Taking stock of the crisis: A multilevel analysis of the Romanian trade union movement
Published: June 2016
Keywords: economic crisis, automotive industry, trade unions, Romania
This paper analyses the evolution of industrial relations in Romania since the onset of the crisis from a multilevel perspective. It shows that the crisis has contributed to a significant decline in the power of trade unions at the national and sectoral levels as employers capitalized on weaknesses the union movement had accumulated during the previous decade. We discuss why the repeated attempts by unions to block labour marketreforms or to push for the government to roll them back once they were adopted have been unsuccessful. For national union confederations, these shifts have rendered the question of reconsidering their relation with local constituencies and organizations positioned lower down the union hierarchy more urgent than ever. In this context of problematic labour relations at the national level, we find the local picture to be more nuanced. By looking at the example of the Romanian automotive industry, a traditional stronghold for trade unions, we analyse how trade unions defend their interests at the local level. We find that variation in union success between assembly plants depends on the power resources that local unions themselves possess and that immediate union success or failure has progressively become uncoupled from supralocal resources and forms of organization. For local unions, the sweeping reforms after the onset of the crisis have nonetheless emphasized the need to reconnect with the national union movement and secure an influence on supralocal decision-making processes.