Social pacts and changing systems of interest intermediation in Europe

Authored by: Kerstin Hamann , John Kelly

Routledge Handbook of European Politics

Print publication date:  January  2015
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415626750
eBook ISBN: 9781315755830
Adobe ISBN: 9781317628361


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This chapter examines the different ways in which the interests of workers are represented in their relations with governments and, to a lesser degree, with employers. In the 1970s, trade unions bargained extensively with employers over wages and conditions, but also increasingly engaged in national negotiations with governments over a range of social and economic issues. The tripartite structures of interest representation that emerged at that time were analysed as forms of ‘corporatism’ and were thought to reflect the shifting balance of power between strong, militant trade unions and governments (Schmitter and Lehmbruch 1979). Despite the widespread declines in trade union membership and strike activity since the early 1980s, tripartite negotiations have continued throughout much of Western Europe, but have been less prominent in Eastern Europe. The resulting agreements, generally known as social pacts, have emerged in a variety of countries, including some with poorly developed tripartite structures.

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