Increasing Power Resources By Cross-Border, Cross-Organizational Cooperation? Synergies and Trade-Offs of Transnational Alliance Between Trade Unions and Social Movements. the Case of Bangladesh

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 16:40
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Sabrina ZAJAK, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany
Saida RESSEL, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany
On key assumption of research on transnational labour rights activism is that the current context of globalization, the evolution of the global labour governance system and supply chains also provide new opportunities for workers and trade unions to jump scale and bridge spaces to tap into resources of labour rights organizations and social movements at places of consumption. The underlying assumption is that rescaling conflicts to locations where employers remain bound by institutional and normative frameworks allows trade unions to tap into additional resources, in particular into discursive normative power of social movements. This paper takes the case of Bangladesh to explore in how far the emerging Bangladeshi trade union movement is able to mobilize additional power sources to compensate their structural and associational weaknesses by going transnational and allying with international trade unions and social movements. Bangladesh is a specific case as after the Rana Plaza catastrophe international pressure and the development of new forms of transnational regulation significantly changes the domestic industrial relations landscape. Yet while international social movement networks such as the Clean Clothes Campaign together with global unions significantly contributed to the rise of new forms of regulation – most importantly the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Safety – we know little on how their cooperation helps Bangladeshi trade unions to build organizational, structural or institutional capacities. The paper argues that allying with transnational labour rights organizations is crucial for domestic trade unions to build and increase different power sources with mutually reinforcing effects. Yet there are also trade-offs and unintended consequences resulting out of trans-boundary, trans-organizational cooperation which actually limit the ability to build certain capacities.