Theses defended

Ao trabalho os seus direitos. A regulação sociojurídica laboral e o seu impacto na experiência dos/as trabalhadores/as

Andreia Santos

Public Defence date
July 19, 2022
Doctoral Programme
Labour Relations, Social Inequalities and Trade Unionism
António Casimiro Ferreira
The socio-juridical regulation of work, especially since 1980, has been guided by political and socioeconomic changes that have contributed to the flexibilization of labour law. More recently, and under this sign, the 2008 financial crisis resulted in the implementation of an austerity regime in several European countries, which had a strong impact on the labour sphere.

From this scenario and, in particular, from the Portuguese reality, a discussion on the normativity underlying labour law and its impact on the experience of individuals is here proposed, through the opposition of two socio-juridical paradigms of labour relations: on the one hand, the austerity paradigm in Portugal that followed the line of continuous flexibility in the labour legislation as an instrument for solving economic problems and, on the other hand, the concept of decent work coined by the International Labour Organization (ILO), based on a perspective of valuing socioeconomic security, arising from the importance of the multidimensionality of work encompassing all aspects of the individuals' lives. The opposition between these two paradigms is verified assesses through the conformity, or non-conformity, between the changes to labour legislation in Portugal, as the result of the application of the Memorandum of Understanding and translated into Law No. 23/2012, of 25 June 2012, with the corresponding forms of labour-related security within the framework of the decent work paradigm.

In practice, measures such as the flexible working-time arrangements in the form of working time accounts at the individual level, the facilitation of dismissals, reduction of the additional pay for overtime work, among others, are confronted with work security based on working conditions and promoting the workers' well-being; employment security reflected in workers' risks and uncertainties in securing employment and guaranteed protection; income security as it constitutes a fundamental element in the economic and ontological security of individuals; and representation security as a privileged instrument for defending workers' interests and rights. In the context of this tension, the perceptions, and representations of workers through the way in which these elements translate into their experience is analysed.

This research is based on two central hypotheses. The first claims that the application of austerity labour reforms in Portugal, in the period 2011-2014, diverges from ILO's decent work paradigm, based on the concept of socioeconomic security; and the second hypothesis is based on the assertion that the workers' experience points to the worsening of precariousness, which results in an increasing vulnerability. The main goals are to assess the political and economic options regarding labour regulation; to question the value of work in contemporary societies; and demonstrate the importance of strengthening labour rights through the analysis of the individuals' experiences. More specifically, it is about enhancing ILO's decent work paradigm; interpreting and studying the influence of the austerity paradigm on labour law; understanding the impact of labour reforms on workers; and understanding the value of work for individuals through its relationship with the law.

Methodologically, and based on the sociological study of law, a qualitative approach is privileged, taking research and documental analysis and the use of semi-structured interviews as its main methods and techniques. Highlighting the complementarity between the macro and micro levels, the relationship between security and vulnerability results as the conceptual framework on which it is possible to identify, analyse and interpret the relationship between labour normativity and the workers' experiences. The research object are workers in the tertiary sector, in trade and services activities, from large and medium-sized companies in the district of Coimbra.

The developed analysis allowed, in general, to confirm the established hypotheses. Firstly, austerity deepened the labour flexibility that was already evident in previous reforms and, in doing so, contributed to the reduction of all types of work-related security. Secondly, the workers' experience reflects labour regulation as the result of political and socioeconomic choices that translate into situations of increasing vulnerability and insecurity. The course of the transformation points to the continuous devaluation of work, not only in its pecuniary sense, but also in its symbolic form. This research intends to contribute to the socio-juridical deepening of labour reality and to open new paths for analysis regarding the importance of labour law normativity in the evolution of societies.

Keywords: work; labour law; austerity; decent work; security; vulnerability