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Session Overview
RN17_01c_H: Trade Union Formation and Organisation
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Alex Lehr, Radboud University Nijmegen
Location: HA.2.6
HAROKOPIO University 70 El. Venizelou Street 17671 Athens, Greece Building: A, Level: 2.

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On The Outside Looking In? A Micro-level Analysis of the Perceptions of Trade Union Representation and Membership in the Netherlands

Giedo Jansen1, Alex Lehr2

1University of Twente, Netherlands, The; 2Radboud University, Netherlands, The

It is often held that trade unions predominantly represent “standard” workers, with permanent and full-time employment contracts. “Non-standard” workers, for example employees with temporary contracts, agency workers or freelancers, are believed to be poorly accommodated by trade unions. To explain the representation gap, insider/outsider-theories postulate that non-standard workers would refrain from membership because they believe that unions protect the secure jobs of insiders rather than the insecure jobs of outsiders. This simple assumption, however, that links employment type and job insecurity to perceptions of trade union inclusiveness (or rather feelings of “outsiderness”) has rarely been empirically tested. Hence, the questions addressed here are: (a) To what extent have standard and non-standard workers different perceptions of trade union inclusiveness, and (b) to what extent are perceptions of a representation deficit related to a lower willingness to join a trade union?

To answer this question hypotheses are derived from insider-outsider theories and theories on union revitalization. It is hypothesized that outsiders (i.e., non-standard workers, unemployed) perceive trade unions as both less inclusive as well as less responsive to their needs than insiders. Moreover, it is expected that these perceptions of a representation deficit are related to a lower willingness to join a trade union. Empirically, this article focusses on the Netherlands, a country with a relatively flexible labor market and a typical gap in union membership between standard and non-standard workers. Data in used from the 2015 “Work and Politics”-wave fielded through the LISS Panel (Longitudinal Internet Studies for the Social Sciences).

The position of trade unions and the discourse: a case of Poland

Piotr Ostrowski

University of Warsaw, Poland

Over the past 27 years, Poland has undergone a socio-economic transformation, which had a profound impact on labour relations, including the position of trade unions. These changes were reflected in the discourse on industrial relations. However, this question has received scant attention from sociologists. This is particularly unfortunate since there are efficient analytical tools that allow us for acknowledging those factors. The aim of this paper is to bridge the above-mentioned gap by demonstrating that Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is a relevant tool in the context of research in industrial relations. It helps to study the asymmetry between the forces of Labour and Capital. For CDA, language is the most important factor behind the creation and reproduction in the society; the nature of power and (symbolic) domination. These two are hidden and covered by the “official” discourse. The creation of “commonly-shared' consensus, acceptance and legitimation for the domination are the main functions of the hegemonic discourse. Moreover, CDA requires that the “uncovering” researcher not only “externally” describes and explains the studied phenomena, but also actively addresses the voice of the dominated and defends those who, by means of symbolic violence, are subject to the tyranny of the power relations. The paper presents an application of CDA to industrial relations in Poland, and the position of Polish trade unions, by using the examples taken from several studies which I conducted in the past years.

Narration of Workers from Turkish Steel Town: From Old to New Generations

Mustafa Berkay Aydın

Uludağ University, Turkey

This paper examines the formation processes of the working class in Karabük on the basis of Karabük Iron-Steel Factories. The workers who have been working in the factory since the foundation of the corporation are chosen as the sample group of the study. The working class identity and the general formation of the working class are examined through three different 'generations'. Focus group and a field research based upon survey are applied in addition to in depth interviews. The aim of this study, in accordance with the historical development, to discuss each period separately, from the perspectives of their continuity and distinctiveness. By laying emphasis on trade union history and political field particularly, the study also tries to define the roles of these variables in the process of formation of the working class in different periods. It seems that the significant distinctiveness of the last generation of these three generations is remarkable.

This paper focuses on historical process of working class formation. Karabük is the oldest heavy industry investment of Turkey. In its 75 years history, it can be seen Turkish social and economic history with workers' perspective. Karabük is a one of the 'steel town'. In generally, from a historical perspective politics come before industrial workplace relations. On the other hand, the study tries to focus on last generation working class, and the results are signed that the last generation of steel workers as 'precariat'. Last generation workers quest new politics, old type of trade unionism and old type political positions are not operational for new workers.

Lonely in a crowd: do young precarious workers need trade unions, do trade unions need young precarious workers?

Jan Czarzasty

Warsaw School of Economics (SGH), Poland

Precarisation of labour follows various paths, depending on the institutional surrounding, socio-cultural underpinning, political framework and role of the state in a particular country. Trade unions seem unsure on how to deal with the consequences of the process, which has recently come to interfere with the longer and more persistent one, that is, of deunionisation. Empirical evidence (e.g. Kuene 2013; Martínez Lucio, Marino, Connolly 2017) suggests that the challenge of precarious work has not only been recognized but also addressed by European trade unions, yet their responses have produced moderate effects, especially in terms of attracting people representing youngest brackets of economic activity age (up to 30) to trade unions. Bringing young people to unions has long been a tough challenge, and with those who are not only young but also in a precarious position in the labour market being a target for organizing activities, the objective becomes only more difficult to achieve.

The paper’s main analytical focus is on the relationship between young precarious workers and trade unions in today’s Poland from both perspectives. The key questions addressed are: 1) do young precarious workers want to be recruited into trade unions (if they see trade unions as viable vehicle for formulating, articulating and representing their collective interests, provided they are able define their interest in any other way than individual) and 2) do trade unions want to bring in young precarious workers (is there a genuine commitment and action behind the façade of declarations)?

The data employed come from primary (the preliminary results from the DFG-NCN funded PREWORK project) and secondary (existing empirical data, literature) sources.

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