This paper shall discuss the thesis that the public sector is the sole remaining sector in which trade unions have influence in the employment relationship’ with regard to the practices and outcomes of private and public sector industrial relations in at least four European countries…
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From this research it is clear that the form of industrial relations in countries worldwide is usually influenced by the local social and economic trends. The local political system is also likely to affect the power of employees to support their rights. In most countries, the law directly protects the rights of employees. Still, there are always chances for violation of employees’ rights, in organizations of both the private and the public sector. The role of unions in securing employee rights has been proved to be significant. Unions have the power to intervene in employment conflicts and set the terms under which negotiations between employers and employees will be developed. In such negotiations the role of unions is decisive in promoting the interests of employees. However, it seems that the power of unions to influence employment relations is not standardized. It is generally believed that in public sector, the power of unions in supporting the rights of employees seems to be increased compared to the private sector. The validity of this argument will be checked by reviewing the private and public sector industrial relations in four European countries: UK, France, Germany and Italy. Emphasis is given on the role of unions in influencing employee relations in each of the above countries. Four of the most powerful, in terms of economic growth, European countries have been chosen under the terms that in these countries industrial activities are more developed, compared to other members of the European Union. Therefore, employment disputes would be a common phenomenon, offering an important sample of the union’s power in supporting employees’ rights. The literature published in the specific field seems to support the view that in the private sector the role of unions in intervening in employee disputes should be enhanced. It is not made clear though on which criteria such initiatives would be taken, having in mind the fact that each of these countries has its own legal, political and cultural framework, even if cultural and administrative similarities exist among them, as members of the European Union. 2. Influence of unions in the employment relationship 2.1 The role of unions in private and public sector industrial relations 2.1.1 Industrial relations in UK UK is a highly industrialized country. In the past, the governmental support offered to the unions has been significant. However, through the years, the changes in the country’s political framework have led to the transformation of employee relations. According to Colling and Terry (2010), the political choices of Margaret Thatcher have led to the limitation of the power of unions to intervene in employment disputes not just of the private but also of the public sector. Under the influence of current political trends in Britain, important differences appear between the employee relations of the private sector and those of the public sector. Leisink and Veersma (2007) have emphasized on the importance of political ideas and trends for the development of an effective employee relations framework. Reference is made to the changes in British employment relations framework since 1997, when the Labour Party won the elections (Leisink and Veersma
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