European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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27 September 2012

Transnationalisation of industry needs new union strategies

Trade unions will need to develop new multi-level and international strategies to respond to the challenges posed by the expansion of multinational companies and the growing importance of global value chains, according to Canadian Professor Gregor Murray.

Professor Murray is holder of the Canada Research Chair on Globalisation and Work in the School of Industrial Relations at the University of Montréal. He was a guest speaker at the ETUI’s Monthly Forum on 20 September 2012.

Murray started his presentation by pointing out that the transnationalisation of industry has seriously affected the collective bargaining position of trade unions. Information and power asymmetries as a result of this transnationalisation have undercut possibilities for unions to negotiate strongly on wages and working conditions in these international companies. Traditional mechanisms of labour relations and social dialogue are no longer adequate to deal with these developments.

According to Professor Murray, trade unions will need to move beyond traditional labour management and to develop strategies that include local communities which have legitimate concerns about economic development and social justice in their areas. Connections with other stakeholders such as environmental groups or citizens’ action groups can also help trade unions set up multi-level campaigns which can be used to make multinational corporations “behave” and look at creating value for society. Strategies using “brand awareness”, access to resources (e.g. training and education) and financial vulnerabilities can be helpful for these multi-level and multi-actor campaigns.

Using examples from Canadian campaigns, Murray demonstrated that these new approaches have the potential to strengthen trade union renewal.

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