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Time is money : supermarkets, suppliers and working-time

Newsome, Kirsty and Thompson, Paul and Commander, Johanna (2010) Time is money : supermarkets, suppliers and working-time. In: Work, Employment and Society Conference 2010, 2010-09-07 - 2010-09-09. (Unpublished)

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Retail supply chains are a central feature of contemporary service-based economies. For supermarkets to meet their profit and expansion targets the creation of a reliable and cost-efficient network of supply and distribution organisations is paramount. This paper explores the organisation of working-time within the supermarket supply chain. The paper draws on qualitative research evidence from three case-studies within four supermarket product lines notably; distribution and warehousing, biscuits and bakery, fish processing and fruit and vegetable processing. The research highlights that to ensure the ‘perpetual motion’ of supplying goods to store, workers within the supply chain are confronted in a number of ways. To guarantee the organisational flexibility and responsiveness necessary to meet this sporadic demand supply organisations are increasingly focussing on how working hours and work allocation is organised. The evidence highlights that the unpredictable demand for goods from the supermarkets dictates greater temporalities of labour within the supply chain. The paper will indicate that low skilled and monotonous work may be typical within the supermarket supply chain, but its intensity is increasingly affected by the pressure exerted by the supermarkets. Satisfying these demands can be also seen in the patterns of working time with long hours, extended shifts, compulsory over-time and porous working days evident in all product lines with supply organisations increasingly resourced by migrant and temporary workers. Theoretically the paper examines how the nature of working-time within the supply chain is increasingly shaped by the requirements of the dominant customer beyond the immediate point of production.