Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries
Edited By Craig Phelan
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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