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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Edited By 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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Understanding the Changing Influence of Trade Unions inContemporary Italy 229


VALERIA PULIGNANO Understanding the Changing Influence of Trade Unions in Contemporary Italy 1. Introduction The Italian trade union movement has been characterised historically by several complex phases revealing a startling diversity compared with the rest of Europe. This is most evident in the dramatic shifts in the Italian unions’ strategy of action over the course of time, albeit with strong elements of continuity (Regini and Regalia 2000). As this chapter illustrates, an appreciation of this diversity is crucial for an understanding of the current health of Italian trade unions. The ever- changing status and influence of unions in Italy cannot be understood simply in light of the challenges facing other European labour move- ments, such as declining membership, government opposition, and changes in the labour markets. Contemporary Italian trade unionism must also be understood by assessing the wide variety of responses of the trade unions themselves, their capacity to transform their role and strategy, and their ability to act as a unified actor within a climate of altered political and socio-economic circumstances. Economic and governmental changes over the last two decades have strongly affected the national socio-economic stability of Euro- pean countries. Evidence from Europe indicates that these changes have in most cases undermined the traditional bases of trade union power, thereby necessitating strategic adjustments from the labour movement. In Italy the capacity of the unions to respond strategically to these changes is shaped by the historic features of union pluralism and ideological diversity. This was particularly evident in the...

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