Threat of Strike: Notice of Industrial Action and Strikes in Sweden 1980-2015
Uppsala University, Sweden
In the post-industrial era work stoppages are rarely used in collective bargaining processes. However, this trend does not indicate that employers and unions no longer have different interests. Rather we suggest that the contentious struggle on the labor market takes a different form today, namely through notice of industrial action. Work stoppages are costly for both parties and require considerable mobilization of members to go on strike whereas threatening to start work stoppages (i.e. submit a notice of industrial action) requires other types of power resources and yet can be used as an effective means to put pressure on the counterparty in collective bargaining. Research has until now neglected this important institution in collective bargaining. By using unique data about notices of industrial action and strikes in Sweden (1980-2015) we show that even though strikes have decreased, notices of industrial action - threat of strike - have not. In the paper we analyze and compare unions that frequently submit notices in collective bargaining to those who start strikes, and we examine why notices are used in collective bargaining. Whereas male dominated occupations in the private sector (particularly in transportation sector) frequently submitted notices and started strikes throughout the entire time period, female dominate public sector occupations, notably health care personnel (both workers and white-collar workers), have come to use notices more frequently over time.
The Italian Labor-Capital Conflict During and after the Crisis. Between Trade Unionism and Social Movement unionism
1University of Cagliari, Italy; 2University of Catania; 3University of Trento
The paper aims to explore the reappearance of labor-related protests in European countries during and in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. We join the social movement scholarship, the socio-economic literature and the industrial relations debate to explore the capacity of trade unions to manage the capital-labour conflict in Italy. Italy has indeed witnessed fragmented and isolated trade unions, with marked competition between the three traditional union confederations. In this framework, workers’ protests have been often coordinated by independent and more radical trade unions.
Following the well-established literature on Protest Event Analysis (PEA) we have collected data regarding the characteristics of labor-related collective actions involving workers or related to labor-issues occurred in Italy between December 2007 and 31st December 2010. We aim to investigate the repertoire of actions, the actors engaged, their degree of organization and alliances with other civil society groups to understand whether some dynamics of social movement unionism is at work, the issues claimed.
Our preliminary results show major patterns of change: 1) prevailing labor-related actions are strikes. However, in the second half of 2010, data show an increasing presence of disruptive actions, squatting principally. 2) labor-related actions are mainly coordinated by organized actors, mostly traditional trade unions. However, almost at an equal rate, workers engaged in labor-related actions participate through informal and spontaneous groups. 3) Claimed issues concern both economic and political issues, the latter especially rising during 2010.
The Displacement Hypothesis Revisited: Insights from the Italian Logistics Sector
Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy
One of the characteristic features of industrial relations in the neoliberal era has been the crisis of trade unions and traditional forms of worker representation. This apparent demobilisation of labour is reflected in falling rates of union membership, and strikes, the classic indicators of collective expressions of discontent. These patterns have been variously explained with reference to the pacification of class conflict, the concomitant rise of individualised interests, and a commitment to partnership and consensus by trade union leaders. However, scholars have already pointed to the dangers of interpreting the decline of collective forms of action as unequivocal proof of a decline of collective interests, or of perceptions of injustice on the part of workers (Gall, 2008; Gall & Hebdon, 2008; Kirk, 2018). Instead what these scholars have suggested is a hypothesis of ‘method displacement’, namely that these grievances have not disappeared, but that the traditional institutional pathways for their collective expression have become blocked, and that instead, they have found alternative, individual forms of expression, such as proceeding to litigation in courts against the firm. We extend this theory by suggesting a third pathway: conflictual collective action. We illustrate our argument in the context of ongoing struggles in the Italian logistics sector, highlighting the dynamics of control, resistance and consent in the workplace, whereby the inefficacy of traditional means of contestation has led workers to adopt more militant repertoires of action such as road blocks and occupations of warehouses.