Enlargement, Integration and Reform
Edited by Peter Leisink, Bram Stejin and Ulke Veersma
Chapter 8: The Only Game in Town? British Trade Unions and the European Union
Erin van der Maas ‘The only card game in town is in a town called Brussels and it is a game of poker where we have got to learn the rules and learn them fast’ (Ron Todd, TUC, 1988). INTRODUCTION During the 1980s and 1990s the European Economic Community (EEC) transformed itself from a ‘common market’ into a more coherent single market (EC) and then into the European Union (EU) with the establishment of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and deeper political cooperation. Interpretations of this change process vary widely both in terms of the conceptualization of the dynamics underlying the process of change (European integration) and the subsequent implications for national actors (Europeanization), such as trade unions.1 The literature on trade union Europeanization and European integration has mainly focused on European-level processes, institutions and developments; European Industry Federations; the company level/European Works Councils in transnational corporations (Hancké 2000); and the European Trades Union Confederation (ETUC) (Dølvik 1997). These European-level studies have been complemented by cross-national comparative studies of different trade union organizations (Bieler 2003; Foster and Scott 2003). This chapter seeks to fill this gap in the current literature by providing an overview of the responses to European integration by trade union organizations within one national context. As Turner (1995) points out, the institution building at the EU level, with regard to industrial relations and social dialogue processes, has preceded rather than flowed from trade union activity and mobilization, ‘structure before action’. An important question is: can institution...
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