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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 7: Conclusion


← 256 | 257 → CHAPTER 7


The central problematic in this study was that of the construction of Europe as a space for perception, experience and cooperation on the part of members of EWCs. Is Europe a relevant point of reference for employee interest representation at corporate level? Has a transformation taken place in the categories in which this is thought about? This presupposes changed structures of consciousness and a changed conception of those who are deemed to belong, of group identity, of how one should behave in relation to others, and what binds people together. The nature and intensity of this experience of the European space is manifested in a readiness and capacity for solidarity – that is, for cooperation and mutual support aimed at developing a strategy for representation that is more effective for all.

We relate solidarity to the behaviour of EWC members and in particular to members of the steering committee. This is influenced by their assessment of the scope and limits of solidarity on the part of workforces and their local representatives, but is not determined by it. Workforce solidarity consists in making perceptible sacrifices for employees in other national operations, as well as participation in protest and strike actions aimed at supporting them. Unquestionably, both these theatres of solidarity are closely related. However, in our view, one should distinguish that type of solidarity between EWC members that is needed to constitute an EWC into a body with a capacity for...

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