conference 2012

Our project co-organised a major conference at the University of Leeds, UK, on 14 December 2012 on the subject of Vulnerable Workers, Forced Labour, Migration and Ethical Trading.

Audio recordings of the keynote plenaries are available here:

The conference brought together academics, campaigners, and policy makers to explore both the drivers and the broad experiences of vulnerable, forced and exploitative labour, to place the UK experience within a global context, and put questions of globalisation, migration and ethical trading centre-stage. We were particularly glad to hear from campaigning groups, including trades unions, those supporting refugees, and organisations concerned with the wider implications of forced labour, including ethical trading and the regulation of supply chains; and considered how research evidence can strengthen the work of those active in these areas.

Keynote speakers:

Alice Bloch, Professor of Sociology, City University

Aidan McQuade, Anti Slavery International

Nicola Phillips, Professor of Political Economy, University of Sheffield

Guy Standing, Professor of Economic Security, University of Bath


We welcome papers and other types of contributions (deadline 28 September) which engage with the questions outlined below, including:

* contributions on precarious work, forced labour and ethical trading across international contexts

* critical engagement with key terms: vulnerable workers, forced labour, etc.

* presentations offering insights into activism, education and applying research evidence

We invite papers and other types of contributions (e.g. poetry, photography, film, art) which reflect on these and related questions:

Vulnerable migrant workers

– What is the interplay between asylum and broader migration policy and vulnerable /forced labour?

– How are different groups of non-migrants and migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, vulnerable to exploitation?

Labour markets and trade

– How the does the organisation of production and trade in the contemporary global economy generate vulnerability and forced labour in different contexts?

– What are the links between the politico-economic framework of neoliberal labour markets and exploitative work?

Forced labour

– What value do definitions, international treaties and covenants on forced labour and domestic UK legislative apparatus designed to reduce/eliminate forced labour have in everyday life?

– How do people become trapped in vulnerable and forced labour?

Organising and mobilising

– What opportunities exist for individuals or groups to resist in order to mobilise and eventually exit from vulnerable / forced labouring?

– What interventions might have the potential to reduce unfree/forced labour; e.g. immigration policy solutions; employer sanctions; improving precarious workers’ access to information and organising/mobilising opportunities; strategies for campaigning organisations?

The conference will be of interest to: academics working in this interdisciplinary field; people with personal experience of unfree/forced labour; policy makers; trades unionists; people working, campaigning, volunteering in these areas; and political activists. The conference will include a mixture of speakers, discussion, and presentations by academics and campaigning groups.

Organised by Dr Stuart Hodkinson, Dr Hannah Lewis, Dr Louise Waite, University of Leeds; Prof. Pete Dwyer, University of Salford; and Prof. Gary Craig, Wilberforce Institute, Hull.

The conference is organised on behalf of the ESRC-funded project: Precarious lives: asylum seekers and refugees’ experiences of forced labour (RES-062-23-2895), with additional financial support from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.


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