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Analysis of Industrial Relations in Republic of Croatia: Croatian Trade Unions Between Social Integration and Market Conflict


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Bagić, Dragan. (2010). Analysis of Industrial Relations in Republic of Croatia: Croatian Trade Unions Between Social Integration and Market Conflict. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Sociology. [mentor Mesić, Milan].

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This doctoral theses offers an analysis of industrial relations, with special emphasis on the work and the role of unions. Starting from literature in the field of industrial relations, a multidisciplinary field that studies the relations between employees (unions), employers and the state, and after offering an introduction and placing the theses in the disciplinary context, in two chapters the author compares and critically analyses different classifications of systems of industrial relations and types of union movements. Based on an analysis of relevant literature the author recognises four ideal-type models of industrial relations in European and Northern American countries: the Anglo-Saxon, the corporatist, the Mediterranean and the transition model. Each of these models is accompanied by the appropriate characteristics of union movements. The main characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon model is a tendency to voluntarism, which implies an almost complete lack of state intervention in relations between employers and unions. The employees and the unions have virtually no legal protection so they must draw their power from good organisation and pressure the employers to accept the unions and engage in collective bargaining with them. This leads to a decentralisation of the union movement which focuses mainly on securing immediate material benefits for their members (Business Unionism). The corporatist model is almost the complete opposite – centralised unions and employers engage in collective bargaining at the national level (individually or jointly, for different types of industry) and negotiate macroeconomic and social policies together with the state. The relations between the employers and the unions, as well as their relations with the state, are partner-like, which means that all sides are willing to compromise on the most important issues, with the final goal of ensuring long-term economic growth which is to be followed by a proportional growth in wages and living standard of workers. The Mediterranean model is characterised by highly politicised industrial relations, i.e. a high level of conflict between the unions and the employers, as well as between the unions and the political elite. The union movement is deeply divided according to ideological criteria, which was most noticeable at the time of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. By that time, the unions played an important role and they used the union movement for achievement of political goals with communist unions in prominent roll. Due to the conflict between unions themselves and between unions and employers, the state has a substitute role in industrial relations, regulating the workers’ rights and relations through laws, often without agreement and support of all social partners. The transition model is a relatively recent creation, in the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe. One of its key characteristics is also a significant role of the state in the system of industrial relations, which stems from different reasons than in the case of the Mediterranean model. Transition itself paradoxically creates a strong concentration of power in the hands of the state and the political elites because transition primarily implies the creation of a new legal and institutional framework, which is necessarily implemented by the state, i.e. by the political elite. The domination of the state in industrial relations is also due to weakness of the other two actors, the employers and the unions. Union movements in transition countries are also characterised by internal conflict, the same as in the Mediterranean model. But the division lines are somewhat different and the role of ideological differences is lost quickly after the start of transition. The unions are weak not only because of these divisions but also because of negative communist heritage, lack of reputation, deindustrialisation in transition countries and the rise in unemployment. After the operationalisation, which enabled the application of the proposed theoretical framework to the system of industrial relations, as well as the description of research methodology, the theses brings a central chapter with the analysis of the industrial relations system in the Republic of Croatia. The analysis has shown that the industrial relations system in Croatia bears the closest resemblance to the transition model, even though it comprises certain elements which differ significantly from this model. The similarities to the transition ideal-type model are reflected in the fragmentation of union movement on all levels which is not based on ideologies; the maintaining of union membership primarily in the public sector (including state administration, public service and state-owned companies) and the privatised companies originally founded during communism; the relative decentralisation of collective bargaining and the weakness of the unions in negotiating with employers in the private sector; union action stemming from despair; the dominant role of state in determining the direction of industrial relations and macroeconomic policy; the non-existence of stable and efficient political exchange between the unions and the political parties. Certain deviations from the transition model and rapprochement to other models are to be found in a somewhat greater union density compared to other transition model countries; a somewhat greater number of strikes and other forms of industrial action; a somewhat greater influence the unions have on certain reforms which resulted in a lower degree of liberalisation of labour regulations; a somewhat higher coverage with collective agreements (around 60%), even though most of that coverage is due to relatively outdated and inefficient branch collective agreements. The deviations from the transition model can be partly explained by specific heritage, especially in the domain of industrial relations, i.e. the role of the unions, but also by the specific nature of the overall transition process.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: industrial relations, social movements, Croatia, transition, unions, employers, strike, collective bargaining, social dialogue, social partners
Subjects: Sociology
Departments: Department of Sociology
Supervisor: Mesić, Milan
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2012 12:23
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2014 13:09

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