Whose Interests? a Comparative Study on Trade Unions’ Responses to Migration and Migrants in Finland, Ireland, and Portugal

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 09:18
Oral Presentation
Rolle ALHO, University of Helsinki, Finland
Trade unions are key non-state actors influencing labour markets and immigration processes in Europe; it is therefore important to understand how they respond to migration. In Europe, trade unions have strived to oppose today’s far-right populism, but the issue of immigration is far from easy for them. For example, immigrants in low-wage sectors are often victims of social dumping. Such cases have led in several countries to ethnic tensions. In the best case, unions can oppose this type of development by showing their solidarity with immigrants in concrete ways. My presentation is based on my Academy of Finland-funded postdoctoral project (2017-2020) Whose interests? A Comparative Study on Trade Unions’ Responses to Migration and Migrants in Finland, Ireland, and Portugal, which compares the responses of trade unions to immigration and immigrants in the above three relative new immigrant-receiving countries. Overall, immigration affects different labour market sectors in different ways. In all three countries, unions’ responses to immigration are examined by looking at unions in both the highly regulated healthcare sector and the less regulated hotel, cleaning and restaurant sector. This type of a three-country, two-tier research approach allows us to explore whether it is different national labour market models or the sectors in which the unions operate that best explain the unions’ approaches to immigration. Trade unions’ approaches have the potential to improve migrants’ position in the labour markets. Their responses also show whether they have a capacity to renew themselves and find solutions to the politically complex immigration situation. The empirical material of this project is based on document analysis, interviews and fieldwork in Finland, Ireland, and Portugal.