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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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Reinventing Trade Unions in Romania:Building Legitimacy in a Changing Society 379

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GEORGETA GHEBREA Reinventing Trade Unions in Romania: Building Legitimacy in a Changing Society 1. Introduction: Challenges and Opportunities during the Post-Communist Transition After 1989 the former Romanian communist trade union (UGSR) suf- fered an implosion – as did all the monolithic communist structures – and, consequently, new and different trade-union structures emerged. The citizens of Romanian enthusiastically discovered the delights of free association, and in the first two years (1990 and 1991) there was a dynamic process of proliferation of new and free unions at all levels: company, sectoral and national. Reinventing the social partnership took place in a turbulent eco- nomic and political context. As a consequence of economic restructur- ing, which resulted in increasing unemployment and early retirements, the number of employees fell dramatically after 1990. New jobs created in the private sector were often not protected by union affili- ation. They were poorly paid, insecure, with some falling into the informal economy. This process led to rapid de-unionisation, as only a few emerging trade unions covered the private sector. Cutbacks in the state sector in these years also exacerbated trade union decline. In 1990 there were about 9 million union members (90 per cent of the employees). Available sources estimate the current number of the union members in Romania is between 2 and 2.5 mil- lion. Current union density is 24 per cent of the total labour force and 44 per cent of employees (Ghebrea 2005: 160). The highest density rates (over 70 per cent) are found in mining,...

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