012 Political Interchanges Between Unions and Governments: Cooperation and Conflict

Tuesday, June 25, 2013: 9:00 AM-10:45 AM
C0.23 (Oudemanhuispoort)
Interchanges between trade unions and governments amidst the Euro-crisis suggest that tripartitism, especially in E(M)U’s periphery, may be a relic of the past.  Unlike the 1990s, which witnessed a revival in union, employer and government political exchange via the rise of social pacts, recent reforms and austerity measures undertaken within European (Monetary) Union member-states have lacked consultation with unions and have been largely implemented by governments alone.  Unsurprisingly, these unilateral initiatives have been met with widespread resistance from trade unions via public protest and general strikes.  In this panel, we examine the nature of government and union interaction within Europe over the past 30 years, questioning whether recent exchanges between unions and governments are unique to the current crisis or a result of a long-term trend towards unstable union/government relations.  This panel focuses on two types of political interchanges between organized labor and the state, one involving conflict and the other cooperation: popular protest/general strikes and policy exchange.  Lindvall explores contributing factors that lead to radical protests, an interchange which has become increasingly prominent in Western democracies.  His piece outlines how the structure of the electoral system and the strength of trade unions influence the likelihood of these political events.  Kelly, Hamann and Johnston demonstrate that not only have unions within Europe become more successful in staging general strikes against reformist-minded governments in the past 30 years, but also they have managed to use general strikes as a vehicle of electoral pressure by mobilizing popular opposition to government policy.  These studies demonstrate that amidst government and union conflict, unions continue to exert an important role over public perception of governments and, therefore, government electoral success.  Avdagic and Rhodes examine more cooperative interchanges between unions and governments, focusing on pension reform.  Examining the role of union involvement in pension reform according to government type (minority, majority coalition, and single-party majority), the authors find that (minority) governments that are most likely to cooperate with strong unions on pension reform and hence are most likely to witness successful reform longevity.  This analysis suggests that cooperative policy interchange between unions and governments may persist in Europe’s future, as governments under reform pressure realize the advantages of seeking political support from social partners in order to enhance reform success.
James E Cronin
Anke Hassel
Institutions, Civil Society Organizations, and Protest Behavior
Johannes Lindvall, University of Lund, Sweden
The Electoral Consequences of General Strikes in Western Europe
Alison Johnston, Oregon State University; John Kelly, Birkbeck College, University of London; Kerstin Hamann, University of Central Florida
When The Weak Prevail: Minority Governments and Pension Reforms in Western Europe
Sabina Avdagic, University of Sussex; Martin Rhodes, University of Denver
Trade Unions and the Crisis
Gerd Grözinger, Flensburg University; Wenzel Matiaske, HSU
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