Inspired by the 1970s classics by J Berger and J. Mohr “A Seventh Man” this podcast series strings together conversations on issues related to subcontracted and mediated employment of migrant workers in CEE. We talk about the relations, infrastructures and everyday lives embroiled in these supply chains and how workers co-constitute, resist and navigate them. Our guests – researchers and activists – speak of their fieldwork experiences and dead ends, new inspirations and hypotheses, exploring topics that too often remain outside the scope of official publications. We put forward these “unsolved” puzzles as a way of probing new approaches and methods in research, reflecting on possible connections outside of disciplines, and discussing questions of practical and political application of the research.
Berger and Mohr – through their narrative of images and texts – made an emotional snapshot of the existential world of labour mobility. This podcast series is an attempt to reconnect to emotional and political parts of our research that often remain untold in our discipline-driven and more analytical publications.
Episode 1. Factory work in Hungary: Conversation with Olena Fedyuk
Host: Tibor T. Meszmann
In a context where independent researchers rarely gain access to production sites, Olena used an unemployment period to follow the entire employment chain through a Ukrainian recruitment agency into a factory in a mid-size Hungarian town. Curious about the practicality of the work process on assembly lines and the internal factory life of migrant workers, Olena is asking herself what added value such embodied insights can give to her as a researcher.
Olena Fedyuk is a MSCA Fellow at the University of Padua. Her project “RightsLab: Towards Transnational Labour Rights?” looks into temporary work agencies and third-country national workers in the EU. She is an anthropologist by training with research areas in gendered migration flows, migrant labour, and moral economy of migration. Since 2012, she’s turned to documentary filmmaking as a way to grasp humour and contradictions of migration stories and speak of complicated life journeys, both emotionally and geographically.
Hannah Schling is Lecturer in the Human Geographies of Work and the Economy in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow. Her ethnographically driven research focuses on labour migration in CEE’s export manufacturing and distribution sectors, with a focus on social reproduction and employer-provided accommodation such as dormitories. She has previously held posts at Queen Mary University of London, and holds a PhD in Human Geography from King’s College London.
Tibor T. Meszmann is a researcher and an activist, and member of LeftEast editorial board. His work and studies mainly focus on collective labour rights, unionism, industrial relations, and employment policies in CEE, with a more particular focus on Hungary. Tibor is a member of the Working Group for public sociology “Helyzet” and a researcher at the Central European Labour Studies Institute, in Slovakia.
Dumitrița Holdiș is a sociologist who worked for CEU’s Center for Media, Data and Society’s in Budapest, Hungary and for the Center for Independent Journalism in Bucharest, Romania where she managed projects on media freedom, journalism and hate speech. She conducted research on media funding disinformation and media representation in the past. She is also a podcast enthusiast. She created podcasts for the Central European University, the New Books Network and Radio Civic Sfântu Gheorghe, a community radio based in the Danube Delta in Romania.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 893032.
This project has suppored by UKRI Economic and Social Research Council award number ES/V011561/1.
Andrijasevic, R. and Sacchetto, D., 2017. ‘Disappearing workers’: Foxconn in Europe and the changing role of temporary work agencies. Work, employment and society, 31(1), pp.54-70.
Berger J. & Mohr J. (1975). A seventh man. Verso Books.
Burzová, P. L. (2019). ’Standard workers are from here, normal people’: Ethnoracial closure and industrial organisation of cheap labour in the Czech Republic. Anthropological Notebooks, 25(1).
Drahokoupil, J. Andrijasevic, R. and Sacchetto, D. (2016). (eds). Flexible workforces and low profit margins: electronics assembly between Europe and China. ETUI
Fedyuk, O. and Stewart, P. (2018) Inclusion and Exclusion in Europe: Migration, Work and Employment Perspectives. ECPR Press.
Meszmann, T. and Fedyuk, O. (2019). “Snakes or Ladders? Job Quality Assessment among Temp Workers from Ukraine in Hungarian Electronics.” Central and Eastern European Migration Review 8.1: 75-93.
Meszmann, T. and Fedyuk, O. (2020). Non-local workers in Hungarian automotives. Changing environments for worker mobility and modes of interest formation. Center for Policy Studies, pp.1-17.
Multicultural Centre Prague. Subcontracting and EU mobile workers in the Czech Republic: Exploitation, Liability and Institutional Gaps? LABCIT Country Report
Schling, H. (2017). “(Re)Production: Everyday Life In The Workers’ Dormitory.” Space and Society. Accessed at: https://www.societyandspace.org/articles/re-production-everyday-life-in-the-workers-dormitory
Schling, H. (2022). ‘Racialisation and dormitory labour regimes: ‘just-in-time’ migrant workers in Czechia’. In Baglioni, E., Campling, L., Coe, N.M., Smith, A. (eds). Labour Regimes and Global Production. Agenda Publishing: Newcastle.
Schling, H. (2020). ‘The dormitory’. In Frejlachova, K., Pazdera, M., Riha, T., and Spicak, M. (eds). Steel cities: Architectures of Logistics in East Central Europe. Park books and VI PER