Dr Tim Connor
Newcastle Law School (Law)
- Phone:(02) 4921 6363
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, 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 focused 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.”
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,…
Tim Connor teaches a number of different courses, including Company Law, Corporate Power and Corporate Accountability, International Study Experience (Indonesia) and Law of Business Organisations. He has receieved national and university-level teaching awards. He breaks complex topics down into sub-topics and replaces traditional lectures with a variety of on-line resources that assist students to master each sub-topic before moving to the next. Tim also designs highly engaging in-class activities, draws on current social issues to highlight the course's relevance and establishes a supportive classroom culture that students value highly.
Tim's research focuses on corporate social responsibility, particularly the relationship between voluntary and state-sanctioned governance of workers' rights. Before commencing work at UoN, 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. He also conducts research into directors duties and other aspects of corporate governance.
Tim 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.
- PhD, University of Newcastle
- Bachelor of Arts, University of Sydney
- Bachelor of Laws, University of New South Wales
- Codes of Conduct
- Corporate Accountability
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- International Labour Law
Fields of Research
|150303||Corporate Governance and Stakeholder Engagement||30|
|150106||Sustainability Accounting and Reporting||30|
|Title||Organisation / Department|
|Senior Lecturer||University of Newcastle
Newcastle Law School
|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
|Dates||Title||Organisation / Department|
|1/02/2002 - 1/06/2010||Labour Rights Advocacy Coordinator||Oxfam Australia
Advocacy Unit- International Labour Law
Best paper prize at the 25th annual conference of the Corporate Law Teachers Association
Corporate Law Teachers Association
Best human rights paper at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers
Human Rights Committee of the Association of American Geographers
Overall 2017 Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence and Contribution to Student Learning
The University of Newcastle
Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence and Contribution to Student Learning, Faculty of Business and Law
Faculty of Business and Law, University of Newcastle
National Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (Early Career Category)
Office for Learning and Teaching
Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award for Law Teaching in 2011
Faculty of Business and Law, University of Newcastle
Vice-Chancellor's Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning
University of Newcastle
Award for an outstanding presentation (postgraduate), annual meeting of the Institute of Australian Geographers
Institute of Australian Geographers
Ronald Henderson Postgraduate Scholarship in Social Economics
Ronald Henderson Research Foundation
Australian Postgraduate Award Scholarship
Phillips Fox Scholarship in Law
DLA Phillips Fox
For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.
Book (2 outputs)
Chapter (2 outputs)
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]
|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 (10 outputs)
Connor T, Ries N, Ross N, Sobel-Read KB, Matas D, 'BECOMING GLOBAL CITIZENS AND GLOBAL LAWYERS: INCORPORATING INTERNATIONAL WORK AND STUDY EXPERIENCES INTO THE AUSTRALIAN LAW SCHOOL CURRICULUM', Clinical Law Review: a journal of lawyering and legal education, 25 63-94 (2018) [C1]
|2017||Rennie S, Connor TJ, Delaney A, Marshall S, 'Orchestration from Below? Trade Unions in the Global South, Transnational Business and Efforts to Orchestrate Continuous Improvement in Non-State Regulatory Initiatives', University of New South Wales Law Journal, 40 1275-1309 (2017) [C1]|
Bainbridge W, Connor T, '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) [C1]
|2016||Connor T, 'SHOULD THE STATUTORY BUSINESS JUDGMENT RULE APPLY TO DIRECTORS' COMPLIANCE DECISIONS?', COMPANY AND SECURITIES LAW JOURNAL, 34 403-407 (2016) [C1]|
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 im... [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.
Connor T, 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 analyses... [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.
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]
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]
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]
Connor TJ, 'Time to scale up cooperation? Trade unions, NGOs, and the International anti-sweatshop movement', Development in Practice, 14 61-70 (2004) [C1]
|Show 7 more journal articles|
Conference (3 outputs)
|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, Fremantle, WA (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, Fremantle (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, Sydney (1999) [E2]|
Report (4 outputs)
|2016||Connor T, Delaney A, Rennie S, 'The Ethical Trading Initiative: Negotiated solutions to human rights violations in global supply chains?', Corporate Accountability Research, 60 (2016)|
|2016||Connor T, Delaney A, Rennie S, 'Non-judicial mechanisms in global footwear and apparel supply chains: Lessons from workers in Indonesia', Corporate Accountability Research, 38 (2016)|
|2016||Connor T, Delaney A, Rennie S, 'The Freedom of Association Protocol: A localised non-judicial grievance mechanism for workers¿ rights in global supply chains', Corporate Accountability Research, 52 (2016)|
|Show 1 more report|
Grants and Funding
|Number of grants||3|
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, Dr Samantha Balaton-Chrimes, Dr Annie Delaney|
|Type Of Funding||Aust Competitive - Commonwealth|
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|
|Type Of Funding||Internal|
19991 grants / $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|
|Type Of Funding||Donation - Aust Non Government|
Number of supervisions
|Commenced||Level of Study||Research Title||Program||Supervisor Type|
|2017||PhD||Why Can't We Co-operate? The Impact of Law and Regulatory Policy on the Development and Growth of Co-operative Enterprise in Australia||PhD (Law), Faculty of Business and Law, The University of Newcastle||Principal Supervisor|
|2017||PhD||Harmonisation of ASEAN Labour Laws for Employment Growth: The Philippines and Malaysia as Case Studies||PhD (Law), Faculty of Business and Law, The University of Newcastle||Co-Supervisor|
|2014||PhD||More Women, More Money? The Impact of Discourse on Legal and Regulatory Initiatives Regarding Women on Corporate Boards||PhD (Law), Faculty of Business and Law, The University of Newcastle||Principal Supervisor|
|Year||Level of Study||Research Title||Program||Supervisor Type|
|2017||PhD||Commonalities between the 'Australian Law of Contract' and the General Law of Contract of the 'Brazilian Civil Code': A Rule-Based Study Towards a Global Law of Contract||PhD (Law), Faculty of Business and Law, The University of Newcastle||Co-Supervisor|
July 18, 2018
August 29, 2013