Labour Unions in the ’Competition State’: A study of the labour union movement’s role and political work in the ’competition state’

Mathias Milling

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis investigates how the competition state has altered the circumstances for the labour union movement’s political work and how the labour union movement can adapt its political work to exert influence on the political and administrative decision-making process. It thus aims at clarifying the effects and consequences of the competition state for the labour union movement in Denmark because such an analysis has not yet been conducted. This thesis endeavours to contribute with this particular analysis. In doing so, it develops a theoretical framework in which the theory of the competition state is principal. In addition, pluralism and corporatism offer a theoretical understanding of interest organisations’ role in the decision-making process. The empirical material consists of a series of interviews conducted with key representatives from the highest political and administrative level from three of the main labour unions within the health care sector. Amongst other things, the findings from the analysis show that it cannot be disputed that the labour unions are involved in and have influence on the political and administrative decisionmaking process. The pivotal determinant for this situation is each organisation’s specific professionalism - their health care professionalism. In addition, relationships and frequent meetings with both civil servants and politicians also constitute important elements for the organisations. Furthermore, professionalism is also important for the communicative efforts of the organisations in relation to civil servants, politicians and the media. A central finding is therefore that professionalism is an important tool for the labour unions – it acts as an underlying principle for a majority of their political work. Moreover, the analysis reveals that it is beyond doubt that the competition state has made its entry in to the health care sector in terms of management, argumentation, and competitiveness and in the mind-set of the labour unions. This thesis thus offers an elaborate and theoretically founded description of the environment in which the labour unions are operating to day. The findings provide the labour unions with valuable knowledge about the current circumstances in the competition state. As such, the findings may be interpreted as concrete advice on how to navigate and conduct political work in the competition state, but the intention of this thesis is first and foremost to provide a delineation of the tendencies of the competition state in relation to the political work of the labour unions.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages73