European labour movements in crisis

From indecision to indifference

By Thomas Prosser

European labour movements in crisis


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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3664-0
  • Pages: 208
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: December 2018
  • BIC Category: European Politics, Trade unions, EU (European Union), POLITICAL SCIENCE / Labor & Industrial Relations, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Comparative Politics, POLITICAL SCIENCE / World / European, Employment & Labour Law, Labour Economics, Europe, Society & social sciences / Comparative politics


In this book, Prosser argues that labour movements respond to European integration in a manner which instigates competition between national labour markets. It bases its hypothesis on analysis of four countries - Germany, Spain, France and Poland - and two processes: the collective bargaining practices of trade unions in the first decade of the Eurozone and the response of trade unions and social-democratic parties to austerity in Southern Europe. In the first process, although unions did not intentionally compete, there was a drift towards zero-sum outcomes which benefited national workforces in stronger structural positions. In the second process, during which a crisis resulting from the earlier actions of labour occurred, lack of solidarity reinforced effects of competition.


'In this important book, Thomas Prosser examines how national trade unions shape competitive dynamics within and beyond the Eurozone. Rather than cooperating with their European counterparts, trade union movements adopt national perspectives, thus contributing to zero-sum forms of competition between different member states. Based on extensive field work in four European Union member states, the book shows convincingly how these processes contribute to a dualization on a European scale, which could ultimately bring the Eurozone to the brink of collapse.'

Patrick Emmenegger, Professor of Comparative Political Economy and Public Policy at the University of St. Gallen

'Trade unions are among the most enthusiastic supporters of European integration, and traditionally espouse doctrines of solidarity and cooperation. In practice however they often find themselves tied to national interests that send them in an opposite direction. Thomas Prosser here outlines and, more important, explains how and why this happens. He follows the behaviour of unions in Germany, France, Spain and Poland during Europe's recent and on-going crises. Although the story is a depressing one for supporters of Europe and organised labour, his approach enables him to demonstrate how things could be different. Prosser's unflinching realism combined with a strong theoretical base means that he avoids both naive optimism and irredeemable pessimism.'

Colin Crouch, Professor Emeritus, Warwick Business School, and External Scientific Member, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne

'Thomas Prosser's book stands out for the originality and timeliness of its approach. Rather than presenting one more top-down institutional description of European employment relations models, it discusses them from the bottom-up perspective of their operation on extremely topical issues such as the Euro-crisis and labour market dualisation between insiders and outsiders. Such an approach, supported by theoretical sophistication and robust in-depth research in a number of European countries, provides a new, complex picture of current centrifugal dynamics in European societies, as well as strong evidence that industrial relations do matter today - for the better or worse.'
Guglielmo Meardi, Professor of Industrial Relations and Director of the Industrial Relations research Unit, University of Warwick



Part I: Setting up the question
1 European labour movements in crisis
2 How do labour movements respond to European integration? Surveying the field
3 Conceptualizing European labour movements in crisis

Part II: Country studies
4 Germany: Accidental neomercantilism, questionable solidarity?
5 Spain: Going under
6 France: Au milieu
7 Poland: Splendid isolation?

Part III: Answering the question
8 Insiders and outsiders on a European scale
9 How do labour movements respond to European integration?
10 Intergovernmentalism, disintegration and the importance of European unity
Appendix 1: List of semi-structured research interviewees


Thomas Prosser is a Reader in European social policy at Cardiff University

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