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Service work and subcontracting in the new economy: Call centres in Mexico City.

Alvarez-Galvan, Jose-Luis (2010) Service work and subcontracting in the new economy: Call centres in Mexico City. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This dissertation analyses the subcontracting of front-line service work in the new economy. Its aim is to examine how workers' experiences and employment conditions are affected by how subcontractors respond to the challenges and problems of coordination and negotiation with client firms. In recent years, subcontracting has gained popularity as a mechanism to deal with the uncertainty of increasingly challenging business environments. According to mainstream business scholars and social scientists, intense competition, variations in demand and technical change have forced organizations to substitute hierarchical arrangements by market mediated transactions. Nonetheless, the practice of subcontracting also raises important concerns. Subcontracting might blur organizational boundaries, fragmenting employers' authority and affecting coordination between organizations. In other words, subcontracting might involve problems that, in practice, increase transaction costs and affect workers' experiences. This research is based on extensive information collected through 65 in-depth interviews with workers and managers concerning their work experiences in call centres in Mexico City. Call centres are often seen as a flag-ship industry of the new economy, rapidly growing and subject to constant pressures for cost reduction. The Mexican case is also relevant as it is characterized by a weak institutional setting where labour protection is low and business competition is largely unregulated. The findings of this research identify those managerial practices that can be more affected or associated with the difficulties of negotiation and coordination between subcontractors and client firms; narrowed job designs; customer segmentation; the use of contracts for services; supervision approach; union avoidance; the use of internal labour markets to secure management loyalty; and reinforcing social divisions in the workplace. These findings also suggest that a number of practices that were common in the old economy are still relevant in the organization of work in the twenty-first century.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Economics, Labor
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Sociology

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