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“Acting out” institutions: A cross‐sector analysis of local unions' response and practices of resistance to collective redundancy in Belgium

Vickie Dekocker (Centre for Sociological Research, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)
Valeria Pulignano (Centre for Sociological Research, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)
Albert Martens (Centre for Sociological Research, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 4 October 2011

Abstract

Purpose

Restructuring has assumed a significant importance across Europe due to the growing pressures of internationalisation affecting transnational capital. By drawing from two case‐studies in the public health service and the manufacturing sector in Belgium, this paper aims to present evidence of the local unions' capacity to strategically use the industrial relations institutional framework, which foresees the rights of employee representatives to make a proposal for an alternative plan to restructuring, in order to fight redundancy at the workplace.

Design/methodology/approach

The study uses a new institutionalist approach in social science and political economy which emphasises social agency and actor capacity to influence and shape their institutional context. The research design was based on two case studies. The methodology was qualitative and comparative.

Findings

There is diversity in the process of collective resistance to company restructuring, highlighting different combinations of external and internal union capabilities at the core of such diversity. However, the study also illustrates commonality regarding union strategy to manipulate the national legal framework in order to combat collective redundancy.

Practical implications

The research results inform unions' practices and policy making with regard to the social process and the outcomes of company restructuring.

Social implications

The paper has important social implications with regard to unions' strategies of resistance and bargaining processes in situations of company restructuring.

Originality/value

The paper provides support for neo‐institutionalism as an insightful way of understanding local unions' responses to collective redundancy in Belgium.

Keywords

Citation

Dekocker, V., Pulignano, V. and Martens, A. (2011), "“Acting out” institutions: A cross‐sector analysis of local unions' response and practices of resistance to collective redundancy in Belgium", Employee Relations, Vol. 33 No. 6, pp. 592-606. https://doi.org/10.1108/01425451111174085

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited