An increasing number of jobs are precarious, making workers vulnerable to various forms of ill-treatment and exploitation. The UK Government’s main approach has been to criminalise the actions of unscrupulous employers who seek to exploit these. This approach, however, has been ineffective, partly because it ignores the broader socio-economic structures that place workers in conditions of vulnerability. This article develops an alternative solution, seeking to identify structures that force and trap workers in conditions of exploitation. It focuses specifically on what I call ‘state-mediated structural injustice’, where legislative schemes that promote otherwise legitimate aims create vulnerabilities that force and trap workers in conditions of exploitation. I use examples such as restrictive visa regimes, prison work and work in immigration detention, welfare conditionality programmes, and zero-hour contracts to illustrate the unjust structures. I finally assess whether these legal structures are compatible with human rights, such as the right to private life, the prohibition of slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour, and the right to fair and just working conditions.
Virginia Mantouvalou, Structural Injustice and the Human Rights of Workers, Current Legal Problems, Volume 73, Issue 1, 2020, pages 59-87, https://doi.org/10.1093/clp/cuaa003. Published: 6 October 2020.