Industrial relations and social dialogue

Collective labour disputes in the EU

Report
Published
7 February 2022
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Executive summary in 22 languages
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Key findings

  • Collective bargaining has emerged as the context of over a third of disputes in the EU, with grievances over company-level policies making up another quarter and grievances over public policy accounting for a further 18%.
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  • Collective bargaining has emerged as the context of over a third of disputes in the EU, with grievances over company-level policies making up another quarter and grievances over public policy accounting for a further 18%.
  • Problems over pay accounted for over 40% of disputes, employment problems for 20%, other aspects of working conditions for 16% and protests for 13%. Over 80% of disputes concerned matters of interest.
  • Existing data on industrial action in Europe is incomplete. Systematic collection will be required to provide a basis for comparative analysis based on clear definitions agreed at international level, so that it can be collated with other data to enable the calculation of the economic costs of disputes, to both employers and workers.
  • Disputes in the EU fall into five main clusters used in the typology: national disputes of interest and rights; extended disputes of interest concerning collective (pay) agreements; localised disputes on matters of interest, concerning employment problems, working time and restructuring with short work stoppages; localised disputes concerning workers’ rights and grievances over company policies; disputes concerning public policies.
  • The distribution of these types across countries did not follow any of the patterns that might be expected based on five of the existing typologies in the literature: typologies based on national differences in varieties of capitalism, union density, intensity of strike activity, types of industrial democracy and collective bargaining.
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Abstract

In recent years, apart from some intermittent spikes, there has been a general decrease in industrial action across the EU Member States. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend has continued, with the most significant labour disputes not surprisingly occurring in the human health and social serRead more

In recent years, apart from some intermittent spikes, there has been a general decrease in industrial action across the EU Member States. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend has continued, with the most significant labour disputes not surprisingly occurring in the human health and social services sector, the education sector and the transport and logistics sector. This report analyses the data collected in 2018–2019 by Eurofound during the piloting of its Industrial Action Monitor (IAM) database. Using cluster analysis, the research classified industrial action in Europe into five categories: national disputes of interest and rights, sometimes involving different forms of employment; extended disputes about collective pay agreements; localised disputes about employment problems, working time and restructuring, with short work stoppages; localised disputes about workers’ rights and grievances over company policies; and disputes concerning public policies.

In terms of specific issues, problems over pay accounted for over 40% of disputes, employment problems accounted for 20%, other aspects of working conditions accounted for 16% and protests accounted for 13%. Noting the lack of complete data on industrial action in Europe, the analysis points to the need for a systematic collection of empirical evidence in the future to provide a sound basis for comparative analysis.

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Formats

  • Report

    Number of pages: 
    72
    Reference no.: 
    EF21026
    ISBN: 
    978-92-897-2241-4
    Catalogue no.: 
    TJ-05-21-371-EN-N
    DOI: 
    10.2806/060345
    Catalogue info

    Collective labour disputes in the EU

    Formats

    Cite this publication: 

    Eurofound (2022), Collective labour disputes in the EU, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

  • Executive summary

    Reference no.: 
    EF21026EN1
    Catalogue info

    Collective labour disputes in the EU

    Author(s): 
    Eurofound

    Available for download in 22 languages

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  • Tables and graphs

    The report contains the following lists of tables and figures

    List of tables

    Table 1: Information captured for each record type
    Table 2: Types of events recorded
    Table 3: Continuous variables in the clusters: mean values   
    Table 4: Categorical variables: distribution of indicator categories within clusters (percentages in columns)
    Table 5: Categorical variables: distribution of indicator categories between clusters (percentages in rows)


    Table A1: Overview of parameters covered and gaps in national statistics on industrial action and collective labour disputes
    Table A2: Number of realised industrial action events by country and sector from the IAM database, EU27 and UK
    Table A3: Number of strikes and lockouts by country and sector from the ILO data for the latest year available, EU27 and UK
    Table A4: Number of workers involved in realised industrial action events by country and sector from the IAM database (in thousands), EU27 and UK
    Table A5: Number of workers involved in strikes and lockouts by country and sector from the ILO data for the latest year available (thousands)
    Table A6: Number of days not worked as a result of realised industrial action events by country and sector from the IAM database (in thousands), EU27 and UK
    Table A7: Number of days not worked as a result of strikes and lockouts by country and sector from the ILO data for the latest year available (in thousands), EU27 and UK
    Table A8: Correlations of transformed variables from the second categorical principal components analysis model
    Table A9: Amount of indicator variance accounted for in the four-dimensional solution from the second categorical principal components analysis model
    Table A10: Cluster breakdown by country: distribution of disputes across clusters, EU27 and UK
    Table A11: Cluster breakdown by country: distribution of disputes within clusters, EU27 and UK
    Table A12: Cluster breakdown by sector: distribution of disputes across clusters
    Table A13: Cluster breakdown by sector: distribution of disputes within clusters
    Table A14: A representation of five typologies across countries showing (the lack of) relationships, EU27 and UK

    List of figures

    Figure 1: Eurofound’s concept of a labour dispute
    Figure 2: Context of disputes in the IAM database
    Figure 3: Main issue of disputes in the IAM database
    Figure 4: Matters of rights or interest for disputes in the IAM database
    Figure 5: Context of disputes in the data to be analysed
    Figure 6: Main issue of disputes in the data to be analysed
    Figure 7: Matters of rights or interest for disputes in the data to be analysed
    Figure 8: Context in which the labour disputes emerged, by sector (number)
    Figure 9: Context in which the labour disputes emerged, by country (%), EU27 and UK
    Figure 10: Detailed breakdown of main dispute issues (number)
    Figure 11: Labour disputes in non-standard forms of employment, by sector (number)
    Figure 12: Correspondence plot for clusters and countries, EU27 and UK
    Figure 13: Correspondence plot for clusters and sectors
    Figure 14: Dispute resolution by cluster (%)
    Figure 15: Dispute resolution involving a collective agreement by cluster (%)
    Figure 16: Typology of labour disputes by cluster and varieties of capitalism


    Figure A1: Dendrogram from the application of Ward’s method of clustering
    Figure A2: Relating Eurofound’s typology of labour disputes to the union density typology, EU27 and UK
    Figure A3: Relating Eurofound’s typology of labour disputes to the intensity of strike activity typology, EU27 and UK
    Figure A4: Relating Eurofound’s typology of labour disputes to the industrial democracy typology, EU27 and UK
    Figure A5: Relating Eurofound’s typology of labour disputes to the collective bargaining typology, EU27 and UK

Research carried out prior to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union on 31 January 2020, and published subsequently, may include data relating to the 28 EU Member States. Following this date, research only takes into account the 27 EU Member States (EU28 minus the UK), unless specified otherwise.

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