biography of the speaker
Tonia Novitz is Professor of Labour Law at the University of Bristol. She first studied law at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and qualified there as a Barrister and Solicitor, specialising in employment law and civil litigation. She then studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where she was awarded the BCL and completed her doctorate. She has been a visiting fellow at the International Institute for Labour Studies (Geneva), a Jean Monnet Fellow and a Marie Curie Fellow at the European University Institute (Florence) and a visiting professor at the University of Melbourne. She is a member of the editorial board of the UK Industrial Law Journal, with special responsibility for the Recent Legislation section.
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