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Title: Union strategies in the era of globalisation: case studies from Chile's large-scale copper mining sector (1982-2009)
Authors: Duran-Palma, Fernando
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: © Fernando Durán-Palma
Abstract: Trade unions, workers’ collective organisations, are facing tough times almost everywhere. Research on union strategies of revitalisation has largely focused on advanced industrialised countries thereby overlooking potentially interesting developments elsewhere. This thesis aims at contributing to fill this gap by widening the breath of empirical research and bringing in evidence from Chile’s large-scale copper mining sector. Chile and its copper sector are often heralded as prominent examples of the benefits globalisation can bring to developing countries but much less publicised has been the extent to which neoliberal policy has negatively affected workers and their organisations. The purpose of this thesis is to understand these challenges and to address the issues of in what ways, why, and how far workers and trade unions have effectively confronted their changing environments. More specifically, the thesis aims at analysing and explaining similarities and differences in the emergence, form, and outcomes of union strategy. The research is based on a comparative multi case study of nine union organisations and draws on semi-structured interviews with union leaders, senior managers, state officials, academics, and elite interviewees. This work employs a preliminary framework of analysis that conceives of union strategy as multi-dimensional and aims at explaining its changing nature by elaborating on Frege and Kelly’s (2003) social movement model of union strategic choice, thereby integrating structural determinants with purposeful agency. The thesis shows that since the early 1980s Chile’s labour regulatory regimes have been redesigned to subordinate groups’ disadvantage, severely impacting workers and unions structure of opportunity. It distinguishes three groups. (1) Unions of core workers in union-accepting regimes have stabilised their situation by engaging in different forms of union-management co-operation and membership de-mobilisation. (2) Unions of core workers in anti-union regimes have developed successful organising campaigns and union-building strategies, transforming their original ‘unionfree’ status into a heavily unionised one. (3) Unions of contract workers in harsh anti-union regimes have developed militant ‘direct action’ strategies, becoming prominent nation-wide organisations. At its most general, the thesis argues that meaningful union strategic choice is possible, even in the most difficult of conditions, thereby contradicting claims that unions have become powerless, ineffective, and unnecessary organisations in the era of ‘globalisation’. It acknowledges the relevance of different strategic paths to union effectiveness but suggests that broadly defined militant types of unionism may be better placed to promote union revitalisation. It suggests that structural determinants are insufficient in explaining the form and outcomes of union choices, and that renewed attention must be paid to the social processes of collective action, in particular to the dynamics of micromobilisation.
Description: A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/9400
Appears in Collections:PhD Theses (Business School)

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