The challenges facing trade unions up until the late 1990s and early 2000s were chiefly around racism and discrimination in employment and in the trade union movement itself. Since 2004 and with the accession of Central and Eastern European countries, trade unions have been responding to a more complex set of issues. Trade unions have had some success engaging with migrant workers in the workplace, through organising and learning strategies, and have also engaged in campaigns to improve the rights and position of black and minority ethnic workers within trade unions and in the workplace. However, much trade union activity relating to migrant workers is reliant on particular sets of circumstances such as a strong regional union branches, dedicated union officers or external funding. Without broader coordinated action and long-term strategies for greater collective regulation and support from the state, much trade union work done, often more progressive than other countries, remains small scale, fragmented and resting on precarious foundations.
Heather Connolly and Ben Sellers
The organisation of migrant workers as a new constituency is potentially a mutually beneficial proposition for both trade unions and migrant workers, particularly in a context where unions are losing membership and influence and migrant workers are frequently subject to insecure employment and open to exploitation. This chapter examines the Irish trade union movement’s response to labour migration and its evolution, from the first roars of the Celtic Tiger in the 1990s, through the period of economic recession to the current indications of recovery, as the Irish economy is once again on an upward trajectory. It discusses the factors, both historical and institutional, that influenced the response and it considers Irish trade union revitalisation efforts and the role of migrant workers therein.
Matteo Rinaldini and Stefania Marino
Immigration to Italy is a recent phenomenon if compared with other European countries. From very early on, the Italian trade unions showed a strong solidaristic and inclusive attitude towards migrant workers and began to act as advocates of migrants’ rights in the labour market and in the society more broadly. Trade union action developed at different levels (for example, national, local, within workplaces) and through different instruments (for example, bargaining, lobbying and service provision). Although inclusive strategies and action still characterize the Italian unions, some criticism have emerged over time. Following the Penninx and Roosblad’s framework, the authors discuss the relationship between Italian trade unions and migrants and highlight continuity and discontinuity with the past, following the transformation of the socio-economic and political context. The chapter relies on first-hand data collected by the authors in relation to different research.
Miguel Martínez Lucio
Spain has witnessed highly innovative forms of inclusion and trade union strategies in relation to supporting immigrants. This relatively proactive response has mainly been service driven at the local levels and in the form of engagement with the social dimension of migration by the larger unions at the national level. However, a more direct engagement aimed at increasing involvement and participation of migrants is apparent in smaller, radical unions. Generally speaking, trade unions have drawn on their history of social struggle and experience of former national emigration. The chapter uses the framework developed by Marino et al. (this volume) that identifies the different ways inclusion and exclusion have developed and the causal historical and institutional factors that explain these developments. The level of innovation within the Spanish trade union movement is discussed in relation to the growing challenges emerging from a political environment increasingly focused on deregulation of industrial relations.
This chapter outlines the positions of the Czech trade unions – based mostly on the example of the biggest Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (ČMKOS) – towards labour (im)migration to Czechia. While the trade unions refused xenophobia in important historical moments (for example, the 2015 ‘refugee crisis’), they have mostly maintained a protectionist stance to the national labour market vis-à-vis labour immigration from non-EU countries. Inclusion of migrant workers has not been pursued strongly by the Czech trade unions, as also evident in their approach to precarious migrant workers. The chapter also comments on the current debate on the liberalization of Ukrainian migration to Czechia, which has been resisted by ČMKOS as a factor that could prolong a low-wage and low added-value economic strategy. More broadly, union opposition to these immigration policies is linked to the perception of ‘injustice’, in turn connected to the European labour market, which results in different remuneration for the same work in Czechia versus in the ‘West’.
After 2004, intra-European migration of Polish workers became a central issue of debate and action for the social partners and the government. Immigration to Poland began to increase – albeit not on the same scale of the outward migration – and started covering some of the demand for low-skilled and insecure jobs. However, inward migration remained peripheral to political discourse and trade unions’ activities until recently. Polish unions are learning how to organize migrant workers by observing Western labour organizations, and some are now trying to organize Ukrainian workers. However, this is only a first development towards an inclusive, ‘prospective’ approach. Some unions still hold on to a protectionist approach, viewing migrants as a threat to Polish workers. The emerging political discourse mixes migrants with refugees, and may affect future union action by deepening new divisions and making the protectionist approach more xenophobic.
Stefania Marino, Judith Roosblad and Rinus Penninx
This chapter provides a cross-country comparison of union stances towards immigration and migrant workers by following the analytical framework discussed in the introduction. First, it provides an analysis of union responses to the three ‘dilemmas’. It subsequently comments on the extent to which the explanatory variables included in the framework account for observed differences across countries. Our comparative analysis has resulted in the identification of patterns in unions’ policies and actions across three groups of countries: the central-eastern European countries – the Czech Republic and Poland – whose trade unions have relatively undeveloped policies in relation to immigration and migrant workers; the north-west European countries – Austria, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK – whose trade unions have focused on the defence of migrant workers’ conditions in the labour market; and the Mediterranean countries – France, Italy and Spain – in which the defence of social rights has also been important.
Anders Neergaard and Charles Woolfson
This chapter explores the current dynamics of the so-called ‘Swedish model’ of industrial relations based upon neocorporatist ‘self-regulation’ by the main labour market actors. The chapter suggests that labour migration in particular has added new and complex ingredients to the previous underpinnings of that model, shifting the balance of power between employers and trade unions, and in important respects, it may now be a ‘model in dissolution’. For trade unions, labour migration to Sweden, both on a temporary and more permanent basis, now poses in the context of the neoliberal reconstruction of Sweden’s economy and society sharp dilemmas in terms of how to respond to resultant significant changes in the nature of employment and their impacts on a previously well-ordered labour market.
Today, the German economy and the German trade union landscape are different to what they were a few decades ago. Trade union efforts to integrate and represent migrant workers are now embedded in industries that have experienced radical growth in precarious employment, the rapid weakening of unions, and widespread workforce segmentation of indigenous as well as migrant workers. In this sense, this chapter, as well as highlighting general developments at national level, also explores and examines the marked differences across sectors and unions. It aims to provide an account that explores the dynamics and complex interplay between national employment regimes, the structural characteristics of different sectors and the agency of individual unions.
Judith Roosblad and Lisa Berntsen
The conditions under which Dutch trade unions have to operate have changed since the 1990s. Dutch trade unions have suffered a decline in membership and a loss of institutional power. They have been redefining their role in the socio-economic decision-making process and inventing new ways of representing the interests of the working population. The Dutch labour market has changed significantly over the last two decades, with employment becoming increasingly flexible. The number of migrant workers, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe, in the low-skill segments of the Dutch job market has increased, especially since the EU enlargement rounds in 2004 and 2007. These workers are embedded in a labour market governed by host and home-country regulations as well as EU legislation. In view of these developments, this chapter discusses how trade unions in the Netherlands have defined their position towards immigration and migrant workers, and whether and how they have included these workers in unionism.