RecensionsBook Reviews

Trade Unions and Global Governance: The Debate on a Social Clauseby Gerda van Roozendaal, London: Continuum, 2002, 260 pp., ISBN 0-8264-5660-X.[Record]

  • Peter Leisink

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  • Peter Leisink
    Utrecht University, the Netherlands

The issue of a social clause—a system that would allow the application of trade sanctions to countries that do not comply with core labour standards—is a controversial one. Roozendaal’s book studies issues arising from the social clause debate among and between unions. The central argument of the book is that the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has strong views about the problems unions encounter as a result of economic internationalization, problems such as oppression of union members. In tackling these problems and with a view to the insurance of an acceptable level of protection for citizens against world market forces, the ICFTU takes great interest in international regulation. However, in designing such strategies, the ICFTU is hampered by insufficient access to international regulatory bodies such as the WTO and also by a lack of unity among its members. Against this background, the key questions upon which Roozendaal focuses are: how have unions attempted to influence the debate on the inclusion of minimum labour standards in the WTO agreement and what accounts for their (lack of) success? After this introduction of the central theme, chapters 2 and 3 present the theoretical approach of the book, chapters 4 and 5 cover national union studies, while chapters 6 and 7 consider the influence of international workers’ organizations on the debate within the international settings of the OECD and the ILO. Chapter 8 draws conclusions from these union studies. Chapter 2 explains the rationale behind the union studies, defines the central notions and outlines a framework for measuring the influence of trade unions. Since the WTO does not allow trade union representation, the influence of unions on the WTO debate must be analysed in other international and regional bodies that influence decision-making in the WTO. Hence the study of union influence on the debate within the OECD and the ILO. However, policy decisions on a social clause are also made at the national level. Therefore, Roozendaal studies the position of the union movements in India and the United States in relation to their national governments. In the former, an alliance emerged between national union federations and successive governments against the international enforcement of labour standards, while in the U.S., the AFL-CIO and successive governments were in favour of a social clause. The dominant strategy of the unions studied is one aimed at influencing policy-makers at both national and international levels, and their success is assessed in two respects: the achievement of sensitizing successes in the political arena (changing the perceptions of other consequential actors), and substantive success in influencing policies. Discourse analysis is used to study the way in which unions try to influence the institutional debates. The concept of discourse is used to describe changes that have taken place with respect to perceptions of reality and to explain why certain policy options are considered valuable. In addition, Roozendaal looks at the larger context in which unions operate to understand why unions have or have not succeeded in achieving their goals. This theoretical framework generates a number of assumptions about the factors for the success of the union policies. Chapter 3 examines five substantive claims and their associated theoretical and normative arguments concerning labour standards, such as the universality claim that core labour standards should be regarded as universal principles while the relativity claim argues that these standards cannot be uniform owing to differences in culture and economic development. On the basis of these opposing claims and arguments, two ideal-type discourses are outlined: the interventionist discourse in favour of a social clause and the neo-classical discourse against a social clause. These ideal-types …