Norwegian and Nordic trade union support and solidarity for trade unions in eastern and central Europe

Finn Erik Thoresen (2nd Vice‐President, The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (“LO‐Norway”), Oslo, Norway)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Publication date: 1 December 2005



This paper aims to provide a Norwegian perspective of how trade unions in the former Soviet block countries have dealt with the challenges of the post‐communist period and how the European trade union movement has attempted to assist them as they have adjusted to representing and protecting the interests of workers in a market economy.


This paper considers the point that the experiences of trade union development in the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe should not be assumed to have followed some monolithic pattern.


Each of the individual states experienced challenges that were unique to them and which reflected the economic, geographical and social situation they found themselves in when they took the “leap in the dark” at the end of the 1990s. The speed at which they made the transition to a market economy was also quite diverse with some countries such a Czech Republic and Hungary making progress quickly whilst others, for understandable reasons, were much slower off the mark.

Research limitations/implications

One of the main thrusts of this paper is the diversity of experience amongst the former Soviet block countries both prior to and after the 1989 changes. The paper invites researchers to explore this diversity further in terms of causality and the impact of this diversity on the democratisation process of Central and Eastern European Countries.


Provides a timely reminder of the dangers of perceiving trade unions in the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe as replicas of their counterparts in the West. The picture he paints of the diversity of the region, the weakness of national trade union headquarters starved of funds to pursue industrial objectives by local trade union organisations who have a “holiday club” mentality and retain the bulk of the income for social and welfare benefits reminds us of the extreme difficulties that face trade unions in CEE countries as the strive to build strong and effective organisations capable of challenging multinational conglomerates.



Erik Thoresen, F. (2005), "Norwegian and Nordic trade union support and solidarity for trade unions in eastern and central Europe", Employee Relations, Vol. 27 No. 6, pp. 592-602.

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