Now showing 1 - 8 of 8
  • Publication
    Is the European Semester Really Being Socialised? Rethinking the European Union's New Economic Governance Regime and Labour Politics
    One of the key responses from the European Union (EU) to the global financial and sovereign debt crises has been to overhaul its economic governance regime. The former Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, went even as far as to label the shift to the EU’s New Economic Governance (NEG) regime a ‘silent revolution’. In this paper, we propose a new approach for the analysis of NEG and examine the question whether we are really witnessing a progressive socialisation of its policy content, as an emerging literature claims. We do this through three key steps. The first step is to offer a new way of thinking about the institutional structure of the NEG regime, especially the so-called European Semester, which, thus far, has primarily reflected the EU’s own understanding of it across various academic literatures. The second step is to propose a methodological innovation in how to evaluate the policy orientations and prescriptions stemming from the NEG regime. Whereas most studies about the EU’s Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) treat each prescription as equal, as if they exist in an institutional vacuum, we instead take into account the varying degrees of constraint that are attributable to NEG prescriptions as they relate to the broader institutional structure they are embedded within. Hence, the more precise and enforceable a NEG prescription is the more significant it becomes. Furthermore, our analysis also accounts for the location member states find themselves in across the uneven but deeply integrated European political economy, as otherwise similar NEG policy prescriptions can take on very different meanings from differentiated positions within this structured environment. This allows us, in a third step, to apply our conceptual and methodological innovations to a contextualised analysis of close to 100 NEG document issued between 2009-2018 for the Eurozone as a whole, Germany, Italy, Ireland and Romania, i.e. for different locations of the EU’s uneven but deeply integrated political economy. Focusing on policy areas affecting labour politics, including wages, labour markets and collective bargaining, our findings demonstrate that there has not been a progressive socialisation of the Semester. Instead, a pro-business policy paradigm is still dominant over any social(ising) considerations. We therefore conclude our paper with some reflections that problematise these dissonances and discuss possible future (research) orientations on the EU’s NEG regime and labour politics.
  • Publication
    Un patto Faustiano con il Neoliberismo? Ascesa e caduta dei patti sociali nella Repubblica d'Irlanda
    Fino a poco tempo quasi tutti i sindacati irlandesi hanno accettato la massima del "corporativismo competitivo": accontentarsi di una fetta minore della torta per ricevere una torta più grande. Tuttavia, quando la bolla della "Tigre Celtica" è scoppiata e la social partnership è collassata, è divenuto evidente come gli anni della social partnership e di una crescita economica rivelatasi insostenibile avessero creato un movimento sindacale privo della sua capacità di agire in maniera indipendente. Il modello della "Tigre Celtica" può essere perciò compreso in maniera migliore se inserito nel contesto di un'applicazione pragmatica ed efficace dell'agenda neoliberale, nonostante l'inclusione dei patti sociali al suo interno sembri contraddire la teoria neoliberista.   Until very recently, most Irish trade unions resigned themselves to the "competitive corporatist" maxim of: let's accept a smaller share of the cake in order to get a bigger cake. However, when the "Celtic Tiger" bubble burst and social partnership collapsed, it became clear that years of social partnership and speculative economic growth generated a union movement that lost a lot of its capacity to act independently. The "Celtic Tiger" model is therefore best understood in terms of a pragmatic and effective adaptation of the neoliberal agenda, even if the inclusion of social pacts seems to be contradicting neoliberal theory.
  • Publication
    The European Union. A Significant Player in Labour Policymaking
    Grasping the European Union’s (EU) increasingly important role in labour policymaking across member states is not an easy task. It is not enough to untangle the complex set of EU institutions, laws, and policies in the field. It is equally important to consider the impact of the European integration process on the balance of power between capital and labour interests. This chapter thus first presents the relevant actors and the way in which they intervene in EU labour policymaking. Then we outline how the EU influenced labour policymaking from the start of the European integration process. This includes an analysis of its internal market programme and monetary union, which exposed workers and businesses to increased horizontal market integration pressures. We also discuss the much more vertical country-specific policy prescriptions that the EU began issuing annually after the 2008 financial crisis. Finally, we outline the recent Covid-19 pandemic and consequent developments.
  • Publication
    There is little evidence the EU’s post-crisis economic governance regime has moved in a more ‘social’ direction
    (London School of Economics and Political Science, 2020-04-06) ; ;
    Following the 2008 financial crisis, the European Union adopted a new economic governance regime. As Jamie Jordan, Vincenzo Maccarrone and Roland Erne explain, some scholars have argued that this new regime places greater emphasis on social objectives. Drawing on a new study of labour policy interventions in Germany, Ireland, Italy and Romania between 2009 and 2019, they demonstrate that this is not the case, with EU interventions continuing to be shaped by a liberalisation agenda.
  • Publication
    Ireland: recovering after being put off balance by the Great Recession?
    (European Trade Union Institute, 2021) ;
    This chapter describes the features and fortunes of the Irish union movement over the last thirty years, highlighting the issues it faced and the strategic responses it adopted. Whereas the collapse of social partnership agreements and the unilateral imposition of wage cuts after the financial crisis put unions very much on the defensive, it would be wrong to write off the Irish union movement.
  • Publication
    Ireland: life after social partnership
    What conclusions can be drawn from the trajectory of collective bargaining in Ireland over the past 20 years or so? The most important institutional change brought by the recession is undoubtedly the end of social partnership, which had dominated the Irish industrial relations scene since 1987. The picture is now one in which national bipartite agreements take place, but only in the public sector and with significantly less scope than in the past. In addition, the government has shown a willingness to impose unilateral legislation when bipartite agreements have been rejected by a majority of union members. In the unionized private sector, bargaining has been decentralized to the firm level, but until 2017 collective agreements could perhaps be described as a variant of ‘pattern bargaining’, due to the coordinated pay strategy of some of the larger Irish unions. Despite relatively strong economic growth, a return to centralized tripartite bargaining in the form of the social partnership seems unlikely, as the ruling centre-right Fine Gael government has consistently ruled it out, and IBEC have reduced the industrial relations function of their organization. Given the ‘Faustian’ character of social partnership agreements and the potential for increased members’ involvement outside centralized bargaining, even for the unions a return to social partnership may not be the most favourable option. Despite the voluntarist tradition of Irish industrial relations, the role played by state regulation throughout the past fifteen years has been significant. First, several pieces of legislation aimed at increasing individual workers’ rights have been introduced, mostly in response to EU directives. Second, a statutory minimum wage has been enacted and some sectoral wage-setting mechanisms have been reintroduced. Third, the Industrial Relations Act 2015 attempted to address the problem of union recognition, after the Supreme Court’s judgment in 2007 made the previous legislation dealing with the issue ineffective. Finally, the Workplace Relations Act 2015 attempted to simplify the dispute resolution system. These developments suggest a continuation of the shift towards a rights-based system, in which the roles of collective bargaining and collective labour law are reduced in favour of legally binding and individual dispute resolution mechanisms. The most worrying aspect for Irish trade unions is the sharp decline in union density, which had started during the 1990s and continued into the 2000s. Union density remains significantly higher in the public than in the private sector, and is declining in key sectors dominated by MNCs, which are adopting union avoidance practices, although some important manufacturers, such as Apple, are unionized. Other explanations for the fall in unionization include changing attitudes and public opinion toward unions; the lack of an enforceable legal framework for union recognition; the increase in individual employment rights ‘displacing’ the role of unions; and the passive attitude of some trade unions towards recruitment during the years of social partnership. To this should be added structural factors, such as the relatively higher growth of employment in sectors and occupations that are generally associated with lower unionization rates. Since the crisis, and subsequent adjustment, unions have aimed at institutional renewal, setting up organizing departments and increasing workplace action, both in the service and manufacturing sectors. Examples of this include a successful campaign in the cleaning sector to re-establish the sectoral wage agreement, as well as the coordinated bargaining strategy that started in the manufacturing sector, and was then extended to service sectors, such as retail and banking. An important recent development involved Ryanair, where pilots organized through the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association forced the company to pledge to recognize the union thanks to a transnationally coordinated campaign. As this chapter has argued throughout, especially after the end of social partnership, union density matters in the Irish context, as state support for collective bargaining institutions is low. Whether these initiatives will be able to reverse the trend of union density and collective bargaining coverage as it has developed over the past 20 years is the key challenge for Irish trade unions.
  • Publication
    Dalla crisi finanziaria alla pandemia di Covid-19: un lungo Semestre per i diritti dei lavoratori
    In response to the 2008 financial crisis, the EU adopted a new economic governance regime. In response to the Covid pandemic, NEG is set to change again. To understand the EU’s response to the current pandemic crisis, however, we must first understand NEG. This article therefore analyses NEG and its relevance for labour politics. It does so through an in-depth analysis of NEG prescriptions on wage, employment protection and collective bargaining policy in Germany, Italy, Ireland and Romania between 2009 and 2019. In contrast to supporters of the «socialization thesis», our main conclusion is that over the last decade the EU’s interventions in these three industrial relations policy areas continued to be dominated by a liberalization agenda that is commodifying labour, albeit to a different degree across the uneven European political economy. Even so, our contextualised analysis also enables us to detect contradictions that could provide European labour movements with opportunities to pursue countervailing action.
  • Publication
    Towards a Socialisation of the EU’s New Economic Governance Regime? EU labour policy interventions in Germany, Italy, Ireland and Romania (2009-2019)
    In response to the last recession, the European Union (EU) adopted a new economic governance regime (NEG). An influential stream of EU social policy literature argues that there has been more emphasis on social objectives in the NEG regime in more recent years. This article shows that this is not the case. It does so through an in-depth analysis of NEG prescriptions in wage, employment protection and collective bargaining policy in Germany, Italy, Ireland and Romania between 2009 and 2019. Our main conclusion is that the EU’s interventions in these three industrial relations policy areas continue to be dominated by a liberalisation agenda that is commodifying labour, albeit to a different degree across the uneven but nonetheless integrated European political economy. This finding is important, as countervailing transnational trade union is the more likely, the more there is a common threat. Even so, our contextualised analysis also enables us to detect contradictions that could provide European labour movements opportunities to pursue countervailing action.
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