Organizing Committee

Michel Coutu
Université de Montréal

Gregor Murray
Université de Montréal

Judith Paquet
Université Laval

Nicolas Roby
Université de Montréal


Scientific Committee

Michel Coutu
Université de Montréal
Gregor Murray
Université de Montréal
Christian Brunelle
Université Laval
Jean Charest
Université de Montréal
Urwana Coiquaud
HEC Montréal
Judith Paquet
Université Laval
Nicolas Roby
Université de Montréal
Guylaine Vallée
Université de Montréal
Pierre Verge
Université Laval


Webmaster & Design

Nicolas Roby
Université de Montréal
Citizenship at work (or decent work, as defined by the ILO, dignity at work, industrial citizenship, etc.) reflects the fact that a large number of civil and social rights have been acquired by the workers through their collective autonomy or right to organize collectively. For a majority of workers, citizenship (defined as an objective system of fundamental rights – including the right to participation) was, above all, a matter related to their insertion in the workplace. However, in a time and in a context where their collective autonomy is either challenged or taking on new forms, where the tendencies towards the fragmentation and uncertainty of work status are accentuated (atypical work, precarious work), where the demographic weight of exclusion is growing, and when there are enormous pressures on the quality of work - even in high-end workplaces -, there seems to be a decline in the experience of citizenship at work which, historically, has played such an important role in limiting the social inequalities at the root of the market economy. This raises some fundamental questions, both with respect to the issue of social justice and of the quality of the democratic life in our societies, as well as to the issue of competing paths for economic development.

Here is an overview of the main sub-themes to be discussed in the colloquium:

1. Thinking the Workplace of the Future.

There is increasing concern about the need to develop a vision for the workplace that strikes a better balance between organizational efficiency and worker wellbeing. The knowledge economy presents tendencies that are often contradictory: the reorganization of labour and production, the multiplication of professional identities, the proliferation of employment status and career patterns, the expansion of atypical labour, etc. The key challenge is how to create a work environment that meets several requirements: guaranteeing dignity at work as a basic human right, through participation, voice and creativity; enhancing opportunities for learning and skill development; and offering a greater degree of economic security? Which models are the most likely to best achieve these objectives?

2. Theorizing Citizenship at Work.

In a seminal 1967 contribution, Harry Arthurs raised a fundamental challenge for Canadian labour law: how to develop a notion of industrial citizenship in the decades to come? Since then, the parameters of the employment relationship have change considerably. Can the notion of citizenship at work still be conceived in the same way, irrespective of disciplinary lenses, be it law, sociology, economics, health or industrial relations? Is there a unifying concept or paradigm that can organize our thinking about rights and duties in the workplace of the future?

3. Faces of Inclusion and Exclusion.

Do job insecurity and the advent of unpaid and poorly paid jobs lead to the appearance of second class 'citizens at work'? What are the consequences in terms of skills development and social inclusion? What can we say more specifically about migrant and immigrant workers, or the position of women in the workforce or the efficiency of job equality and employment equity programmes? And, what about those who do not have access to the labour market (those who are unemployed, on welfare, retired or handicapped)? Does this represent an exclusion from citizenship at work, or even an exclusion from some essential dimensions of citizenship altogether? This theme addresses the evolution of labour models and of the valence of work in society, particularly with regard to new organizational models which rely on flexibility, ostensibly at all costs.

4. High-Performance Workplaces: What Social Responsibility?

Are there organizational models that favour a better recognition of citizenship at work, both with respect to the quality of work and economic security, as well as with regards to the respect of basic equality rights and of workers’ wellbeing? Do high-performance workplaces differ in terms of their economic and social performances? Do organizations that reinvent themselves on an ethical basis inspire a stronger commitment form their employees? In what way does the ethics oriented discourse of some companies translate itself into benefits for the employees, and namely into an improvement in the quality of work? This theme addresses the issue of the quality of work within high-performance workplaces. What decisions will have to be taken and how to promote choices that will be simultaneously innovative, bearers of economic prosperity and leading to the development of workers’ capacities and skills?

5. Global Citizenship: South & North?

Can we now think of the emergence of a global social citizenship – a common understanding of humanity's interdependence? In that case, how would it be conceived, particularly with regards to work and employment? Are the objectives of citizenship at work and decent work a luxury only dreamed of in the North, but unrealistic and unattainable in the South? How are links to be made between North and South and what are the perspectives for sharing those experiences? Calling on international expertise, this theme addresses some of the hottest current issues, both with regards to decent work and to the social dimension of globalization.

6. Union Vision: Pathways to Dignity at Work?

Unions have played a fundamental historical role in the promotion of citizenship rights and as defenders of dignity in the workplace. Union actions have emphasized the role of collective bargaining as a source of legitimacy and dignity in the workplace. At the legislative level, their demands stimulated thinking about the definition of individual and collective rights which, in turn, would defined the role of citizens at work. But is the balance between individual and collective now shifting? Are unions confronted with a decreasing legitimacy in terms of their representativeness of the new workforce? When confronted with these limits to their representativeness and historical projects, how do and should unions see their role? What are the main avenues being explored? How do they translate into action? Is a new agenda emerging? What is or should it be?

7. What Public Policies for Citizenship at Work?

When it comes to the development of public policies adapted to the demands of the new economy, is it possible to reconcile the goals of organizational efficiency and individual and collective wellbeing? What values should shape the social dimension of globalization and how to translate them, in practical terms, into public policy? Should we be thinking about policy for work and employment in new and different ways? Does this entail different types of balances between individual and collective rights; or, between political, civic, economic and social rights? What kinds of platforms or vehicles are available for ensuring the delivery of these rights and policies?