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Session Overview
RN17_02a_H: European Governance and Social Effects
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Barbara Bechter, Durham University Business School
Location: HA.2.4
HAROKOPIO University 70 El. Venizelou Street 17671 Athens, Greece Building: A, Level: 2.

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Industrial Relations in the European Union – A Race to the Bottom?

Sebastian Schief

University of Fribourg, Switzerland

Crouch divided the industrial relations systems of the then EU 15 into four types (Crouch 1996). Great Britain is representative of a type characterised by loosely organised and decentralised collective bargaining, the type of which Italy is the representative can be described as rudimentary, essentially unregulated, and employer-dominated. Sweden (centralised) and Germany (decentralised) represent corporatist types characterised by high labour standards.

It was shown that within the process of enlarging the European Union the industrial relations systems of the member states came under pressure (Kohl et al.2006, Schief 2006). We argued that with the enlargement new nation-states became members who seemed to enforce or renovate a tendency towards a growing importance of the company in industrial relations. There was reason to believe that a massive change in the balance of the two forecasted groups in favour of a loose and decentralized industrial relations system may have led to different consequences in the countries under investigation. The result could be a revised diversity or a single European model which more or less corresponds to the loose and decentralized type.

It is time to do a detailed re-analysis of the industrial relations systems of the old and new member states. We hope to gain insight to the possible changes in the balance between corporatist and loose and decentralized countries. Based on several indicators we analyse the development of industrial relations of the member states of the European Union. According to our analysis, the development towards the loose and decentralized type has continued.

With a little help from my courts? Assessing the impact of the new European economic governance on the Irish reforms of wage setting mechanisms.

Vincenzo Maccarrone

University College Dublin, Ireland

In 2010, caught in the middle of a financial storm, Ireland was forced to resort to a 85 billion loan from the Troika. In exchange, the country representatives signed a series of Memoranda of Understanding which contained specific reforms to be implemented. At the onset of the crisis, Ireland had one of the most flexible labour markets among OECD countries. In addition, the long tradition of engagement of the social partners in centralized neo-corporatist agreements terminated quite abruptly in 2009. Hence, one might expect to find few references to labour market reforms in the agreements with the Troika. This was mostly true, but with an exception: the particular attention that the technocrats had for the only institutions producing legally binding wage setting agreements. These institutions, named Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements, were struck out by two sentences of the High court and the Supreme Court in 2011 and 2013 respectively. They were later reintroduced with significant changes by the government in 2012 and 2015. What role did the Troika play in the reform process? Are the Irish reforms of wage setting mechanisms solely explained by autonomous national developments? In order to answer these questions, I will make use of a two-level game theoretical framework, where both EU and domestic actors interact. My work will be based on the analysis of official documentation as well as relevant media sources. Through the use of process-tracing, I will try to assess the impact over time of both external and intervening variables.

Forms and content in European trade union cooperation: The importance of resource-, sectoral- and industrial regime differences

Patrik Vulkan, Bengt Larsson

University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Even though there are well-established structures for transnational cooperation in Europe, trade unions are currently facing challenges relating to transnational market and policy integration as well as a weakened position on the national level in many countries. In this situation there is a need to further develop both the vertical and horizontal transnational trade union cooperation. To understand the preconditions for trade union to face up to this challenge, this paper studies the forms and contents of existing transnational trade union cooperation in five sectors in Europe: metal, construction, transportation, healthcare and banking and finance. The theoretical point of departure for the analysis is that the forms of cooperation, the issues focused and the intensity of cooperation is expected to be dependent on what sectors and what regions (or industrial relations regime) the trade unions belong to, and what resources they have. The aim of the paper is to test whether differences between sectors or regimes are of most importance for what forms and content transnational union cooperation take, when controlling for resources of unions. Empirically the paper is based on a European-wide survey to trade unions in these sectors (n 221). The main result is that sector-differences are more important than regime-differences in explaining the overall engagement in different forms of cooperation, when controlling for resources, whereas both sectors and regimes have some independent effects on what issues trade unions cooperate on.

Unmaking of employment regulation across the EU: what consequences for unemployment and labour market segmentation?

Agnieszka Piasna

ETUI, Belgium

Unemployment rates in the EU rose to record levels after the economic crisis of 2008, yet the experience varied substantially across member states. To remedy the effects of the recession and overcome the unemployment crisis, a powerful trend in EU policy making has focused on the functioning of the labour market and policies of labour market deregulation have been pressed on member states by the European Commission. The dominant analysis, especially from the EU institutions, diagnosed employment regulation as the root cause of unemployment in Europe and driver of labour market segmentation.

This paper engages with this policy stance and aims at stipulating alternative policy narrative. It summarizes findings from a collaborative research project that set out to investigate why unemployment has risen more in some countries than in others since 2008, how far this relates to the policies pursued and what have been the effects of employment protection reforms on employment (levels and structure). On the basis of experience in a large sample of EU Member States, we found that reducing employment protection does not bring economic benefits but also that post-crisis changes have led to increases in precarious employment and hence more pronounced, rather than reduced, labour market segmentation.

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