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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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Hungarian Unions: Toward Assuming Political Roles

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Introduction

It is gratifying to write about the trade unions in a country which, at the time of writing this paper (January 2012), makes the international front pages on a daily basis because of its economic failure and its government’s anti-democratic actions. This chapter reports that civil movements have emerged and have been vocal in expressing the overall dissatisfaction with the regime, and in this process the role of radical trade unions is quite significant. Apart from impressive street demonstrations, however, little is known about the social background and driving force of these movements. In addition to providing a chronology of events, the main goal of this paper is to explore these issues.

The chapter does not describe in detail the road to the current crisis and the measures taken by the government. Here we make an inventory only of the less known actions directly affecting the world of work. Writing a chapter such as this is not an easy task because of the constantly changing international environment and domestic political situation, both of which inevitably renders what is written outdated by the time it goes to print. Conclusions about the future role of traditional trade unions and radical union movements are necessarily tentative since we cannot know how much the new labour legislation will paralyse trade unions and institutions of collective representation. With the shrinking potential of traditional trade union functions, radical unions increasingly tend to express political goals, and their future is...

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