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Labour and Globalisation: Results and Prospects

Edited by Ronaldo Munck
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
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    Labour and Globalisation
    Book Description:

    Globalisation is transforming the world in ways that we are only just beginning to understand. It is often assumed that social movements, such as that of labour, will simply be overwhelmed by these changes. This book carries out a wide-ranging examination of theoretical and practical dimensions of globalisation and the responses of the labour movement to the challenges it poses. Contributors explore the trend towards the globalisation of labour, the influences of globalisation at the sub-global spatial level, and the effects of globalisation in a social dimension. In different ways, from different angles and taking up different positions, all the chapters in Labour and Globalisation can be seen as contributions to the development of a labour-based challenge to the ravages of globalisation. They are, on the whole, neither optimistic nor pessimistic but seek out possibilities as well as establishing limits to labour transnationalism in the era of globalisation.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-343-1
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Foreword: (pp. viii-xi)
    Denis MacShane

    This book is being published at a key moment in trade union history. For the first time there are serious questions being raised about the long-term survival of trade unionism. As capital has gone global, the inability of trade unions to follow suit is now a major challenge for those who believe that democratic trade unionism represents a key building block in any decent society. Will history record trade unions as a form of social organisation that arrived with the twentieth century and faded in the twenty-first? The rhetoric of internationalism has always been part of the trade union narrative...

  5. Notes on the Contributors (pp. xii-xiv)
  6. List of Abbreviations (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. Introduction: Globalisation and Labour Transnationalism (pp. 1-16)
    Ronaldo Munck

    Globalisation is transforming the world in ways that we are only just beginning to understand. It is often assumed that social movements, such as that of labour, will simply be overwhelmed by these changes. Thus, in his influential three-volume study of the new globalised ‘information capitalism’, Manuel Castells, more or less in passing, notes that ‘the labour movement seems to be historically superseded’ (Castells, 1997: 360). The contributions to this volume point to this conclusion as at best premature and possibly also misguided. This introductory chapter sets the scene by critically examining and deconstructing the globalisation discourse(s). It then goes...

  8. Part I: Global Dimensions
    • 1. An Emerging Agenda for Trade Unions? (pp. 19-33)
      Richard Hyman

      ‘Trade unions have always had two faces, sword of justice and vested interest’ (Flanders, 1970: 15). The balance between these two features can change over time, however. It seems clear that in many countries, unions have lately come to be widely perceived as conservative institutions, primarily concerned to defend the relative advantages of a minority of the working population. One of the challenges which confront trade unionism in the twenty-first century is therefore to revive, and to redefine, the role as sword of justice.

      Many union leaders and activists around the world are indeed well aware of this challenge, and...

    • 2. The ICFTU and the World Economy: A Historical Perspective (pp. 34-51)
      Rebecca Gumbrell-McCormick

      Just as globalisation, as it is now called, is a far from recent phenomenon, so the international trade union movement, which began to organise in the last decades of the nineteenth century, has always been concerned about the growth of the international economy and its effect on workers and their organisations around the world. The past of the international labour movement is only now being recorded as more materials become available, so the continuity as well as the changes in the labour movement’s approach to the problems of the international economy are only now becoming familiar to the trade unionists...

    • 3. Globalisation, Imperialism and the Labour Standards Debate (pp. 52-70)
      Robert O’Brien

      The issue of international labour standards poses a dilemma for groups working nationally and internationally for increased equality and fairness in the workplace. Many groups agree that improved working conditions should be a goal, but disagree about what can or should be done on the international stage. Recent debate has centred around whether core labour standards should be linked to trade under the World Trade Organization (WTO). However, there has also been concern about the unilateral action of developed states to enforce labour standards and the activity of consumer and other NGOs around codes of conduct and publicity campaigns. This...

    • 4. Towards Global Networked Unions (pp. 71-82)
      Eric Lee

      Back in 1847, inThe Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels proposed the novel idea that the actual victories that workers were occasionally winning in their struggles with employers were unimportant when compared to the main thing. And the main thing was building up contacts between workers, ending their isolation one from the other, creating something larger and more enduring than the small local trade unions then coming into being. The key, wrote Marx, was the new communications technology then being deployed by capitalism. This idea has persisted largely unchallenged on the left and in labour movements ever since....

  9. Part II: Spatial Dimensions
    • 5. Re-Scaling Trade Union Organisation: Lessons from the European Front Line (pp. 85-104)
      Jane Wills

      The dynamism of capitalism has always brought new challenges to working people and it is now clear that economic globalisation (among other things) is undermining existing forms of trade union organisation. As Waterman suggests, the structures, objectives and methods of twentieth-century trade union organisation are inadequate to protect workers’ interests today. In what Bauman (1998) calls ‘The Great War of Independence from Space’, some sections of capital have been liberated by geographical mobility, leaving workers weakened and stranded in place. Indeed, it is suggested that the mobility of capital has also accentuated the political divisions between workers, fragmenting solidarity between...

    • 6. Australia and Beyond: Targeting Rio Tinto (pp. 105-127)
      James Goodman

      Corporate globalism creates new imperatives for labour and other movements. The strengthening of transnational sources of corporate power, hand in glove with strengthened inter-state regulations to promote corporate interests, intensifies rates of accumulation across all sectors. Corporations have exploited the relative mobility of capital to put progressive governments and nationally organised labour movements onto the defensive. The emergence of new ‘exit options’, as more than one third of private capital goes transnational, greatly enhances corporate power (ILO, 1997; UNCTAD, 1993). There is an intensified search for ‘greenfield’ sites of accumulation, especially in the mining industry (Otto, 1998), threatening non-commodified practices...

    • 7. International Solidarity and Labour in South Africa (pp. 128-148)
      Roger Southall and Andries Bezuidenhout

      Globalisation is associated with the increased reliance on the regulation of economic relations by markets. National governments turn to neo-liberal approaches to macro-economic management, implying privatisation, monetary liberalisation, a reduction in import tariffs, labour market flexibilisation and fiscal discipline. Countries are also becoming more interconnected as trade barriers between them are dismantled. India reduced its average import tariffs from 82 per cent in 1990 to 30 per cent in 1997, Brazil from 25 per cent in 1991 to 12 per cent in 1997, and China from 43 per cent in 1992 to 18 per cent in 1997 (UNDP, 1999: 29)....

    • 8. Labour and NAFTA: Nationalist Reflexes and Transnational Imperatives in North America, 1991–1995 (pp. 149-166)
      John D. French

      The fight against the North American Free Trade Agreement helped to open up a belated public debate, especially among trade unionists, regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the current model of international trade and investment contained in ‘free trade’ agreements such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, NAFTA, and Mercosur. Although such supranational phenomena seem distant, alien, or alienating to most non-specialists, the common people of today’s world cannot afford to ignore the accelerating and largely negative impact that such developments have had on their lives, living standards, and collective and individual rights.

      In the early 1990s, the...

  10. Part III: Social Dimensions
    • 9. Beyond Unions: Labour and Codes of Conduct (pp. 169-180)
      Linda Shaw

      In the early 1990s international labour issues were considered to be the concern primarily of trade unions. On occasion, solidarity actions in support of workers in specific disputes drew on a wider constituency of support. It was in this context, for example, that the small Manchester-based labour rights group, Women Working Worldwide (WWW), worked with unions and other groups in support of Filipino garments workers locked out by the subsidiary of a UK-based garments multinational (Shaw, 1997). The increasingly footloose nature of many companies increasingly undermined the success of solidarity action, as garments production was easily switched to a site...

    • 10. Globalisation and Child Labour: Protection, Liberation or Anti-Capitalism? (pp. 181-205)
      Michael Lavalette and Steve Cunningham

      At the start of the twenty-first century, child labour has once again become a significant social problem motivating trade unions, NGOs and social movement activists to demand improved living conditions for children across the world. Campaigning has become more visible over the last twenty years. Trade unions have argued for various ‘social clauses’ to be included in trade agreements to guarantee various worker rights and a ‘zero tolerance’ of child labour. NGOs have increasingly argued for a child’s right to work in combination with improved educational options for young people in developing economies. More recently child labour control has become...

    • 11. Globalisation, Trade Unionism and Solidarity: Further Reflections on the Liverpool Dock Lockout (pp. 206-226)
      Jane Kennedy and Michael Lavalette

      On 25 September 1995, 20 workers employed by the Torside stevedoring company in Liverpool were instructed to work overtime under conditions which broke existing contractual arrangements held between Torside Ltd, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC) and the Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU). In response the men decided, at the end of their normal shift, to return to the canteen and attempt to contact their shop steward. The first five men to reach the canteen were met by the managing director of Torside, who sacked them for leaving the ship. When the others arrived they were told to...

    • 12 Globalisation and Trade Union Strategy: Evidence from the International Civil Aviation Industry (pp. 227-244)
      Paul Blyton, Miguel Martínez Lucio, John McGurk and Peter Turnbull

      For trade unions, the central problematic of globalisation is widely seen to be a growing disparity between the mobility of capital and that of labour. The ability of capital to operate on a transnational basis is judged to provide employers with a lever by which they can extract industrial relations concessions from labour (Graham, 1995; Mueller, 1996; Mueller and Purcell, 1992) and thereby pursue a ‘race to the bottom’ in relation to employees’ terms and conditions as international companies seek to cut labour costs (Brecher andCostello, 1994). This greater mobility of capital is seen to contrast with the relatively more...

  11. Index (pp. 245-254)