Cultural Obstacles to Transnational Trade Union Cooperation in Europe

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - G466 (University of Glasgow)
Bengt Larsson , Dept of Sociology and Work Science/CERGU, University of Gothenburg
The transnationalization of industrial relations in the EU pushes trade unions to strengthen their transnational relations and coordination both vertically and horizontally. Even though there is much research on such cooperation and coordination there is a lack of studies explicitly analysing the role of culture and what obstacles cultural differences create. This paper does that by supplementing the regular theoretical approaches of industrial relations institutions with a sociological variant of neo-institutionalism emphasising the importance not only of political-normative but also cultural-cognitive aspects of institutions. Empirically the paper is based on a survey answered by 250 trade unions in Europe in addition to an interview study with 40 trade unionists with long experience from European cooperation. The quantitative analysis shows that the most important obstacles to European trade union cooperation are factors such as a lack of economic resources, priorities, and existing divergences in national industrial relations institutions. Even so, also cultural factors such as a lack of langue skills, differences in culture and traditions, and divergences in religious and political ideas are seen as quite important obstacles to trade union cooperation by the trade unions themselves. These results are elaborated more in detail in the qualitative analysis of the interviews, showing what kind of problems that arise in the cooperative efforts because of linguistic, cultural-cognitive and political-normative divergences, and what consequences this brings for the transnationalization of trade union coordination and cooperation.

  • CES Larsson Cultural Obstacles to Transnational Trade Union Cooperation in Europe.pdf (511.8 kB)