The co-ordination of global production and trade within value chains has amplified debates concerning the impact of globalisation on labour, especially for developing countries. Whilst many development agencies argue for value chain insertion and upgrading as optimistic development pathways, many studies suggest a nuanced, conditional evaluation of the potential impacts on labour. One fundamental aspect of labour rights and conditions concerns representation and representational processes: that is, as encapsulated by the social dialogue component of Decent Work, whether representation is both effective and autonomous. This paper uses a model of organisational identity to deepen our understanding of the impacts of value chain insertion and upgrading on labour. It uses three studies of labour conditions in value chains in one country (Brazil) to evaluate the effectiveness and challenges to representation at the local level. These studies come from the food production (tomatoes), fruit collection/processing (passion fruit) and metals (refrigeration/washer) sectors and encompass industrial unions, rural unions and cooperatives. Whilst further work is required on the local, national and international contexts surrounding these studies, the analysis does suggest amplified and new complications for organisational identity as a result of value chain engagement. This adds another component to recent (but general) conceptual-empirical considerations of labour in value chains (Knorringa & Pegler, 2006). Responding to this, and the re-juvenation of representation, requires not only well linked strategies at local and international levels (thus substantial resources) but that representative organisations confront many developments which, potentially, also hold out promising opportunities for labour (e.g. Corporate Social Responsibility and Human Resource Management strategies).

, , , , , , , , ,
Erasmus University Rotterdam
ISS Working Papers - General Series
ISS Working Paper Series / General Series
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Pegler, L. (2009). Development through global value chains and the achievement of decent work : challenges to work and representational processes. ISS Working Paper Series / General Series (Vol. 485, pp. 1–35). Retrieved from