AIAS Lunch Seminar 19 Nov. - Monika Ewa Kaminska & Marta Kahancova

Post-socialist Trade Unions in Healthcare sector – is migration a base for revival strategies?

Monika Ewa Kaminska, University of Amsterdam, AIAS
Marta Kahancova CELSI, CEU


The paper explores whether and how unions in the post-socialist EU member states have responded to the opportunity of improving their situation, offered by the increased emigration from these states to EU-15 after the 2004/2007 enlargements. Migration influences the labour force supply in the sending countries which produces an upward effect on wages. This should facilitate unions’ organizing and strengthen their bargaining position.

Our focus is on unions in the healthcare sector, significantly affected by migration. Based on interviews and secondary sources we offer a comparative analysis of unions’ responses to this opportunity in Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. We assess the impact of union strategies on union legitimacy, membership and union position vis-à-vis employers.

We find that the outcomes are determined by an interplay of unions’ organizational capacities and external factors, especially state strategies. Slovak unions used the migration-triggered changes in the labour market to improve their position within the existing bargaining channels and to obtain wage increases. In the absence of such channels in Poland, Polish unions obtained wage increases through strikes during which the ‘migration argument’ was evoked. Some membership gains followed. The organizational weakness of the Hungarian unions prevented them from seizing opportunities stemming from migration.

The article supplements the existing research in several ways. By investigating unions as actors and examining unions’ strategies, we steer away from the discussion (prevailing in the research) on external (economic and political) factors constraining unions’ actions and negatively impacting on membership levels. Secondly, while most literature presents a rather homogenous picture of unions and their failures across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), we stress the cross-national differences. Thirdly, our focus on the healthcare sector allows us to examine the situation of unions in the under-analyzed public sector in CEE. Finally, the paper examines migration effects in source countries, while most literature focuses on migration impact on host countries.

Day: Thursday 19 November
Time: 12.15 – 13.15 hrs.
Location: AIAS, 3rd floor building M, Plantage Muidergracht 12
Register: Please send us an e-mail before 18 November, 12.00 hrs.
A sandwich will then be provided.

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