What is it about?

Until very recently, European employers and political leaders denied the need for any coordination in industrial relations at EU level. In 2011, however, the European Parliament and the Council adopted a new European economic governance regime that makes EU member states' labor policies subject to multilateral surveillance procedures. This paper analyzes this ‘silent revolution’ from above and assesses organized labor's responses to this challenge. It shows that the EU's new governance regime does not follow the classical model of a federal state, but rather the governance structures of multinational corporations that control their local subsidiaries through the use of whipsawing tactics and coercive comparisons. European trade unions' and social movements' difficulties in politicizing European economic governance are thus best explained by the ability of the new supranational EU regime to nationalize social conflicts.

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Why is it important?

Our paper shows that the EU's new governance regime neither follows the classical model of a federal state nor the ordoliberal concept of “a rules based” "Wirtschaftsverfassung" (economic constitution), but rather the governance structures of multinational corporations that control their local subsidiaries through the use of whipsawing tactics, coercive comparisons and ad-hoc interventions.

Perspectives

Our paper is important for trade unions and social movements. It is cautioning them not to nationalize the social conflicts caused by the EU's new economic governance regime. Whereas the regimes' country specific prescriptions try to put national trade unions and social movements into competition with each other, unions and social movements should be aware that they are still facing a supranational EU regime that is informed by an overarching transnational (business friendly) policy script..

Prof Roland Erne
University College Dublin

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This page is a summary of: A supranational regime that nationalizes social conflict: Explaining European trade unions' difficulties in politicizing European economic governance, Labor History, May 2015, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/0023656x.2015.1042777.
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