Dissertation Abstracts

Striking for Greece? The Logic of Transnational Cooperation of Trade Union Protests in the European Union

Author: Hofmann, Julia , julia.hofmann@jku.at
Department: Department of Economic and Organisational Sociology
University: Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria
Supervisor: Univ.Prof. Susanne Pernicka
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: German

Keywords: trade unions , Europe/EU , protests , transnational coordination
Areas of Research: Labor Movements , Political Sociology , Social Classes and Social Movements


The European Union is at present confronted with one of the biggest economic crisises in history. The hegemonic form of crisis management deepens the asymmetry of European integration (Scharpf 2010); neoliberal conceptions of economy and society are reinforced at the national and at the European level (Crouch 2011). The implemented austerity programs had a big impact on labour markets, social policies and work relations in a lot of European countries (Busch et al. 2012). This labour-hostile environment has further increased the pressure on trade unions. Trade unions have responded to these developments by organising and mobilising resistance on a transnational level, e.g. the European Days of Action. For the first time in history, trade unions of four different countries (Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy) mobilized simultaneous strikes on the 14th of November 2012. Over 40 unions from 21 other countries showed their solidarity with decentralised protest actions at the same time (Larsson 2013). This form of cross-border coordinated trade union action may be astonishing at first sight – especially given the standard assumption that transnational union action faces chronic obstacles posed by institutional, cultural and language differences (Martin and Ross 2001).

In my PhD project, I look at the history of the European Action Days and identify patterns concerning the participation rates of trade unions: Which unions did/did not participate in the European Days of Action and why? What constrains, but also: what opportunities have trade unions encountered in their attempts to organise and participate in the Action Days?

The empirical material of the PhD research is gathered via online content-analysis and interviews with trade union activists from four different European countries (Austria, Finland, Spain and Bulgaria). Initial results indicate a big participation gap between unions from different member states: The participation rate is especially low in Eastern European countries. Moreover union types and power resources seem to play an important role in the decision for participating in cross-border trade union action.

Busch, Klaus; Hermann, Christoph; Hinrichs, Karl; Schulten, Thorsten (2012): Eurokrise, Austeritätspolitik und das Europäische Sozialmodell. Wie die Krisenpolitik in Südeuropa die soziale Dimension der EU bedroht. In: FES Working Paper „Internationale Politikanalyse, 1-37.
Crouch, Colin (2011): The Strange Non-death of Neo-liberalism. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.
Larsson, Bengt (2013): Transnational trade union action in Europe. The significance of national and sectoral industrial relations. In: European Societies, 1-23.
Martin, Andrew; Ross, George (2001) ‘Trade Union Organizing at the European Level: The Dilemma of Borrowed Resources’. In: Doug Imig; Sidney Tarrow (Hrsg): Contentious Europeans. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 53-76.
Scharpf, Fritz W. (2010): The asymmetry of European integration, or why the EU cannot be a ‘social market economy'. In: Socio-Economic Review 8, 211–250.