How National Systems of Employment Relations Affect Euroscepticism? Antecedents, Repercussions and the Trade Union Response

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
JWS - Room J15 (J375) (University of Glasgow)
Patrik Nordin , University of Tampere
Danat Valizade , Work and Employment Relations, University of Leeds
A sentiment of disapproval towards the EU has been long present among the member states, but it has escalated dramatically in recent years (McLaren 2007), spurred by the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the EU. Much of the extant debate on Euroscepticism revolves around its political antecedents and determinants of individual perceptions of the EU, while little attention has been paid to the role of national systems of employment relations (Hyman 2005). Conventional power resource theory though predicts that trade unions may exert a considerable effect on individual perceptions of the EU through suppressing wage distribution and relative income and thereby affecting voters’ turnover (Pontusson 2013). 

Especially since the Maastricht Treaty, national trade unions have increasingly started to use a broader European agenda to lobby their interest at the national level (Visser 2004) and embraced a European identity by trying to modify the neoliberal priorities of the EU in favor of the workers. Trade unions’ backing of the EU remains at a considerably high level although their members’ trust in the elite project of European integration has been shaken amid the crisis.

In this paper, we measured Euroscepticism using data from the Eurobarometer and the Data Base on Institutional Characteristics of Trade Unions complemented with semi-structured interviews with trade unions’ officers. Using four case studies: UK, Denmark, Finland and Spain, our study reveals that while on average countries with higher union membership density exhibit a somewhat lower degree of Euroscepticism, the picture across the European countries is not homogeneous.

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