Trade Unions and Migrant Workers
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Trade Unions and Migrant Workers

New Contexts and Challenges in Europe

Edited by Stefania Marino, Judith Roosblad and Rinus Penninx

This timely book analyses the relationship between trade unions, immigration and migrant workers across eleven European countries in the period between the 1990s and 2015. It constitutes an extensive update of a previous comparative analysis – published by Rinus Penninx and Judith Roosblad in 2000 – that has become an important reference in the field. The book offers an overview of how trade unions manage issues of inclusion and solidarity in the current economic and political context, characterized by increasing challenges for labour organizations and rising hostility towards migrants.
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Chapter 11: Trade unions and migrant workers in the UK: Organising in a cold climate

Heather Connolly and Ben Sellers


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.

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