Globalization, Social Partnership, and Industrial Relations in Ireland

Eileen M. Doherty

in The Politics of Labor in a Global Age

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780199241149
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598920 | DOI:
 Globalization, Social Partnership, and Industrial Relations in Ireland

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During the post‐war period, Irish labour unions have been characterized by fragmentation at the local level (with multiple unions competing for members, industrial unrest at the local level, and tensions between unions), but centralization at the national level. Labour unions have been clustered into large umbrella organizations, and the country has had a strong history of corporatism in industrial relations. The three stages of “globalization” in Ireland—the decision to embrace an open economic policy in the 1950s, Ireland's 1973 entry into the EEC, and the deepening of European integration in the 1980s and 1990s—have generated continuous pressures on Ireland to embrace new strategies to accommodate the pressures of market forces. Ireland's response to ‘globalization’ has not involved a disintegration of corporatist bargains or the weakening of unions, but rather a renewed focus on social partnership and consensus policy making in which unions have played a distinct role. The result of this social partnership has been impressive growth rates since 1987, but a lingering problem of structural unemployment. To address this issue, Dublin has committed itself to the continuation and strengthening of corporatist bargaining, but with an increased emphasis on addressing the problem of social exclusion. It remains to be seen whether social partnership mechanisms can effectively address the problems associated with long‐term unemployment and social exclusion, or whether Ireland is evolving toward a bifurcated economy, characterized by expanding jobs for skilled workers, but declining prospects for less‐educated workers.

Keywords: consensus; corporatism; European integration; industrial relations; Ireland; social exclusion; social partnership; trade unions; unemployment

Chapter.  11845 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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