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Radical Unions in Europe and the Future of Collective Interest Representation

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Edited By Heather Connolly, Lefteris Kretsos and Craig Phelan

This book analyses contemporary trends in radical unionism in Europe. It contains nine country case-studies that probe the limits and possibilities of trade union renewal with a focus on radical activity. The editors follow a broad definition of radical unionism, including trade union organisations that can be characterised as radical either in terms of ideology and political identity or in terms of organising and mobilising activity. The ongoing economic crisis and consequent austerity measures, and employers’ strategies for increasing labour market flexibility have encouraged the deregulation of capitalism in Europe. The question this book asks is whether radicalised unionism, political action and grassroots activism present opportunities for union renewal and collective interest representation in this economic context. This question is examined in nine national contexts with diverse industrial relations frameworks and trade unions. The editors assess the degree to which we are witnessing the emergence of ‘radical political unionism’ as an alternative model of trade unionism in Europe, focused on class struggle, engagement in social movement activity beyond the workplace, and politicised union strategies aligned to new left-wing political formations.

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Paul Stewart: The Independent Workers’ Union: Class, Nation and Oppositional Labour Movements in Ireland from 1900 to the Celtic Tiger

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Paul Stewart The Independent Workers’ Union: Class, Nation and Oppositional Labour Movements in Ireland from 1900 to the Celtic Tiger Introduction Unionist1 workmen who have so staunchly supported their leaders in the past [should] continue to bear themselves as men worthy of this great cause in which their whole future and that of the community is involved. (From a resolution passed by the Ulster Unionist Council, Belfast Newsletter July 10th 1912. Cited in Patterson, 1981 p. 89) 1 Unionist/ism: not to be confused with trade unionism. When referring to the anti Irish independence political movement we write Unionist/ism/ Irish/Ulster Unionist/ ism. When referring to trade unionist/ism lower case ‘u’ is preferred. (Irish) Unionism sprang to life in the late 19th century as the political movement dedicated to the preservation of Ireland within Britain. The wellspring of Unionism was opposition to the Irish Home Rule Bill of 1886 (the second was in 1893 and the third and final Bill was introduced in 1912). Unionism was in the first instance a political alliance between Protestant industrial capital and labour in Ireland (notably skilled Protestant workers and industrialists in Ireland’s north east and mainly in Belfast, notably in the engineering and shipbuilding industries) and elements within the Conservative Party in Britain. It successfully defeated the three Home Rule Bills. The objective of Home Rule had been to bring a measure of legislative autonomy for the whole of Ireland (within the British Empire) but the outcome of the defeat of Irish Home Rule in...

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