Socio-technical transitions and justice: A study on containerization and justice in the Port of Rotterdam
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This research describes how justice and injustice for dockworkers developed during the social-technical regime transition from the breakbulk regime to the container regime in the Port of Rotterdam. Hereby contributing to our understanding of the relationship between justice and socio-technical transitions. The study joins theories from transition and justice literature, using the Multi-Level Perspective and three-justice tenets, distributional, procedural and recognition justice, to create a preliminary conceptual framework. This framework allows the researcher to describe the development of justice and injustice during a regime transition. Using this framework, a literature analysis of secondary data and semi-structured expert interviews were conducted. This data was coded to generate a database that allowed for a process-tracing approach which was used to construct a historical case study. The traditional breakbulk regime was characterized by a unique set of justice and injustice, primarily tied to the work environment. These unique dynamics in the workspace and breakbulk companies created a unique dockworkers' culture, which resulted in high unionization rates. When the container entered the port, the distribution of jobs shifted due to job decreases in the breakbulk. In addition, container companies hiring procedures didn’t’ give traditional dockworkers equal chances due to their cultural alignment. However, because unionization rates were high, dockworkers could organize sizeable collective actions to influence procedures in the port. These actions prevented most forced lay-offs and successfully pressured actors to agree to sectorial solutions for the growing labour abundance. By the end of the transition, work in the general cargo had changed dramatically. Due to standardization opportunities, work at the container terminals was more monotonous but came with higher pay and strong secondary labour conditions. This is partially the result of continuous collective actions by dockworkers, who still pertain considerable similarities to the 1960s culture. The case study shows the use of the conceptual framework to assess the development of justice and injustice during a transition. Three theoretical processes were deducted: the process of cultural exclusion, of justice-induced strategy change and of virtuous justice cycles, thereby refining the conceptual framework. Avenues for further research are the phase-out of the coal regime, especially the more finalized transition in Germany and ongoing in Australia. Additionally, this research shows the benefits of a collective sectorial labour pool to deal with sudden shocks in labour demand and the role of organized labour in limiting and tackling injustices.
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