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Paths to Transnational Solidarity

Identity-Building Processes in European Works Councils


Hermann Kotthoff and Michael Whittall

With national industrial relations systems struggling to keep apace with the global and mobile nature of capital, the emergence of the European works council has caught the imagination of both practitioners and scholars of this institution in the last two decades. European works councils find themselves at the centre of an ever emerging European industrial relations landscape, offering employees of multinationals within the European Economic Area the opportunity to work together in regulating employment conditions. An in-depth empirical study of five European works councils, this book offers a unique look into factors which promote and hinder the development of solidarity amongst employees. With a sociological bent, this volume is a must for EWC delegates struggling to deal with geographical, cultural and historical factors that undermine relations between them.
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Previous research into European Works Councils (EWC) has principally concerned itself with the functioning and outputs of this new representative institution. One of the main outcomes has been the sober realization that in many instances EWCs have not, in practice, succeeded in becoming collective actors with a capacity to generate unique outputs as their members have not managed to form a cohesive group with a European perspective that can be brought to bear on this area of activity.

This central focus of this study is the process through which an EWC becomes able to emerge as an actor: that is, how a set of strangers can cohere into a cooperative team able to offer mutual support and with the capacity to engage in the common European task of company-level interest representation. It is based on five companies selected on the ground that they exemplified best practice. We then explored and analysed the conditions for the possibility of transnational solidaristic behaviour in a series of case studies. The research took place during 2009 and 2010. In 2012 the results were fed back to the EWCs concerned and discussed with them.

We are grateful to the Hans Böckler Foundation, which financed the research project originally submitted by Hermann Kotthoff and which provided us with the opportunity to pursue the question of the conditions for the constitution of EWC in a direct and concentrated fashion. We are also grateful to the project’s advisory board for their...

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