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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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Chapter 6: EWC and Trade Union Relations


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EWC and Trade Union Relations

6.1 A complicated but necessary arrangement?

In their study of ‘EWCs in Practice’, which encompassed fifty-four bodies in total (Eurofound, 2004), Eurofound outlined the necessity of conceptualizing the notion of ‘insider-outsider’ relations. Although the Eurofound research applied the concept to the role of management within EWCs, management here being the outsider, we contend, based on our empirical findings, that this approach is equally applicable to the role trade unions play or do not play within this European institution. If nothing else, it denotes that there exists, either directly or indirectly, a relationship between EWCs and trade unions. Implicit in our use of this concept is the belief that trade union status might have consequences for the way an EWC functions, a point that occupies centre-stage throughout this section.

Certainly, EWC literature to different degrees has thought it necessary to discuss EWC and trade union relations. For example, a key issue raised by both Lucio and Weston (2000) and Royle (1999) concerns what is commonly referred to as ‘management capture and isolation’ of EWCs. In short, trade unions are perceived as a guarantor against EWCs’ becoming a managerial tool for country benchmarking, a threat posed by EWCs that has been addressed in a number of studies (Wills, 2000; Hancké, 2000; Tuckmann and Whittall, 2002). In addition, such a presence also ensures delegates possess the right competencies at this European level (Lecher et al., 1998)...

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