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Globalization and the possibility of transnational actors: the case of trade unions.

There is a qualitative shift of perspective and a new vigour in movements at the start of the new millennium. The current global economic crisis provides the background for a variety of different potential future developments unfolding in front of our eyes. Understanding these developments requires a deeper analysis of the (historical) trajectory of global capitalism.


The various sub-projects of Globalization and the possibility of transnational actors – the case of trade unions focus on key aspects of these novel transformations and, therefore, will provide a good basis for the understanding of the crisis and potential future developments as a whole.

The project is divided into the following seven subprojects:


The sub-projects are relevant in relation to the following aspects:


1. Selection of key sectors: The focus on construction (Knut Kjeldstadli, Darragh Golden), the health sector (Sabina Stan) and temporary work agencies (Ann Cecilie Bergene) identifies some of those sectors, where current restructuring is felt most. By analysing those sectors, rather than others, it will be easier to get to the underlying dynamics of current restructuring.


2. Collective bargaining used to be the bedrock of trade union power in industrialised countries and here especially in Europe. And yet, it is also the area which has been increasingly under attack and undermined over the last 15 years or so. EU level pressure is only the most recent example of this kind of attack. By analysing developments in the area of collective bargaining and precarious labour (Idar Helle), again, our project is well placed to grasp the fundamental dynamics of current restructuring.


3. Selection of key agents: The focus on the Norwegian building workers’ union’s efforts to recruit migrant workers (Knut Kjeldstadli) and on SIGTUR as well as the Rights to Water alliance (Andreas Bieler) are a selection of progressive, innovative forms of agency, which go beyond the traditional discussion of labour agency. By analysing these agents, rather than others, it will be easier to identify progressive forms of agency within the current setting of global restructuring.


4. Conceptual focus: many case studies have been explored, but there has been much less conceptual work. This is clearly where Roland Erne’s project comes in leading our collective reflections, but all the other sub-projects also include conceptual considerations. The conceptual, theoretical contribution is clearly a key aspect of the overall project.


In short, while the various sub-projects are very different from each other, the way they have been selected on the basis of key common assumptions will ensure that the joint contribution of the overall project will be an innovative understanding of the current crisis at the empirical as well as conceptual level.