Towards a Socialization of the EU's New Economic Governance Regime? EU Labour Policy Interventions in Germany, Ireland, Italy and Romania (2009-2019)

Br J Ind Relat. 2021 Mar;59(1):191-213. doi: 10.1111/bjir.12522. Epub 2020 Feb 18.


In response to the last recession, the European Union (EU) adopted a new economic governance (NEG) regime. An influential stream of EU social policy literature argues that there has been more emphasis on social objectives in the NEG regime in more recent years. This article shows that this is not the case. It does so through an in-depth analysis of NEG prescriptions on wage, employment protection and collective bargaining policy in Germany, Italy, Ireland and Romania between 2009 and 2019. Our main conclusion is that the EU's interventions in these three industrial relations policy areas continue to be dominated by a liberalization agenda that is commodifying labour, albeit to a different degree across the uneven but nonetheless integrated European political economy. This finding is important, as countervailing transnational trade union action is the more likely, the more there is a common threat. Even so, our contextualized analysis also enables us to detect contradictions that could provide European labour movements opportunities to pursue countervailing action.