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Title: Collective labour law in times of economic crisis : theoretical and comparative perspectives
Author: Katsaroumpas, Ioannis
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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The thesis explores the interaction of the economic phenomenon of 'economic crisis' with the legal phenomenon of Collective Labour Law (CLL). This interaction is the thesis' main problematique. Rather than undertaking an all-encompassing investigation, it seeks to modestly contribute some new theoretical and comparative perspectives on the problematique. These perspectives are of potential value both to the highly underdeveloped area of the theorisation on economic crises and CLL and to the comparative labour law literature. On the theoretical side, the thesis puts forward a novel Marxist-critical theoretical framework for understanding the crisis' operation of CLL. Building successively on the Marxist-critical insights of a fundamental contradiction between the (capitalism) reproductive and (worker) protective function of CLL, the crisis theories' common assertion of economic rationalisation as the primary crisis response and a joint reading of Gramscian counterhegemony and Habermas' theory of legitimation crisis, a theoretical framework is constructed around a proposed concept: crisis (dis)equilibrium. These (dis)equilibria, which arguably determine the course of CLL's crisis developments are composed of two fundamental opposing forces: the force of economic rationalisation, pushing for reforms dictated by the need for intense capitalist restructuring and the opposing counter-legitimation force, which reflects the level of socio-political threat of withdrawal of support to the prevailing economic system or at least to the reforms dictated by economic rationalisation. The comparative side that serves also as a testing empirical ground for the theoretical framework, consists of an extensive interrogation of the recent crisis CLL trajectories in Greece and the UK. For Greece, the analysis observes and accounts for a dramatic collapse of the pre-crisis protective CLL edifice as a result of multiple and abrupt far-reaching CLL reforms bringing about the neo-liberal crisis movement. Subsequently, the thesis offers a response to why the protective constitutionalisation of CLL rights in Greece failed to prevent the de-construction by designating a de-constitutionalisation triangle of normative spheres. The triangle maps and explains how the neoliberal-oriented EU-IMF bailout conditionality prevailed over domestic-constitutional and transnational labour rights normative spheres through identifying a series of 'strong' and 'weak' legal and non-legal interactions. For the UK, the analysis dismisses a suggestion of a complete stasis during the crisis. Instead, it ascertains and accounts for a further -more gradual- neo-liberal consolidating crisis movement of UK's pre-crisis neo-liberal CLL paradigm. Hence the British crisis movement is described as neo-liberal continuity by consolidation. Very importantly, the thesis observes a significant crisis de-constitutionalisation process of CLL in the UK, which takes the shape of a constitutional attack on the political voice of unions by regulatory reforms. Eventually, the thesis finds a comparative crisis pattern of a 'Great Neo-liberal Convergence' between the two previously diametrically opposite CLL systems, since they moved closer and toward the neo-liberal end during the crisis. The 'neo-liberal convergence' finding is situated as a supportive case for the convergence theorists within the convergence/non-convergence debate over whether the European CLL systems are to converge. Moreover, the analysis demonstrates the explanatory value of the Crisis Equilibrium theoretical framework for understanding the crisis trajectories in both countries and suggests that crisis developments confirm the heteronomy of CLL to the theoreticallyidentified dialectic between the capitalist force of economic rationalisation and the social force of counter-legitimation.
Supervisor: Bogg, Alan Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council ; Onassis Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Collective Labour Law ; Comparative Labour Law ; collective labour law ; economic crisis ; UK ; Greece