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Hearing the unheard: amplifying the voices of frontline service workers

   Business School

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  Dr Stewart Johnstone, Dr Kendra Briken  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Employee voice, or the ability to have a say at work, is a central dimension of good jobs and fair work. While union representation has declined, some workers have identified alternative means of workplace expression, including informal dialogue with supervisors/peers, social media, and support from other interest and advocacy groups. However, little is known about whether these are sufficient in ensuring employees can have a say, or the extent to which they promote good jobs or fair work.

Project details

The 2020 pandemic has highlighted the dependency of society on workers in retail, logistics and the platformed mediated gig economy, many of whom are in low paid and insecure employment, and among the most likely to be treated unfairly.

These workers are also among the least likely to have access to union representation. However, employee voice, defined as the ability to have a say and influence over workplace affairs (Wilkinson, 2021), is a central dimension of a good job and fair work (Fairwork Convention, 2021, Norris-Green and Gifford, 2021; Taylor, 2017).

Where collective union representation is limited or absent, workers may have identified alternative means of expressing themselves, including informal dialogue with peers and managers, social media, or support from other interest and advocacy groups. Some employers have also devised their own in-house voice channels, though concerns have been raised about whether these can provide meaningful voice.

This project is therefore interested in understanding the dynamics of contemporary employee voice in frontline service work, its potential to empower the most vulnerable, and to promote good jobs and fair work. 

This prestigious scholarship is offered in conjunction with ICADE Business School. ICADE Business School is University International Strategic Partner and is part of Comillas Pontifical University.

As part of this programme the successful applicant will have an external supervisor based in Spain and will be expected to undertake a research visit, of up to 6 months, to Madrid as part of their studies. This visit will allow the award holder to experience a different research environment and facilitate a stronger relationship with the external supervisor. There may also be a requirement to participate in other activities relating to this valued partnership.


Candidates should possess a first-class or upper second-class UK Honours degree, or overseas equivalent, in a relevant business, law, policy or social science-related subject.

A Masters degree, or overseas equivalent, is also desired, although there are often exceptions. Strathclyde Business School is committed to supporting a diverse and inclusive postgraduate research population, and where independent research experience, professional and life experience is demonstrated, applicants with a lower degree classification will be considered.

Funding Notes

Strathclyde Business School/ICADE Business School Scholarship offers a fully-funded scholarship for three years which covers all university tuition fees (at UK level) and an annual tax-free stipend.
International students are also eligible to apply, but they will need to find other funding sources to cover the difference between the home and international tuition fees. Exceptional international candidates may be provided funding for this difference.
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