I have just published the article ‘“Workers of the world, unite?” Globalisation and the quest for transnational solidarity’ in the journal Globalizations. In this article, I discuss the structural setting of labour agency at this point in time and evaluate two broad responses by trade unions and social movements, the Decent Work, Decent Life initiative as well as the Labour and Globalisation Network.
As a result of the transnational organisation of production across borders and an increasing informalisation of work, trade unions find it ever more difficult to represent the interests of their members and broader society. This work assesses both the possibilities and obstacles for trade unions to build transnational, intra-, and inter-movement solidarity. The agency of labour is analysed against the background of structural change in the global economy as well as the fundamental dynamics of capitalism. Two main strategies initiated within the World Social Forum spaces are explored: those of Decent Work, Decent Life headed by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and related organisations and focusing on side agreements to free trade treaties, and initiatives by the Labour and Globalisation Network to increase cooperation with social movements.
I conclude that neither of the two initiatives can provide a one-size-fits-all approach in today's complex terrain of struggle. Rather, different industrial sectors require a different strategic and organisational response. While co-operation between different trade unions may work well in transnational production structures, for example, co-operation between trade unions and social movements may be more appropriate for the resistance against public sector restructuring and privatisation (see also
Globalisation and Trade Unions: different challenges and a variety of responses).
Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK
Personal website: http://www.andreasbieler.net
2 July 2012