Transformation of Work Conditions and its Implications for Employee-Employer Relations and Trade Unionism
Sibel Kalaycıoğlu | Kezban Çelik (both: Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey)
Transformation of work and working process during the late 1970s in Europe brought an organizational restructuring in the workplace relations. The traditional forms and qualifications of work have changed rapidly and replaced by precarious and causal forms of work on the one hand and multiskilled, high paid jobs on the other. Stressing global and national macro-economic processes determining the economies of European countries, the daily life experiences of workers have also been changing. The burden of everyday life was attributed to the individuals who were kept responsible for developing successful coping strategies. Those who can not cope with everyday life successfully are considered to create a “risk” for the society. Besides, both the transformation of work and precarious work experiences as well as the individualized burden of everyday life struggles, effected the organizational restructuring of the trade unions and unionization. These trends will be discussed with reference to our research which was conducted in 2005 and 2006 in Turkey. We will stress the changing “experiences of workers” within transformation of work and unionism.
Two periods are distinguished: (1) the period before 1980 and (2) the period after 1980. 1980s is a period of export orientation and implementation of neo-liberal policies in Turkey which portray a severe contrast to the pre-1980 period. Unionism in Turkey clearly had a strong social-/political/-economic function before 1980 which changed drastically afterwards. To gain further insights into organization and opposition of the “working class and its experiences of unionism” life histories of workers (equal share of men and women) in different sectors (formal as well as informal) and in different cities of Turkey (Ankara, Bursa, and Istanbul) were collected. The socialization through/in the family and peers plays an important role in forming one’s attitudes towards unions. Furthermore, the growing precarious economy and more and more workers working in informal jobs, the flexibilisation of the economy, growing unemployment, and ongoing decline in social welfare provisions has resulted in a loss in trust in unionism. The role of unions in organizing and bargaining were weakened mainly by increase of work in unskilled jobs, usually in the informal economy, and on the other hand among white collar service workers.
Typical for the period before 1980 was a strong positive attitude towards unionism among the skilled, manual (male) labour, and among workers of the public sector. Whereas after 1980 this positive feeling declined very fast and the workers more and more became alienated from their unions. This also initiated a major risk for the workers who are abandoned in the labour market left to the mercy of capital. At this point the effectiveness of “activation policies” and “labour market monitoring” applications in line with European Employment Strategy will be also discussed.