SOAS University of London

Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies

‘Including outsiders?’ Trade union integration of immigrant workers in France and the UK

Dr Heather Connolly (Leicester) and Dr Sylvie Contrepois (CRESPPA)

Date: 7 February 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 7 February 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar

This paper explores the nature of inclusion and integration of immigrant workers in trade unions in France and the UK. These countries have two very distinct models for the integration of immigrant workers into trade unions. France’s ‘republican egalitarianist’ model of integration is mainly assimilationist and rejects any form of distinction based on ethno-racial elements in the name of national unity and ‘universalist’ working-class interests. British trade unions’ more ‘multiculturalist’ model allows for the separate representation of groups of workers based on identity, such as Black members groups or separate structures and policies for immigrants. Both approaches have their weaknesses and have been confronted by new and different challenges in recent waves of migration, the effects of economic crisis, and changes in government policies and public attitudes around immigration.

In our research we explore two symbolic cases which suggest shifts in the traditional integration strategies of trade unions in relation to immigrant workers in both the UK and France. In France, trade unions have opened up discussion on the need for separate structures for immigrant workers (notably the sans papiers in the CGT) in order to be able to more effectively represent them. In the UK we have seen the integration of immigrant workers (notably Filipino immigrants in the public sector UNISON) through the power structures of the union (branch, regional and national levels) rather than their representation through separate formalised structures. This paper examines the extent to which these cases reflect a more profound transformation of trade union solidarity and inclusion, extended towards traditionally marginalised and underrepresented groups of immigrant workers.

About the speaker

Heather Connolly is British Academy Mid-Career Fellow and Associate Professor of Employment Relations, University of Leicester, UK. Her research interests focus on union strategies for renewal, and how unions across Europe have shaped and are constrained by their institutional contexts. Specifically, central to her research are the possibilities of radical unionism and union responses to migrants and minorities.


Twitter: @DrHMConnolly

Sylvie Contrepois is a sociologist and a member of the Centre de Recherches Sociologiques et Politiques de Paris – Equipe Cultures et Sociétés Urbaines (CRESPPA-CSU), France. She has a core expertise in industrial relations and is especially interested in the notions of institutions, institutionalisation, democracy, representation, collective action and direct action. She has led several EU-funded research projects on industrial relations and is co-editor, with Dominique Andolfatto, of Syndicats et dialogue social, les modèles occidentaux à l’épreuve (Peter Lang, 2016).


Organiser: Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies

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