Dr Tim Connor

Dr Tim Connor

Lecturer

Newcastle Law School (Law)

Human Rights and Cheap Labour

Dr Tim Connor is researching how to get the balance right between profit and the protection of human rights within globalised networks of production and consumption.

Tim ConnorSpeaking about the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy, in which an eight-storey building in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1100 of the garment workers inside, Dr Tim Connor makes it clear that employment rights are his primary research passion. Continuing to detail the headline-grabbing factory incident, Tim asserts these fatalities could and should have been prevented, given that bank workers in the same building were sent home after cracks started to appear on the premises but garment workers were ordered to stay and continue to produce clothes for major global brands. Piquing interest and sparking international fury, the industrial accident was the deadliest in recorded history and poses serious, complex and challenging questions.

Are human rights protections being undermined by the pursuit of quick and cheap production?

“Should attempts to address this focus only on legal regulation, or should legal regulation be supplemented by non-judicial mechanisms, such as codes of conduct, human rights commissions, negotiated agreements between companies and worker organisations?”

Working as Oxfam Australia’s Labor Rights Advocacy Coordinator before joining the academic front in 2010, Tim ran a number of campaigns looking at exactly these issues. Specifically exploring the relationship between voluntary and state-sanctioned governance of employment rights during his 15-year stint with Oxfam, the dedicated investigator’s research and advocacy on Nike, Puma, Adidas and other sports clothing and footwear companies.

“My PhD, which I completed in 2008, was based on this project,” he elaborates.

“Basically, it examined two broad schools of thought regarding non-judicial initiatives – one that sees them as a waste of time because firms will never voluntarily do anything that will cost them money, and the other that sees win-win solutions between business, trade unions and government organisations as not only possible, but viable.”

“While there is some, very limited, scope for progress based on good will from companies that are willing to try and do the right thing even if it is not directly profitable, I argued it is more worthwhile to build market incentives for progress by educating and informing consumers and investors.”

“We need to develop better systems for rating and reporting the labour rights performance of major global brands, based on genuine input from workers’ organisations rather than corporate self-reporting. Those ratings then need to be communicated to consumers and investors who are concerned about human rights and willing to reward companies who make progress.”

Interpreting directors’ protections

Tim joined the University of Newcastle in 2010, signing on to become a lecturer within the Newcastle Law School. In addition to his research on human rights in global supply chains he has been part of a number of other successful research endeavours, most recently examining several facets of company law.

“I recently wrote a paper with Wesley Bainbridge on the way directors’ duties are regulated,” he says.

“To go back a bit, before 2000 a lot of directors in Australia were worried that the accountability that the law was imposing on them was increasing.”

“So they lobbied the Federal Government, arguing that if they take entrepreneurial risks, they’ll be in danger of breaching their duty of care, but if they stop taking such risks, the economy will suffer.”

“In an effort to compromise, the Government brought in the ‘business judgment rule,’ which holds directors to a lower standard of care provided that they do not have any conflicts of interest and take reasonable steps to inform themselves of risk when making business decisions.”

Arguing that the courts have misinterpreted this rule, the piece won an award in February 2016 and has been submitted for publication.

“The business judgment rule has been heavily criticised as ineffective: we have suggested an alternative interpretation that we believe is not only more accurate but would also increase the provision’s effectiveness,” Tim states.

Three industries, two nations, one aim

Tim is also a chief investigator on an Australian Research Council Linkage project, evaluating the effectiveness of non-judicial grievance mechanisms across several countries and industries.

“If you think someone has broken the law and if you have the resources, you can go to the courts and seek to have penalties imposed on them,” he advises.

“Non-judicial grievance mechanisms, however, are in the realm of soft law.”

“Someone can investigate or mediate and try to reach a solution that does not directly involve punishment by the State.”

Conducting 10 in-depth case studies across agribusiness, garments and mining industries in both Indonesia and India, Tim is part of an interdisciplinary team that is seeking to draw on data to both evaluate the effectiveness of non-judicial grievance mechanisms and, where appropriate, recommend reforms that would enhance their impact.

“So far we have held semi-structured interviews with more than 400 informants,” he reveals.

“Our goal is to be able to explain how the functions and powers of contrasting ‘redress’ mechanisms affect their ability to promote long-term change in business behaviour.”

More about Tim's Career

Related links

Dr Tim Connor

Human Rights and Cheap Labour

Dr Tim Connor is researching how to get the balance right between profit and the protection of human rights within globalised networks of production and consumption.Speaking about the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy, in which an eight-storey building in Bangladesh collapsed,…

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Career Summary

Biography

Tim Connor's research focuses on the relationship between voluntary and state-sanctioned governance of employment rights. From 1995 until 2010 he worked for Oxfam Australia, coordinating research and advocacy regarding workers' rights in corporate supply chains. This work involved frequent trips to various countries in Asia to conduct field research and to consult with representatives of companies, trade unions and local civil society groups. Since 2010 Tim has been a Lecturer at Newcastle Law School, where he has taught Company Law, Employment Law, Finance Law, International Clinical Legal Externship, Law of Business Organisations and Marketing Law. He is currently one of the chief investigators on an Australian Research Council Linkage Project investigating the effectiveness of the redress mechanisms available when transnational corporations are involved in human rights violations.

Research Expertise
Tim's expertise is in labour rights and corporate social accountability. In 2008 he completed a PhD which investigated whether corporate codes of conduct and multi-stakeholder initiatives are enhancing respect for labour rights in the supply chains of major transnational corporations. This research focused on the global sportswear industry, and in particular on the two largest global sportswear companies: Nike and Adidas. Tim has written a number of public reports on working conditions in this industry. He has also helped to facilitate a number of dialogue processes between companies, trade unions and non-governmental organisation regarding strategies for improving respect for workers' rights.

Teaching Expertise
Tim has coordinated and taught the following subjects: Company Law, Employment Law, Finance Law, International Clinical Legal Externship, Law of Business Organisations and Marketing Law. The quality of his teaching was recognised in 2013 when he was awarded a National Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning by the Australian Government's Office for Learning and Teaching.

Collaborations
Between 2011 and 2015 Tim will be one of five chief investigators working on an Australian Research Council Linkage Project. This project involves investigating the effectiveness of the redress mechanisms available to vulnerable workers and communities when their human rights are violated as a result of transnational business activity (see http://corporateaccountabilityresearch.net/our-projects/evaluating-redress-mechanisms-project/ ).

Qualifications

  • PhD, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Sydney
  • Bachelor of Laws, University of New South Wales

Keywords

  • Codes of Conduct
  • Corporate Accountability
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • International Labour Law

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
150303 Corporate Governance and Stakeholder Engagement 30
180118 Labour Law 40
150106 Sustainability Accounting and Reporting 30

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer University of Newcastle
Newcastle Law School
Australia

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/02/1998 - 1/12/2001 Australian Postgraduate Award Scholarship

PhD Research Scholarship

University of Newcastle
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Australia

Professional appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/02/2002 - 1/06/2010 Labour Rights Advocacy Coordinator Oxfam Australia
Advocacy Unit- International Labour Law
Australia

Awards

Prize

Year Award
2016 Best paper prize at the 25th annual conference of the Corporate Law Teachers Association
Corporate Law Teachers Association
2001 Best human rights paper at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers
Human Rights Committee of the Association of American Geographers

Recognition

Year Award
2013 National Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning
Office for Learning and Teaching
2012 Vice-Chancellor's Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning
University of Newcastle
2012 Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award for Law Teaching in 2011
Faculty of Business and Law, University of Newcastle
2002 Award for an outstanding presentation (postgraduate), annual meeting of the Institute of Australian Geographers
Institute of Australian Geographers

Scholarship

Year Award
1999 Ronald Henderson Postgraduate Scholarship in Social Economics
Ronald Henderson Research Foundation
1998 Australian Postgraduate Award Scholarship
ARC
1992 Phillips Fox Scholarship in Law
DLA Phillips Fox
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Book (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2006 Connor T, Dent K, Offside! Labour Rights and Sportswear Production in Asia, Oxfam International, Melbourne, Victoria/Australia, 108 (2006) [A2]
2001 Connor TJ, Still waiting for Nike to do it : Nike's labor practices in the three years since CEO Phil Knight's speech to the National Press Club, Global Exchange, San Francisco, California, 115 (2001) [A2]

Chapter (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Connor T, Robertson B, Griffiths TG, Phelan L, 'Swimming against the neoliberal tide: The campaign to save Mayfield pool', Radical Newcastle, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney 232-239 (2015) [B1]
Co-authors Tom Griffiths, Liam Phelan
2002 Connor TJ, 'Rerouting the race to the bottom? Transnational corporations, labour practice codes of conduct, and workers' right to organize - The case of Nike, Inc', Moral Imperialism: A Critical Anthology, New York University Press, New York 166-182 (2002) [B1]

Journal article (8 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2016 Bainbridge W, Connor TJ, 'Another way forward? The scope for an appellate court to reinterpret the statutory business judgment rule', Company and Securities Law Journal, 34 415-437 (2016)
2016 Connor TJ, 'Directors' duties: Should the statutory business judgment rule apply to directors' compliance decisions?', Company and Securities Law Journal, 34 403-407 (2016)
2015 Connor T, Phelan L, 'Antenarrative and Transnational Labour Rights Activism: Making Sense of Complexity and Ambiguity in the Interaction between Global Social Movements and Global Corporations', Globalizations, 12 149-163 (2015) [C1]

© 2013, © 2013 Taylor & Francis.Abstract: This paper draws on antenarrative research and writing techniques to analyse the long-running transnational campaign seeking to improve... [more]

© 2013, © 2013 Taylor & Francis.Abstract: This paper draws on antenarrative research and writing techniques to analyse the long-running transnational campaign seeking to improve respect for human rights in the supply chains of Nike and other major sportswear companies. The antenarrative approach challenges scholars to look beyond pre-existing expectations, both in terms of which actors and processes are likely to be most influential and in terms of what is motivating participation in those processes which are significant. In this paper we construct antenarrative accounts of two aspects of the Nike campaign and counterpoint each of our antenarratives with an established scholarly account based on more traditional narrative approaches. We conclude antenarrative analysis can provide useful insights into interaction between global activist networks and global corporations, particularly by drawing attention to the generative possibilities of the complex combination of ordered and disordered processes which often characterise that interaction.

DOI 10.1080/14747731.2013.814458
Co-authors Liam Phelan
2015 Delaney A, Burchielli R, Connor T, 'Positioning women homeworkers in a global footwear production network: How can homeworkers improve agency, influence and claim rights?', Journal of Industrial Relations, 57 641-659 (2015) [C1]

© 2015, © Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association (ALERA), SAGE Publications Ltd, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC.This article analyse... [more]

© 2015, © Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association (ALERA), SAGE Publications Ltd, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC.This article analyses the position of women footwear homeworkers, using global production networks as a conceptual lens. Using qualitative data collected in India during 2011 to 2014, it illustrates the asymmetry of power between network actors and attests to the poverty, invisibility and lack of acknowledgement and representation characterising leather footwear homework. It represents leather footwear homeworkers as working from the margins of these networks, with weak links to most other actors in the networks. The paper interrogates how marginalised and informal workers might increase their agency and participation capacity in global production networks, and proposes that this can occur through support and organising undertaken by appropriate non-governmental organisations.

DOI 10.1177/0022185615582237
2014 Griffiths T, Connor T, Robertson B, Phelan L, 'Is Mayfield Pool saved yet? Community assets and their contingent, discursive foundations', Community Development Journal, 49 280-294 (2014) [C1]
DOI 10.1093/cdj/bst039
Co-authors Tom Griffiths, Liam Phelan
2013 McGee J, Guihot M, Connor T, 'Rediscovering Law Students as Citizens: Critical Thinking and the Public Value of Legal Education', Alternative Law Journal, 38 77-81 (2013) [C1]
Citations Scopus - 1
2013 Connor T, Haines F, 'Networked regulation as a solution to human rights abuse in global supply chains? The case of trade union rights violations by Indonesian sports shoe manufacturers', Theoretical Criminology, 17 197-214 (2013) [C1]
DOI 10.1177/1362480612472783
Citations Scopus - 5Web of Science - 5
2004 Connor TJ, 'Time to scale up cooperation? Trade unions, NGOs, and the International anti-sweatshop movement', Development in Practice, 14 61-70 (2004) [C1]
DOI 10.1080/0961452032000170631
Citations Scopus - 19
Show 5 more journal articles

Conference (3 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
1999 Connor TJ, ''Not only what is required, but whenever possible, what is expected of a leader': The White House Apparel Industry Partnership workplace code of conduct and the Nike factory worker', Geodiversity : Readings in Australian Geography at the Close of the 20th Century (1999) [E1]
1999 O'Neill PM, O'Leary GA, Phillips MW, Sutherland WA, Connor TJ, 'Dialetics of governance', Geodiversity : Readings in Australian Geography at the Close of the 20th Century (1999) [E1]
1999 Connor TJ, 'Where's the umpire? The code of labour practice for goods licensed to carry the logos of the Sydney olympics and paralympics', How You Play the Game: Conference Proceedings. The Contribution of Sport to the Protection of Human Rights (1999) [E2]
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 4
Total funding $55,386

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20131 grants / $29,886

Evaluating redress mechanisms governing the human rights practices of transnational business: lessons for institutional design and operation$29,886

Funding body: ARC (Australian Research Council)

Funding body ARC (Australian Research Council)
Project Team Dr Kate Macdonald, Ms Shelley Marshall, Professor Fiona Haines, Doctor Tim Connor, Professor Sheldon Leader
Scheme Linkage Projects
Role Lead
Funding Start 2013
Funding Finish 2014
GNo G1301224
Type Of Funding Aust Competitive - Commonwealth
Category 1CS
UON Y

20111 grants / $5,000

Research Assistance for book preparation/ field research in India$5,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Tim Connor
Scheme New Staff Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2011
Funding Finish 2011
GNo G1100393
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20001 grants / $5,500

An Empirical Study of the Use of Theatre as a Tool for Community Development Amongst Factory Workers in Indonesia.$5,500

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Associate Professor David Watt, Ms Rebecca Conroy, Associate Professor Phillip O'Neill, Doctor Tim Connor, Conal McKenna
Scheme Project Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2000
Funding Finish 2000
GNo G0178839
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

19991 grants / $15,000

The impact of Globalisation on Labour Rights.$15,000

Funding body: Ronald Henderson Research Foundation

Funding body Ronald Henderson Research Foundation
Project Team Associate Professor Phillip O'Neill, Doctor Tim Connor
Scheme Postgraduate Research Scholarship
Role Investigator
Funding Start 1999
Funding Finish 2001
GNo G0178592
Type Of Funding Donation - Aust Non Government
Category 3AFD
UON Y
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Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed0
Current2

Total current UON EFTSL

PhD0.85

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2014 PhD Gender Diversity on Corporate Boards
PhD (Law), Faculty of Business and Law, The University of Newcastle
Co-Supervisor
2012 PhD Commonalities between the Contract Law of Brazil and Australia: A Rule-Based Comparative Study towards a Global Code of Contract Law
PhD (Law), Faculty of Business and Law, The University of Newcastle
Co-Supervisor
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News

Award winning teachers Dr Mark Rubin and Dr Tim Connor

Teaching Staff Awarded

August 29, 2013

Prestigious awards for five University of Newcastle staff

Dr Tim Connor

Position

Lecturer
Newcastle Law School
Faculty of Business and Law

Focus area

Law

Contact Details

Email tim.connor@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4921 6363
Fax (02) 4921 6931

Office

Room MC165
Building McMullin
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia
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