Research into Bangladesh workplace bullying wins award

  • Date

    Fri 17 Mar 23

Profile image of Professor Shahzad Uddin

Professor of Accounting at Essex Business School, Shahzad Uddin, is delighted to receive a prestigious award from the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA).

Professor Uddin and Essex graduate Dr Shoaib Ahmed, now a lecturer at the University of Sussex, scooped the LERA 2023 James G Scoville Best International/Comparative Industrial Relations Paper Award for their paper 'Workplace Bullying and Intensification of Labour Controls in the Clothing Supply Chain: Post-Rana Plaza Disaster'.

This article, drawing on research conducted by Dr Ahmed for his PhD at Essex, examines workplace bullying and the intensification of labour controls in the clothing supply chain in Bangladesh. It highlights that extreme forms of bullying are used to intensify labour controls, including locking workers in and frequent wage cuts.

Extreme bullying was found to be occurring even under the close scrutiny of international and national agencies following the Rana Plaza disaster, which killed nearly 1200 workers and injured 2500 workers in 2013.

The article argues that global supply chains’ production regimes and the absence of state protections and trade unions enable factory managers to deploy bullying tactics to achieve production targets.

It is argued that when the state intervenes in the factory only to protect and preserve owners’ interests, explicitly and implicitly, coercive strategies of control turn into extreme bullying on the shop-floor.

Professor Uddin said: “The article demonstrates that the most marginalised section of society carries the burden of global fast fashion. Workplace bullying is just an inevitable end product of big retailers’ fast fashion business model.

“I am so delighted to receive the award from LERA. I am happy to see the committee appreciated the paper’s theoretical contribution to the ‘sociology of work’. I am grateful to my co-author and to victims of bullying who shared their intimate experiences and allowed us to publish their stories.”

The LERA committee commended the paper for making an “important and interesting contribution”. They said it bridged the research tradition based on political economy looking at the effects of government policy and market forces in manufacturing workplaces and the more micro-level sociology of work literature on workplace bullying.

Professor Ileana Steccolini, Director of Research at Essex Business School (EBS), said: “I am delighted to see how EBS research is making a difference by relying on its strong tradition of crossing disciplinary boundaries with novel theoretical perspectives.

“My warmest congratulations to Shahzad and his co-author for this great achievement.”

The award will be announced at the LERA General Membership Meeting in Michigan in June.