European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Trade union revitalisation

Trade union density is declining throughout much of Europe. An increasing proportion of the labour force has never been a trade union member and substantial segments of the work force are currently unorganised. Therefore, trade unions are less representative of the European labour force now than at any other time since 1950. Other indicators for gauging unions’ influence and power also point to a general weakening of their economic, political and societal position and role. And yet, despite the extraordinarily difficult current context, labour history and recent trade union initiatives show that trade unions do have room for manoeuvre.

The ETUI’s research on trade union revitalisation focus particularly on membership, as one of the many dimensions of trade union revitalisation. To this end, the research studies:

  • Organising specific workforce groups such as young workers, ‘gig workers’ and other precarious or non-standard workers;
  • Strategies for membership recruitment and retention and the transferability of the ‘organising model’ across Europe;
  • Trends in industrial disputes in Europe since the 1990s, with a special focus on the impact of the recent Great Recession on strike activity.

The ETUI also offers several training courses to trade union organisers across Europe, focussing on recruitment methods and trade union revitalisation in general through the exchange of experiences or best practices. In this way, the ETUI seeks to raise awareness of different aspects of union revitalisation, which in turn can counter the downturn in trade union membership rates evident in many sectors and countries.

Educational seminars for young trade union leaders are also held to develop participants’ capacity to work in a multicultural environment and to integrate both European and national perspectives into day-to-day trade union work. These courses also facilitate better communication on a wide range of trade union topics and help in the analysis of complex situations and in the design of more effective trade union strategies. The ETUI also engages in strategic corporate research, it investigates the possibility of developing coordinated organising initiatives within specific companies, across several countries. It also supervises publications on the historical development of trade union organisations at the European level.

Selection of publications

Young workers, ‘gig workers’ and other precarious and non-standard workers

Membership recruitment and retention and the ‘organising model’

 Union revitalisation (general) and trade union history

 Trends in industrial disputes

Social Media and trade unions

More information by country on strike laws and strike actions can be found in our Reforms Watch and the European strike map.