The purpose of this blog is to provide analytical commentary on formal and informal labour organisations and their attempts to resist ever more brutal forms of exploitation in today’s neo-liberal, global capitalism.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Trade Union Solidarity and Free Trade: The case of COSATU.

Do trade unions matter in the Twenty-First Century? How are they responding to ongoing processes of neoliberal restructuring? In particular, what obstacles do they face in developing transnational solidarity against the rise of free trade? What is clear is that national labour movements in different parts of the world have, at times, responded differently to the deepening of trade liberalisation in recent years. This is because the immediate impact they face differs depending on their place within the structure of the global economy. In his new academic article ‘The Congress of South African Trade Unions and Free Trade: Obstacles to Transnational Solidarity’, which is part of a special issue on Free Trade and Transnational Labour, Stephen Hurt explores these questions through a study of how the biggest trade union federation in South Africa – the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) – has reacted to both multilateral and bilateral trade liberalisation. 


Thursday, 3 April 2014

Another trade policy is possible! The proposals by the Alternative Trade Mandate.

Trade policy has been one of the great battle grounds for progressive movements around the globe. Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage, as elegant in principle as it can be dangerous in practice, has underpinned the spread of global neo-liberal ideology over the last century. Free Trade is now established as an unquestionable ‘good’ in the world and any attempt to question the wisdom of ever more open borders and ever fewer barriers to the rapid movement of goods and capital is seen in mainstream circles as nothing short of heresy. The few informed voices (such as that of the inestimable Ha Joon Chang) that have been raised to question the idea that ever freer trade is the fast track route to success for developing countries have been simply ignored. In this guest post, Toby Quantrill discusses the Alternative Trade Mandate and its efforts of putting forward proposals for an alternative European trade policy to the neo-liberal ‘free trade’ model, which is currently also dominating the EU.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Renzi’s Reforms, Italian Trade Unions and the EU!

In a previous post in December 2013 (see The Election of Matteo Renzi and the Future of Italian Trade Unions) Darragh Golden discussed the potential for conflict between the newly elected leader of the Partito Democratico, Matteo Renzi and the Italian trade unions. Upon election Renzi stated that he was not interested in immediately ousting the sitting Prime Minister, Enrico Letta; however, that is exactly what he did and in doing so Renzi became Italy’s youngest Prime Minister to date (and the third successive unelected leader!). There is a danger, however, that Renzi might fall on his own sword, so to speak; as having brought pressure to bear on his predecessor precisely because of the slow pace of reforms, Renzi must now deliver. The expectations are high, and in a country which is notorious for political arbitrage and exasperatingly slow, or piecemeal, outcomes, the starkness of the challenge appears immense.  As stated in the previous post, the relationship between Renzi and the unions is ambiguous, and if the rhetorical taunts traded between Renzi and the unions are anything to go by, it is only a question of time before the two parties find themselves at loggerheads. In this guest post, Darragh Golden will assess the reform programme of Renzi and gauge the unions’ reaction thereto. This will be done bearing in mind the broader European context.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Unions across borders

The global wage earning class today may be estimated to 2.5 to 3 billion. Among these 5 to 7.6 per cent are unionized. In a core capitalist like the USA the share has shrunk from 30 per cent in 1960 to 11.8 per cent in 2009, in Germany from 34.7 per cent to 18.6 per cent. Strike activity and support for the historical working class parties have also gone down. In this guest post, Knut Kjeldstadli from the Transnational Labour Project in Oslo reflects on the possibilities of establishing solidarity across borders.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT!

The untimely death of Bob Crow, General Secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) is sad news for the British labour movement. In this blog post, I will reflect on some aspects of his legacy.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

How to explain the Swiss vote against the Free Movement of Workers

On 8 February 2009, almost 60 percent of Swiss voters supported the extension of the bilateral EU-Switzerland agreement on the free movement of workers to workers from Romania and Bulgaria. In this guest post, Roland Erne argues that this clear endorsement of the free movement of Romanian and Bulgarian workers in the Swiss labour market is noteworthy because the Swiss People Party (SVP) at the time conducted an overtly xenophobic campaign against it, depicting Romanian and Bulgarian workers as black ravens that were pecking on a map of Switzerland. Whereas xenophobic inclinations may be a recurrent feature of humanity, xenophobia can hardly explain the sudden shift of Swiss voters against the free movement of all EU workers in the referendum of 9 February 2014; notably after a referendum campaign in which the SVP – for once – avoided the use of xenophobic stereotypes on its major campaign poster.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Labour and transnational action in times of crisis!

With the repercussions of the economic crisis still reverberating through the global system, what are the possibilities of labour movements to form relationships of transnational solidarity in resistance to the exploitative and destructive dynamics of global capitalism? This question was at the heart of the two-day international workshop Labour and transnational action in times of crisis: from case studies to theory, organised by the Transnational Labour project in Oslo on 27 and 28 February 2014. In this post, I will discuss some of the key themes, which emerged from the various presentations and debates.