Workplace equality in Europe: Trade unions’ role

Paraskevopoulou, Anna (2017) Workplace equality in Europe: Trade unions’ role. In: 10th International Critical Management Studies Conference, Edge Hill University, Liverpool, UK.

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Despite falling membership, trade unions remain the largest civil society organisations in Europe and over the last two decades have developed policies to tackle discrimination and prejudice, and to promote equality and inclusion in the workplace and wider society. Yet research suggests that only a small number of Europe’s citizens consider trade unions as playing a key role in combating discrimination (Eurobarometer 2007). Drawing on findings from a pan-European mapping study that was conducted between 2009 and 2010 - a period that also saw the introduction of the Racial Equality and Employment Equality Directives - this paper discusses this paradox. The focus is on the perceived gap between trade union policies and public perceptions. The original study was funded by the European Commission and involved 34 European countries. In each country experts conducted between eight and ten interviews with senior trade union officials and representatives of NGOs in order to explore the exchange of knowledge and good practice. In total, more than 250 interviews were conducted. The main aim of the research was to map trade union anti-discrimination initiatives; 
to classify these initiatives into two categories – significant or innovative; 
and to draw upon good practices, through case studies. The paper consists of two sections. The first reflects on trade union initiatives and polices and what was their practical impact, especially under the pressures of the economic crisis that began in 2008. After exploring the theoretical approaches and the relevance of legislation, the paper discusses the
broader role of trade unions in promoting equality and inclusion. It will argue that the existing legislation has been insufficient to eliminate discrimination and therefore it is important to explore the role of trade unions in this area of work. The mapping research has shown that trade unions are not neutral in fighting discrimination and when committed in promoting equality and inclusion they can make a difference. The second section of the paper focuses on the following core argument: that collaborations bring their own positive contributions to the promotion of equality and inclusion. The paper will identify and discuss the factors that promote collaborations, arguing that bringing organisations together can be beneficial. As the existing data has shown, when trade unions work with or alongside NGOs, policies can be successful. Drawing on Larsson’s
(2012) concept of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ issues, the paper argues that although trade unions can be effective in promoting ‘soft’ issues, ‘hard’ issues require the support of other bodies such as NGOs or European institutions in order to be achieve change.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: Equality and Diversity, Trade Unions
Faculty: ARCHIVED Lord Ashcroft International Business School (until September 2018)
Depositing User: Dr Anna Paraskevopoulou
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2018 14:02
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 16:12

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