Tiago Manuel Matos – A Pyrric Victory? A case of national unions and immigrant workers returned.
The project looks at the so-called COOP case in Norway; a case where posted workers, employed through various sub-contractors, became involved in a struggle against social dumping. The struggle involved locally organized migrant workers (primarily from Spain and Eastern Europe), forming solidarity bonds with onsite Norwegian workers and union representatives, on the one side and the owners (COOP), contractors (GSE) and various subcontractors on the other. Besides wage questions, the work was done in gross violation of the Norwegian Working Environment Act. The negotiations that ensued led COOP to assume joint liability for its contractor and subcontractors, paying the Spanish plumbers the differential of their wage and the Norwegian standard wage. However, the payment was only given to the plumbers involved. Being organized in a different sector, the electricians did not receive anything besides a courteous nod of acknowledgment from management who admitted to the accusations of low wages and poor working conditions. Furthermore, when the Spanish plumbers returned to Spain, all but one of the organized workers were terminated with severance payments – the last was fired with no benefits. By then, COOP pushed its responsibilities down the contractor ladder and out of the country, leaving the local unions short of an adequate response.
This project addresses some of the challenges met by nationally based unions when 1) organizing immigrant workers and 2) when immigrant workers return to their country of origin and finally 3) what led to the success of one union and not for the other?