PurposeThe thesis of our paper is that the industrial dispute articulates a counter-movement against the progressive capitalist Landnahme of care work. What is ostensibly a standard wage conflict proves, on closer scrutiny, to be a dispute that contains a transformative social dynamic. It cannot be conceived either as a traditional class struggle or as a movement against the market’s unreasonable demands. The paper aims to discuss these issues.Design/methodology/approachThe authors draw on a qualitative survey in the social and childcare services (expert interviews, groups discussions, expert hearings) and two partial-studies on the renewal of trade unions in East and West Germany (54 expert and 46 employee interviews).FindingsProfessional pride along with confidence in their own professional skills collides with the market- and competition-driven devaluation of the work of entire groups of employees. Used correctly, a putative professional consciousness can transform into a source of resilience, protest and collective engagement, which the authors interpret as counter-Landnahme. A consciousness rooted in professionality develops into a subjective power resource, the activation of which simultaneously strengthens trade unions’ power to effectuate change.Originality/valueIn the case of the childcare workers, this movement is rooted in a newly awakened consciousness as skilled labourers. What at first appears as a wage conflict is in fact, upon closer inspection, a conflict loaded with transformative potential. After all, any greater social recognition of this occupational group will naturally, at least by tendency, prompt a discussion concerning the modes of financing public reproductive activities.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 21, 2018
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