Agency of labour in a flexible pan-European labour market: A qualitative study of migrant practices and trade union strategies in the Netherlands

Berntsen, L. E., 30-Apr-2015, Groningen: University of Groningen, SOM research school. 220 p.

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)Academic

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  • Title and contents

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  • Chapter 1

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  • Chapter 2

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  • Chapter 3

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  • Chapter 4

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  • Chapter 5

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  • Chapter 6

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  • Chapter 7

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  • Chapter 8

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  • Appendices

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  • Complete dissertation

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  • Propositions

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  • Lisa Emma Berntsen
Flexible cross-border employment relations and the free movement of people, services and establishment have contributed to an increase in intra-European labour mobility. Since the European enlargements many migrant workers from Eastern Europe have found employment in the Netherlands, mainly in the construction, agriculture and meat processing industries. Firms tend to recruit migrants via various short-term bogus employment constructions, exploiting blurring regulatory boundaries of cheaper labour market regimes of other EU member states. The media regularly reports about employment conditions of European labour migrants being not in accordance with Dutch standards. Although employer recruitment practices cross national borders without difficulty, trade unions and enforcement authorities operate primarily on national scales, resulting in gaps in effective enforcement.

Though European migrant workers are often talked about, they are rarely talked with for academic or policy purposes. To explore how migrants cope with and respond to the competitive dynamics of the European labour market, Lisa Berntsen interviewed around 90 migrant workers about their experiences in the Netherlands. She examined how migrants act individually, collectively and organised – via Dutch unions – when confronted with substandard employment conditions. Migrants prefer to exercise their agency in small-scale, invisible ways, instead of collectively via trade unions, which tends to reinforce instead of challenge oppressive employment relations at work. On a broader scale this may even contribute to the continuation of unequal power relations within the European market. However, Berntsen also shows that these migrants, under certain conditions, are willing to act collectively via trade unions.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Beugelsdijk, Sjoerd, Supervisor
  • Lillie, Nathan, Co-supervisor
  • Holgate, J. (Jane), Assessment committee, External person
  • Houwerzijl, Mijke, Assessment committee
  • Kauppi, N. (Niilo), Assessment committee, External person
  • Keune, M., Assessment committee, External person
Award date30-Apr-2015
Place of PublicationGroningen
Print ISBNs978-90-367-7733-9
Electronic ISBNs978-90-367-7732-2
Publication statusPublished - 30-Apr-2015

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