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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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Trade Union Radicalism in France: The Renewal of Radicalism in the Context of Crisis and Austerity?

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Introduction

Trade union radicalism has been a significant feature of the union movement in France. French trade unions have historically been divided along political and ideological lines. There have been two ideological traditions, one stemming from the workers’ movement, which produced the Confédération générale du travail (CGT) and Force ouvrière (FO) and the second from social Catholicism, which produced the Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens (CFTC) and the Confédération française démocratique du travail (CFDT). Outside these traditions unions have formed around specific professions or categories of workers, including the Confédération française de l’encadrement-Confédération générale des cadres (CFE-CGC), formed after the Liberation to represent managers. There are three other union organisations at national level, originating from ideological splits in the major unions: the Union nationale des syndicats autonomes (UNSA), a reformist confederation created in 1994 and considered representative amongst public sector administrative workers; the Fédération syndicale unitaire (FSU), a radical federation also created in 1994 with representative status in education; and Union syndicale – Solidaires, a loosely organised group of mainly radical unions, which comprises the majority of the ‘SUD’ (Solidaires, Unitaires et Démocratiqes) union federations.

The union movement has been split into three categories: the ‘regulationists’, the unions concerned with social regulation, which includes the CFDT, the CFE-CGC, the CFTC and FSU-UNSA; the ‘revendicatif’ (protest) unions, compromising of the CGT and the...

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