Trade Unions and Inequality: Taking Stock of Two Decades of Analyses and Reflections. a Seminar for Twenty Years of Transfer - European Review of Labour and Research

Roland Erne , Maarten Keune and Roberto Pedersini
Session Organizers:
Maria Jepsen and Roberto Pedersini
Friday, 3 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
TW2.1.02 (Tower Two)
Trade unions have been identified as contributing both to increasing as well as to decreasing inequalities all depending on their institutional set-up and ability to function as a sword of justice or not. This theoretical and empirical observation somewhat contrasts with the discourse of trade unions who set their main value as balancing the power between labour and capital and thereby fighting to decrease inequalities in society. Over the past 20 years labour markets as well as institutional settings have experienced profound transformations and this has shaped trade union actions as well as the outcomes of these actions. This session examines to what extent trade unions have taken into account these profound changes and if they have maintained their ability to contain inequalities.

The session discusses a series of articles published in Transferat the end of the 1990s, which have been chosen to highlight key aspects in the relationship between trade union action and inequalities. The original authors present the papers’ main ideas and analyses as well as their relevance in the present debate about the challenges faced by trade unions and industrial relations as a form of regulation. For each paper, a discussant provides further comments on both the original contributions and the state of play of research in the relevant fields.

The session aims at identifying to what extent research is able to contextualise challenges and options for social actors and to what extent this has contributed to shaping trade union strategies and actions. Future avenues for research will be identified.

The Challenges of Modernisation: Towards a New Paradigm for Trade Unions in Europe
Ulrich Mückenberger, Hamburg University; Cornelia Stroh, Bremen University; Rainer Zoll, Bremen University
Trade Unions and Interest Representation in the Context of Globalisation
Richard Hyman, The London School of Economics and Political Science