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What’s Next for Global Labour : Power Dynamics and Industrial Relations Systems in a Hyperglobalized World

A Turbulent Time for Labour Globally

The dismantling of long established collective bargaining arrangements is without precedent and collective bargaining coverage has shrunk across the advanced industrial world to levels not seen since the fifties. Everywhere, fewer workers are bargaining collectively, an institution that once gave workers new power and status (ILO, 2010). Nowadays in France, the UK and the US, private sector union membership has fallen to record lows representing less than ten per cent of the workforce. For Canada, the equivalent number is about fifteen per cent which is trending downwards more slowly than in the US where contracting out and de-industrialization have hollowed out its collective bargaining system leaving it much weakened. In OECD countries union density levels have dropped from a high of sixty per cent of the work force in the 80s to just around thirty per cent (OECD, 2011).The shrinkage, contraction and retreat of labour at the negotiating table appears to be structural and long term with large scale consequences for governments, employees and the employers who have profited from the pro-market environment. Once thought to be off limits, the EU’s prized social market has begun to lose ground and state workers’ public pensions, previously declared off the table, now are threatened by the global fiscal crisis (Standing, 2012).

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