chapter  6
16 Pages

Global unions and global capitalism: contest or accommodation? SEYHAN ERDOğDU

The stage of the internationalisation and restructuring of capitalism starting around 1980 can be named globalisation, and neoliberalism has been both the social philosophy and the political strategy of this capital-driven globalisation. The basic reason behind this transformation in the world economy is the crisis that emerged in the mid-1960s due to the intensive post-war capital accumulation and monopolisation in developed economies. The way to overcome the crisis was through the elimination of the obstacles to the free movement of goods, services and capital on a global scale, and downsizing of the public sphere. Since the 1980s, neoliberalism began to dominate the economic policies of governments around the world. As part of this process, trade unions worldwide have witnessed the globalisation of the problems of their existing and potential members. In most countries, the trade unions gradually lost members while their traditional means of struggle at national level, including collective bargaining and strikes, as well as their involvement in domestic politics, became less effective. These processes lent support to the view that solutions to these global problems should also be global. The impact of globalisation on the trade union movement was widely discussed, and trade union policies and programmes began to change in this new environment. One of the elements brought under consideration was the level of union organisation, where it was increasingly argued that global solutions could be found only through the international trade union movement, representing the national trade unions as organisations of the real movement of the working classes. Since the 1990s, the capacity of the international trade union movement to represent trade unions worldwide has increased considerably as a result of new affiliations from the ex-socialist countries and the developing world, as well as through mergers at the international level. With this increased capacity of representation, the international trade union movement is able to play an increasingly significant role creating a global labour movement. While globalisation brings changes in the international trade union movement, the movement in turn can influence the process of globalisation through its social practices. This chapter analyses the policy and actions of the international trade union movement in the process of globalisation. The analysis is based mainly on the examination of

World Congress reports and publications of international trade union organisations between 1980 and 2006, as well as interviews conducted with international trade union leaders.1