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Radical Unions in Europe and the Future of Collective Interest Representation


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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The Wind of Austerity in the Sails of Radicalism: The Greek Example



The future of organised labour in Greece seems to be at a crossroads, with its future direction vacillating between a potential for either boom or bust. Tough austerity measures and numerous legislative changes implemented in the last three years have resulted in the demise of unions’ institutional power and a significant decline in union density. Unemployment levels reached the unprecedented levels of 28 per cent (65 per cent for those aged 15–24) in June 2013, while according to the Labour Inspectorate Body (LIB) almost 50 per cent of all jobs created in the last two years are precarious in nature.1

The Greek government’s ‘self-destructive dance’ with the Troika of foreign lenders initiated an ongoing tango of social turmoil manifested in numerous demonstrations that sometimes include spontaneous industrial action both at sectoral and local level (Kretsos, 2012). Strikes have become widespread and endemic. According to the author’s calculation, in 2012 there took place an average of 62 strikes per month, while 39 general strikes have taken place since May 2010, the date when the Greek government signed the first memorandum agreement with Troika.2 ← 157 | 158 →

The radicalisation of Greek trade union movement is expressed not only in terms of industrial action. An increasing number of trade unions also place growing importance on rank-and-file activism and deploy ‘Occupy’ movement practices of long duration in certain cases (e.g. occupation and self-management exercises in ERT national media station and the manufacturing sites of VIOME...

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