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The Rise of Finance and the Decline of Organised Labour in the Advanced Capitalist Countries

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The goal of this article is to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the impacts of finance and corporate governance reforms on organised labour since 1980. The argument is made that contemporary institutional and ‘Varieties of Capitalism’ as well as ‘Varieties of Unionism’ perspectives on labour market reform have overstated the power of states, institutions and organised interests in deflecting global economic pressures. Drawing on a range of recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) statistics and qualitative studies, it is claimed that current developments in finance and corporate governance mark a fundamental break with post-war developments. Capital has reasserted its power over organised labour and labour markets not only in the US and UK, but throughout Western Europe as well. In assessing how far this reversal has gone, the article focuses on three key political economic changes: i) the rise in finance and adoption of corporate ‘shareholder’ systems; ii) the expansion of mergers and acquisitions and their negative effects on unionisation and manufacturing jobs; and iii) the effects of financial pressures and corporate reform on collective bargaining and wages. This is the first study to report on comparative changes and qualitative reforms to both finance and labour in 13 OECD countries between 1980 and 2005.
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Keywords: Finance; corporate governance; labour market; labour unions

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept of Political Science, Laurentian University, Canada

Publication date: February 1, 2011

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