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Corporate labour standards and work quality : insights from the agro-export sector of Guanajuato, Central Mexico

Hoogesteger, Jaime; Massink, Gaya

Summary

In this article we analyse how workers perceive corporate labour standards and the related work conditions in the agro-export sector of Northern Guanajuato, Central Mexico. We do so by first comparing labour standards on local farms to labour standards at an international fresh vegetable production, harvesting, processing and export company that has explicit corporate labour standards. Second, we present how workers from two rural communities of landless workers employed in the agro-export industry perceive the differences between work at local farms and work at the agro-export company. Our results show that better pay and secondary benefits resulting from corporate labour standards do not necessarily translate to perceptions of better work quality. This relates to the broader work conditions in which these labour standards are inserted. Many workers prefer work with lower labour standards but that has more convenient working hours and enables engagement in family and social activities alongside the job. Based on these results we argue that, from a sociological perspective, work quality is a situated and very context-specific notion. Therefore, higher labour standards and better pay even in contexts of cheap labour and widespread poverty are not necessarily associated by workers with higher work quality.