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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.

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Trade Unions and Politics in Brazil 91

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JOSÉ RICARDO RAMALHO 1 Trade Unions and Politics in Brazil 1. Introduction Since 1930, the history of trade unionism in Brazil has been charac- terised by State intervention. The introduction of stringent labour laws designed to reconcile social classes resulted in powerful controls for trade union organisations, making them financially and politically dependent on Governments. This long-lasting corporativist approach remained in place through democratic regimes and military dictator- ships, and still appears in contemporary discussions on trade unionism in Brazil. Today, the challenges facing trade unions are prompted by changes rooted in production restructuring processes that have endowed labour relations with greater flexibility, while increasing unemployment and unregistered jobs, making the work place more insecure. What is specific to Brazil within this new context? First, starting in the 1990s, the restructuring of the production sector followed in the footsteps of the highly industrialised nations, but the introduction of more flexible labour relations took place in a labour market with high levels of informal employment and structural joblessness. Secondly, having become an important political player through strikes called during the 1970s and 1980s, clashing with Brazil’s military dictator- ship, the trade union movement built up the power to challenge this restructuring process and seek alternatives for dealing with the prob- lem of unemployment and fragile labour relations. Thirdly, uneven 1 The author wishes to thank Carolyn Brissett, Faperj and CNPQ for their essential support. José Ricardo Ramalho 92 land ownership and large numbers of rural workers resulted in the appearance of...

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