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April 11, 2012 / Sian Moore

Charles Umney on managerial and mobilizing union internationalism

WERU member Charles Umney has just had an article published in the European Journal of Industrial Relations, ‘Managerial and mobilizing internationalism in the British docks and seafaring sector’.  He summarizes the paper as follows:

This article is an empirical investigation of two cases of international union activity in the British docks and seafaring sector.  It examines the maritime professional’s union, Nautilus International, and the International Transport Workers’ Federation’s “Fair Ferries” campaign, which involves a number of British unions.

The article also serves a more abstract purpose, however, in developing a typology of internationalisms which can be applied more generally. The distinction between ‘mobilising’ and ‘managerial’ internationalism is one which I think has a wide applicability, which I explored in greater detail in my PhD research and in other publications currently in preparation.

The argument is that mobilising internationalism – where agitators seek to initiate coordinated transnational industrial campaigning against targeted employers – arises through the framing of specific grievances as demanding an international, rather than a local, response. This has a couple of implications. Firstly, it places a great deal of emphasis on the ideological agency of influential agitators. Secondly, it means that instances of mobilising internationalism tend to be constrained by the parameters of the specific disputes that catalyse it. In other words, they lose intensity once these disputes are resolved, and solidarity generally does not extend beyond workers who are directly threatened by a particular management action.

Managerial internationalism, on the other hand, because it is official-led, tends to revolve around more abstract normative or political concerns. While it cannot mobilise rank and file support, it is also less constrained by the spatial and temporal limits that act on mobilising internationalism.

Charles Umney.  2012. ‘Managerial and mobilizing internationalism in the British docks and seafaring sector’.  European Journal of Industrial Relations, 18: 1, 71-87.

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