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11 June 2015

Research institutes linked to trade unions increase their cooperation

This year’s annual gathering of the trade-union-related research institutes (TURI) network took place on 1 and 2 June in Amsterdam and was hosted by its Dutch members The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS) and The Scientific Bureau for the trade union movement 'De Burcht’.

During the first morning of the conference the participants were able to enrich their knowledge of industrial relations and social dialogue in the Netherlands and participated in a debate on the challenges facing trade unions in the Netherlands and Europe. Although the so called ‘Polder model’ achieved strong employment growth up to the year 2000, this was mainly due to female labour market participation concentrated in part-time jobs. The trade unions are faced with declining membership and, at the same time, difficult socio-economic realities. One important challenge in this respect is whether they will succeed in reclaiming the initiative and leaving their mark on future socio-economic policies and labour market development in the Netherlands.

Bernadette Ségol, the ETUC General Secretary, also present at this gathering, spoke about the current debates in the ETUC in the run-up to the Congress in the autumn. She stressed that in these difficult times for trade unions in Europe, it is crucial to preserve the unity of the organisation and to remain a reliable and stable partner in the dialogue with the EU institutions.

The afternoon sessions were focused on issues such as inequality and trade union organising strategies. Wiemer Salverda, Professor of Labour Market and Inequality at the Amsterdam Centre for Inequality Studies, introduced the topic of inequality, arguing that below the surface of the GINI coefficient there are huge differences in poverty levels between, on the one hand, low-wage earners in single households and, on the other hand, low-wage earners in multi-earner households, making it very hard to find a mechanism to reduce income inequality. The inequalities in Bulgaria and Lithuania which were subsequently presented by TURI members made it clear that the socio-economic realities in the Central and Eastern EU countries are much worse than in Southern Europe but are insufficiently reported.

This year external speakers have been invited to feed the discussions with some new insights based on their current academic research. Melanie Simms from the University of Leicester spoke about the tensions in the way organizing has developed in the UK and its effectiveness, while Hajo Horst from the University of Osnabrück showed how IG Metal has reoriented its representation strategy towards young people as a consequence of their changing pathways to the labour market.

The morning of the second day was devoted to alternatives to the economic and social policies put forward by the unions in different countries. Andrew Watt from IMK presented the 3rd independent Annual Growth Survey demonstrating that austerity is blocking the recovery in Europe, bringing about high long-term and youth unemployment, income inequality, regional divergences and deflation. The gloomy picture was completed by Thorsten Schulten from WSI and Torsten Müller from the ETUI who showed some of the results of the second edition of one of the most successful TURI collaborations – the CAWIE project – dealing with collectively agreed wages in Europe. Fourteen TURI members who are taking part in this project called for a reconstruction of wage-setting institutions in Europe including a European minimum wage policy. After this, the new Director of the Greek Institute INE-GSEE Giorgos Argitis presented his view on the Greek socio-economic situation and explained the alternative policies which his Institute has put forward.

At the end of the conference, the network members exchanged information on their current research projects and events, and confirmed their satisfaction with the cooperation possibilities provided by the TURI network.

Find here the agenda of the conference and download the presentations.

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