Dilemmas for contemporary trade unionism: lessons from the European steel industry

Stroud, Dean Allen; Cardiff University
Cardiff University
English
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Trade unions seek to tackle developments in the economic and social context of employment,\ud as well as addressing changing membership priorities. Recent debate about union\ud organisation and operation, particularly at a local level, has centred on an examination of\ud the ways in which unions have been challenged by developments in the composition of\ud managerial hierarchies and approaches, work and employment conditions, and legislative\ud requirements; features and outcomes of the constant restructuring and transformation of\ud capitalism. One somewhat understated dimension is the way unions in different national\ud contexts may begin to address the implications of cross-border corporate restructuring. To\ud focus such an enquiry, the paper examines dimensions of the European steel industry. The\ud argument is that in the context of on-going sectoral restructuring, unions face the challenge\ud of addressing the tension between nationally-focused policy and the forms of corporate\ud development. The contention is that in this sector trade unions have maintained an approach\ud to interest representation that centres on the state and/or supra state, rather than the\ud emerging corporate form in the sector. I go on to suggest that one initial issue for these trade\ud unions is the articulation of alternative perspectives. The paper employs data from a\ud programme of research conducted across the European steel industry that started in 2000,\ud and is on-going. Thus, the paper focuses on union responses to the challenges presented by\ud the internationalisation of the European steel industry.

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