What are the Main Impacts of Internet and Information and Communication Technology on Unions and Trade Unionism? An Exploratory Research in Europe and North America

What are the Main Impacts of Internet and Information and Communication Technology on Unions and Trade Unionism? An Exploratory Research in Europe and North America

Valéry Michaux (Reims Management School, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-304-3.ch022
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In a second step, this research shows that ICT poses threats but also offers opportunities for unions and trade unionism. The tensions between opportunities and threats led to the identification of four main types of challenges posed by ICT for unions in the industrialized world today.
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Methodology And Theoretical Framework: The Construction Of An Analytical Grid Allowing International And Cross Continental Comparisons On The Theme Of Unions

A qualitative exploratory approach has been chosen to tackle this problem. Indeed, there are few studies on the impact of ICT on unions and trade unionism. Canadian and American articles are the most numerous on the subject, but their number remains relatively limited. They are still rare in Europe. Moreover these different approaches reveal several analysis angles. Some articles focus more particularly on the difficulties to supervise the use employees and unions make of ICT whereas others focus more on the impact of ICT on the evolution of trade unionism and union practices. In the face of such heterogeneity, several stages of thematic analysis were necessary to identify major international trends. First of all, an analysis of articles devoted to ICT in the trade press and trade union press between 1999 and January 2005 and an analysis of trade union websites helped to highlight a number of observations in the French context. The main themes identified were then compared with the themes and thinking stemming from European research studies (mainly British and Swedish). Thirdly the main trends identified in Europe were compared with the themes and thinking stemming from research work carried out in North America. This threefold exploratory, documentary analysis led to the construction of a reading grid. Indeed, ICT having had many significant impacts on unions and trade unionism, it was necessary, in order to bring out the threats and opportunities it represented, to build a two-dimensional grid that would make international comparisons possible.

An object/subject dimension (c.f. Figure 1). Indeed, some challenges put ICT forward as a vector of union transformation. In this case, the union is an object of transformation. Other challenges put ICT forward as an object of negotiation for unions. In this second case, the union is no longer an object of transformation but an actor.

Figure 1.

First dimension of analysis


Key Terms in this Chapter

New Forms of Internal Democracy: Participation and involvement of trade-union’s members in general policy decisions of unionists.

Internal Codes of Practices About the Use of Internet in Organizations: The objective of employers is to avoid and protect themselves against excessive, abusive, inappropriate or illegal use of the net by employees.

New Forms of Work: The way ICT and Internet impacts work.

Means of Expression, Action, and Pressure: The way Internet and ICT becomes means of expression (communication), action (defend of interests) and a new mean to develop and maintain the pressure on employers.

Legal Framework Evolution: The way the legal framework is evaluating to meet the challenges pose by ICT for trade-union.

Evolution of Industrial Relations: Evolution of the relations between the management of an industrial enterprise and its employee.

Trade-Unionism Practices Evolution: The way ICT and Internet impacts trade-unionism.

New Forms of Protest: Resurgence of autonomous and corporatist trends against the global practices of traditional federations which favours the emergence of new forms of direct protest by employees in the absence of traditional unions.

International Coordination Capacity: The capacity of Internet and the ICT to allow large international multi-stakeholders action.

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