Cross-Border Trade Union Action in Europe in Times of the Euro-Crisis: The Case of the European Days of Action

Friday, 3 July 2015: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
TW2.2.04 (Tower Two)
Julia Hofmann, JKU, Linz, Austria
The European Union is at present confronted with one of the biggest economic crisis in history. The hegemonic crisis management deepens the asymmetry of European integration (Scharpf 2010); neoliberal conceptions of economy and society are reinforced at the national and at the European level (Crouch 2011). The implemented austerity programs had a big impact on labour markets, social policies and work relations in a lot of European countries (Busch et al. 2012). This labour-hostile environment has further increased the pressure on trade unions. They responded to these developments by organising and mobilising resistance on a transnational level, e.g. the European Days of Action. For the first time in history trade unions of four different countries (Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy) mobilized simultaneous strikes on the 14th of November 2012. Over 40 unions from 21 other countries showed their solidarity with decentralised protest actions at the same time (Larsson 2013). This form of cross-border coordinated trade union action may be astonishing at first sight – especially when one brings in mind the standard assumption that transnational union action faces chronic obstacles posed by institutional, cultural and language differences (Martin and Ross 2001).

In my presentation I’ll present explorative findings on the history of the European Action Days and identify patterns concerning the participation rates of trade unions. The following questions will guide my presentation: Which unions did/did not participate in the European Days of Action and why? What constrains, but also: what opportunities have trade unions encountered in their attempts to organise and participate in the Action Days?

The empirical material of the research was gathered via online content-analysis and interviews with trade union activists from different European countries. First results indicate a big participation gap between unions from different member states: The participation rate is especially low in Eastern European countries. Moreover union types and power resources seem to play an important role in the decision for participating in cross-border trade union action.