Transnational Solidarity Of Trade Unions In Europe: Two Cases Of Institutional Work Against The Background Of The Euro-Crisis

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Susanne PERNICKA , Department of Economic and Organisational Sociology, Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria
Julia HOFMANN , Department of Economic and Organisational Sociology, Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria
Trade unions and labour movements have emphasized solidarity as a universal principle based on common interests of all workers, regardless of borders and boundaries. Despite this rhetoric they have primarily organised national or subnational collectivities and contributed to establish common identities and moral norms in these contexts. Modern notions of solidarity are thus firmly established at the national level, while at the European level liberal market principles and social indifference predominate. This prevailing social indifference has been challenged by at least two developments: (1) the introduction of a common currency, and (2) European economic governance in response to the Euro-crisis. Both developments have led trade unions to transnationalize their strategies: (1) As monetary integration abandoned the option to devaluate currencies as a strategy to improve international competitiveness, wage setting institutions have come under pressure. This in turn induced trade unions in some sectors to coordinate their wage bargaining policies across borders. (2) Far reaching austerity measures in EU countries had a big impact on labour market and social policies - trade unions responded to these developments by organising and mobilising resistance at transnational level, e.g. the European Action Days.

Our empirical research in both fields (wage bargaining and protest movements) is guided by the following question: What constrains and opportunities have trade unions in Europe encountered in their strategic attempts to create and maintain solidarity enhancing institutions at transnational level?

Our central argument rests on two assumptions proposed by the classic sociologist G. Simmel (1908): He states that conflict is an important step from mutual ignorance to social integration. However, the integrative impact of conflict is dependent on legitimized institutions and practices of conflict resolution (Vobruba 2013), which themselves are contested. To explain union strategies in multi-level fields we use sociological institutionalism (Scott 2008; Lawrence/Suddaby 2009) and power resource theory.