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European Unions

European Unions: Labor's Quest for a Transnational Democracy

Roland Erne
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press,
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    European Unions
    Book Description:

    Roland Erne's view of transnational trade union networks challenges the assertion that no realistic prospect exists for remedying the European Union's democratic deficit-that is, its domination by corporate interests and lack of a cohesive European people. His book describes the emergence of a European trade union movement that crosses national boundaries. Erne assesses national and EU-level trade union politics in two core areas: wage bargaining in the European Monetary Union and job protection during transnational corporate mergers and restructuring. The wage coordination policies of the European metal and construction workers' unions and the unions' responses in the ABB-Alstom Power and Alcan-Pechiney-Algroup merger cases, Erne finds, show that the activities of labor are not confined to the national level: labor's policies have undergone Europeanization. This cross-national borrowing of tactics is itself proof of the increasing integration of European states and societies.

    European Unions is based on an exceptionally wide range of research methods, including statistical analysis, participant observation, and interviews with EU-level, national, and local trade unionists and works councilors. It also draws on a wide range of European, German, French, Italian, and Swiss union documents and a multilingual body of academic literature across several disciplines, including political science, sociology, and law. Erne's multilevel inquiry goes beyond country-by-country comparisons of national cases and his book will prove of great relevance to readers interested in the future of labor, social justice, and democracy in an increasingly integrated world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6157-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    When the legitimacy of European governance structures is debated, it is generally acknowledged that the European Union (EU) is facing a democratic deficit (Héritier 1999; European Commission 2003b). Conversely, however, it has been argued that the EU cannot be democratized because there is no European society as such, no European network of intermediate social organizations, no European public sphere, no European identity, and no European demos (people).¹ This study of European trade union networks challenges the view that there is no realistic prospect for remedying the EU democratic deficit. Although the making of a more democratic EU does require transnational...

  6. Part I. Analytical Framework

    • CHAPTER TWO Approaching Euro-Democracy and Its Alternatives
      (pp. 11-28)

      After the fall of most dictatorships in the early 1990s, democracy might seem to be the only uncontested form of government left. However, despite this global resurgence of democracy (Diamond and Plattner 1996), democracy is also facing a twofold crisis. The French political scientist Jean-Marie Guéhenno (1994) has even predicted the end of democracy, given the diminishing autonomy of nation-states in a globalizing capitalist economy and the growing impact of technocratic policy making.

      First, many nation-states have delegated competencies in many policy areas to supranational organizations to create and regulate transnational markets.¹ The most obvious example of such an organization...

    • CHAPTER THREE Do Unions Have an Interest in Euro-Democratization?
      (pp. 29-46)

      The activities that unions adopted in response to the EU integration process reflect two factors: the restrictions of the power of labor in the given political and socioeconomic context and the gains expected by labor that are associated with alternative EU developments. In order to understand the process of union Europeanization, this chapter first discusses the mechanism through which unions generate power at the national and EU levels. Then it confronts the power resources of unions at the national and EU levels with the prospects and dilemmas of the four EU-polity strategies we have identified.

      Typically, the workplace is the...

  7. Part II. European Labor Wage-Bargaining Strategies

    • CHAPTER FOUR Wage Policy and the European Monetary Union
      (pp. 49-56)

      The national wage-bargaining systems of Europe are exposed to increased pressures due to the establishment of the single market, the European Monetary Union (EMU), and the process of economic globalization. Whereas we can observe an organized decentralization of wage-bargaining systems in some countries, in others centralized social pacts have been concluded. In both cases, unions seem to be forced to accept less favorable bargaining outcomes, and it is often stated that unions could not pursue alternative bargaining policies beyond competitive corporatism. However, is there really no alternative to concession bargaining to remain, at least, at the negotiating table? Although unions...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Rise of National Competitive Corporatism
      (pp. 57-79)

      Since the adoption of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, we can observe a real wage trajectory in Western Europe that fails to fully match the growth of productivity. Does that mean that European trade unions have actively supported wage-moderation policies? It would be wrong to argue that wage moderation, as such, is an indicator of a technocratic renationalization strategy, but if unions did accept low wage increases to support competition state nationalism, then they would have adopted a technocratic renationalization strategy in the field of collective wage bargaining.

      Unions have adopted wage-moderation policies in the past, for instance during the...

    • CHAPTER SIX European Wage-Bargaining Coordination Networks: Insights from the Manufacturing and the Construction Industry
      (pp. 80-95)

      Since 1993, real wages have stopped following productivity growth in almost all eurozone countries. Chapter 5 shows that many unions accepted this development either to confront an economic crisis or to increase the international competitiveness of their own economy. However, by the end of the 1990s some unions started to question the merits of such a competitive wage-bargaining strategy. Whereas the labor share of national income declined considerably in most EMU countries, the expected compensations for labor, such as job creations, did not materialize.

      Already in 1993, the Economic and Social Research Institute (WSI) of the German trade union confederation...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Beyond Competitive Corporatism?: Insights from Germany, France, and Italy
      (pp. 96-116)

      The unions of the Doorn group, the EMF, and the ETUC agreed to joint European wage-bargaining benchmarks in order to limit downward pressures on wages. However, it is still possible that some unions are pursuing a technocratic renationalization strategy to enhance the competitive position of their own countries, despite their promises to honor mutually agreed-on European wage-bargaining targets. This chapter puts the technocratic renationalization strategy thesis to a final test to find out whether this competitive wage bargaining trend is continuing, despite the adoption of the European bargaining targets. First, the recent wage, inflation, and productivity data of selected EU...

  8. Part III. Responses by Labor to Transnational Company Mergers

    • CHAPTER EIGHT The European Regulation of Transnational Company Mergers
      (pp. 119-127)

      Given the institutional framework of EU competition policy, it is reasonable to think that organized labor cannot influence the regulation of cross-border mergers. Yet unions have increasingly been trying to influence EU competition policy. Their activities, however, have differed considerably. Whereas organized labor politicized the ABB Alstom merger case, labor adopted a strategy in the Alcan-Pechiney-Algroup (APA) merger case that did not challenge the technocratic merger control policy of the European Commission. The adoption of these conflicting strategies is surprising because the same German and French unions played a decisive role in both merger cases. The following chapters analyze the...

    • CHAPTER NINE A Euro-Democratization Union Strategy: The ABB Alstom Power Case
      (pp. 128-156)

      On April 10, 2000, about 2,000 workers, mostly from France, Germany, Belgium, and Italy, demonstrated in Brussels to protest against plans by ABB Alstom Power to cut a fifth of its workforce. They were protesting against the Commission for its failure to consult labor before approving the merger between the ABB and Alstom power divisions. This was not the first European labor demonstration, but it was the first time that an EWC, the EMF, and national unions jointly organized such a protest rally (Lemaître 2000). The demonstration did not remain an isolated event, but was the first in a series...

    • CHAPTER TEN A Euro-Technocratization Union Strategy: The Alcan-Pechiney-Algroup Case
      (pp. 157-185)

      On August 11, 1999, the Canadian Alcan, the French Pechiney, and the Swiss Algroup announced a joint merger project to create the world’s largest aluminum company, called APA.¹ The company executives expected that the postmerger cost savings would increase profits by US$600 million. This program included a 5 percent reduction in the combined 91,000 APA workforces. Seventy-five percent of the expected profit growth would result from labor cost reductions. This represents a high share; labor costs in the industry do not usually represent more than 8 percent of total production costs.

      As in the ABB Alstom case, labor leaders from...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Conclusion
      (pp. 186-202)

      The formation of the European single market and monetary union disadvantaged labor in many ways. Most important, the expansion of markets across national boundaries provided capital with increased options to exit the mid-twentieth-century class compromise that shaped labor relations and welfare states across Western Europe. However, unions had coped with a geographical expansion of capitalist markets before, namely, when governments created national markets during the nineteenth century. Although many local and craft-based unions perceived these national integration processes as a threat, labor eventually established effective national industrial organizations and developed new repertoires of collective action that were capable of shaping...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 203-218)
  10. References
    (pp. 219-250)
  11. Index
    (pp. 251-260)