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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 in Demark: Still Victorious? 287

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JENS LIND Trade Unions in Demark: Still Victorious? 1. Introduction At first sight Danish trade unions are still viable. Despite a slightly declining membership rate since the late 1990s, trade unions continue to organise around 80 per cent of the work force. Some unions are losing members while others are gaining. The unions are deeply em- bedded in the regulation of the national economy and the labour market, and they are not facing profound changes that will severely weaken their position and interest representation: they seem to have adapted successfully to a mildly more hostile environment and poorer conditions for collectivist interest representation. The spreading of neo-liberal ideology, the implementation of political measures to strengthen competition in the economy and the labour market, and other policies that weaken unions have all changed the behaviour of unions but they have not lost their importance. Collective bargaining is still considered a cornerstone of labour market regulation, although legislation increasingly deals with some of the key topics in collective agreements such as working time and some conditions for interest representation. The unions also remain deeply involved in tripartite or corporatist bodies and negotiations and have, together with the employers’ organisations, a significant impact on state policies. The most important challenge for the future seems to be a loss of members among the traditional unions to several new ‘discount’ unions that attract members on the basis of a minimum of service and cheaper membership fees. This tendency is strengthened by changes in the unemployment...

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