NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Does Europe Have A New Breed Of Labor Leaders?

December 16, 1996

A handful of European labor leaders is struggling to impress upon union members the need to suppress calls for ever-higher wages and benefits and, instead, accentuate boosting productivity -- all in the name of surviving in the new global competitive environment of the late 20th Century.

  • Nicole Notat, head of France's 640,000-member Democratic Labor Confederation, has battled with more militant unions in efforts to help the government reform its welfare state while limiting cutbacks in worker benefits.
  • John Monks, leader of Britain's 6.9 million Trades Union Congress, whose moderate views have gained him some credibility in business circles, seeks more education and training of British workers to compete in the 21st Century.
  • Sergie Cofferati, leader of Italy's 3.3 million Confederation General Italiana del Lavore, is said to be among the pro-reform leaders -- although he continued to belong to the Communist Party until as late as 1991.

Economists say European labor is still a bad bargain compared to much lower-wage labor markets in Central Europe and Asia, as well as lower-benefit labor markets in the U.S. Experts say it may take an eye-opening crisis accompanied by a frightening flight of jobs to convince rank-and-file European unionists of the need for reform.

Meanwhile, a very few union leaders who reportedly have left "all the crazy, radical Marxist stuff behind them" are gently nudging members toward economic reality.

Source: "Labor's New Face In Europe," Business Week, December 16, 1996.


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