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Trade unions and new member state workers in Germany and the UK

Zahn, Rebecca (2011) Trade unions and new member state workers in Germany and the UK. International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations, 27 (2). pp. 139-164. ISSN 0952-617X

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Abstract

This article examines and compares German and British trade union responses to increased migration following the recent European enlargements. In terms of labour law, a majority of the ten Central and Eastern European countries which acceded in 2004 and 2007 combine weak domestic labour protection systems with a high proportion of workers and enterprises keen to take advantage of their free movement rights under the European Treaty. This has created a climate of fear amongst workers and trade unions in old Member States that their economic and social position is being threatened by those workers and enterprises who may avail themselves of their rights under the Treaty in order to engage in ‘social dumping’. This article examines two case studies to explore how trade unions have responded to increased migration following the enlargements. Increased migration has created a number of problems for trade unions. The findings of the case studies are used to undertake a contextualised comparison of trade union behaviour in responding to the changing regulatory and opportunity structures which present themselves following the enlargements. The article concludes by elaborating a number of recommendations based on the analysis.