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Is Transnational Private Regulation Potentially an Effective Means of Promoting Collective Industrial Relations?
Global Labour Journal
This paper asks whether collective industrial relations can be promoted by means other than seeking change in public policy. Recent research points to the increasing significance of transnational private regulation (TPR) in developing economies. There is an emerging consensus that market incentives to improve wages and conditions of work can have a modest positive effect on measurable outcomes like hours of work, and health and safety. However, it appears that TPR has little impact on the capacity of workers to pursue such improvements for themselves via collective action. The paper takes a closer look at the potential of TPR to enhance worker voice and participation. It argues that this potential cannot be properly evaluated without understanding how local actors mobilise the social and political resources that TPR provides. The case studies presented show how different TPR schemes have been used by unions in Africa as a means to pursue the interests of members. The authors found that the scale of the impact of TPR in all of the contexts studied depended almost entirely on the existing capacities and resources of the unions involved. TPR led to the creation of collective industrial relations processes, or helped unions to ensure that certain enterprises participated in existing industrial relations processes, but did virtually nothing to enhance the political and organisational capacity of the unions to influence the outcomes of those processes in terms of wages and conditions of employment. The paper concludes that the potential of TPR to promote the emergence of collective industrial relations systems is very low.
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