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Unions and Migration in the UK: Rights, Strategies and Dilemmas Dr Heather Connolly, DeMontfort University, Professor Miguel Martinez Lucio and Dr Stefania.

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Presentation on theme: "Unions and Migration in the UK: Rights, Strategies and Dilemmas Dr Heather Connolly, DeMontfort University, Professor Miguel Martinez Lucio and Dr Stefania."— Presentation transcript:

1 Unions and Migration in the UK: Rights, Strategies and Dilemmas Dr Heather Connolly, DeMontfort University, Professor Miguel Martinez Lucio and Dr Stefania Marino, University of Manchester IER November 2013

2 Social Inclusion, Unions and Migration: Research Outline 3 year comparative project ( ), funded by the Leverhulme Trust Development of trade union responses in relation to immigration: –How and why they vary between countries –What responses at the European level Comparing: the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK –Qualitative methodology Publications in the Journal of Business Ethics (2011), Urban Studies (2012), Journal of Industrial Relations (2013), European Journal of Industrial Relations (forthcoming, 2014)

3 Employment Relations and Immigration Research on industrial relations aspects of immigration increasing due to: Labour market issues Traditional patterns of migration: problem of segregation and exclusion Disorganisation and deregulation of labour markets New waves of migration: EU enlargement and continuous cycles of migration and mobility New forms of racism and xenophobia Language of vulnerability and vulnerable workers and policy focus on social inclusion and cohesion in terms of the effects of economic and social fragmentation

4 Trade Union Strategies in the UK 1970s-1990s Emergence of anti-Fascist campaigns Tradition of voluntarism and deregulation but socio-legal context supporting equality in various ways since the 1970s The role of unions in seeking legal solutions and innovations The role of autonomous sections and interests within some key unions Internal training and race awareness developments

5 Union responses towards migrant workers 1990s-to the present Organising approach: reaching out to new constituencies Learning agenda: help to reach migrant workers (ESOL etc) Specific community campaigns defending vulnerable workers: London Citizens; Living wage – community dimensions Campaigns against racism and the far right in local communities and role of regional union structures Special policies for BME groups and migrants Self-organising in the 1980s Steady evolution of equality strategies within trade unions Provision of translated documents websites etc In some unions creation of separate branches for migrant workers

6 Outcomes Trade union movement in the UK as elsewhere has had some success in engaging with migrant workers in the workplace through: Organising and Structure e.g. UNISON’s Migrant Worker Participation Project Contribution to a new language of community engagement albeit a flexible one – alliance building in GMB Learning particularly around ESOL training – UCATT Campaigns around forwarding the rights and position of BME and migrant workers within trade unions and in the workplace

7 Challenges to trade union responses The union movement is unable to rely on the state for support in terms of collective rights and regulation. This has meant that unions constantly need to innovate and engage with regards to membership and workforce, but much of the activity is reliant on a particular set of circumstances (a strong union branch, committed union officers or external funding). Problems of level of state funding: reliance on funding streams such as ULF or UMF Challenge of co-ordination across unions and at regional level – the role of activists and networks working in parallel modes

8 Limitations of trade union action The limitations of community and organising approaches: concerns with absence of a clear territorial dimension and community presence. A failure of locally and community based relations and external alliances has meant that such innovation has not always been supported in terms of consistent structures at local level and within civil society. The disconnection with previous forms of BME democratic participation – the position of traditional debates about black worker sections for examples and East European migration Changing political context in terms of the new politics of anti- migration and the increasing xenophobia around national identity

9 Language, terminology and migration Trade unions and the transformation of debate by using the language of ‘vulnerability to stretch the issue of inclusion, to include race ad migration issues in a broader tapestry of work related politics - but also as a ‘safe haven’ for locating a range of challenging issues and sensitivities. Potential for trade unions to be confronted by past dilemmas in relation to migration such as whether they should resist immigration in response to member pressure (see Penninx and Roosblad, 2000) for eg the ‘British Jobs’ debate, aspects of Lindsay Oil Workers Dispute.

10 Mainstreaming and quasi-managerialisation of equality within trade unions The separate representation based on identity may be a way of culturally embed difference and institutionalise race and race relations. Within trade unions this can lead to a de- politicisation of anti-racist struggles (e.g. of specific workers sections becoming an ‘end’ rather than a ‘means to an end’). Our research shows that some black activists feel that the issue of ‘new migrant workers’ has weakened the anti-racism debate which has led to strengthening of resistance to change to more mainstream approach to equality. The development of a ‘project management’ mindset partly linked to the manner of funding and project work unions increasing engage with means that there is a real potential for fragmentation and complexity. Issues around migration may be organised by different departments and there may be a problem of dialogue within unions across projects and internal organisational structures linked to equality, migration, organising, learning, etc.


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