Is Neo-Liberalism the Best Strategy to Manage Capital-Labor Conflict? the Italian and Chinese Cases

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:00
Location: Hörsaal 16 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Katia PILATI, University of Trento, Italy
Sabrina PERRA, University of Cagliari, Italy
Following neoliberalism ideologies, European national governments have progressively weakened labor-capital conflict by delegitimizing trade unions and workers’ collective actions, even more in the aftermath of the last economic and financial crisis. As a consequence, in Western countries, trade unions have lost their crucial role as mobilizing structures. This has occurred even in those countries where collective bargaining, the regulation of industrial relations, and a consultation model have lasted longer than in other countries, such as Italy. Likewise, similar tendencies have occurred in authoritarian contexts. First and foremost, starting back in the 1980s, China has progressively opened to market economy, in a political system characterized by a one-party rule and a single trade union, which can be hardly classified as socialist capitalism. In this framework, antagonist forms of workers’ claims have been controlled either through indiscriminate and repressive violence or through the regulation and recognition of illegal trade unions.

In this framework, this paper aims to examine first, the role of the State in labor conflicts; second, old and new types of workplace collective actions, namely strikes, in Italy and China as well as their efficacy in labor-capital conflicts.

By joining insights from mainstream social movement theories, namely the political process model focusing on the crucial impact of political opportunities and constraints in shaping engagement in organizations and in collective actions, with insights from industrial relations perspectives, we argue that neo-liberalism represents one the most useful ways adopted by democratic and non-democratic governments for managing capital-labour conflict.   

Empirically, we draw on ILO and the Chinese Official Labour Force data to show changing patterns in the use of collective actions, inter-alia, trade union participation rates, number of people going on strikes among the employed population, number of days lost due to strikes, between 1950 until 2012.