Transfer stimulates dialogue between the European trade union movement and the academic and research community. It contributes research findings on issues of strategic relevance for trade unions, in particular with regard to developments at the European level. Transfer publishes original peer-reviewed research on issues such as new developments in industrial relations, social policy, and labour market developments.
Volume 13 Issue 1, Spring 2007
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are seen as key to European employment and competitiveness. More than two-thirds of European workers now work in SMEs (defined as enterprises with fewer than 250 employees), yet, compared to those in larger organisations, they have limited individual or collective representation, particularly at workplace level. With collective bargaining coverage generally increasing with company size and terms and conditions in SMEs generally lower than in larger firms, workers in SMEs often have more need of protection. In over half of European countries the legal framework governing collective representation includes thresholds based upon employee numbers that effectively exclude workers in SMEs (EIRO 2006). If European unions are to reverse decline they have to overcome the difficulties they have in organising in SMEs. With these challenges in mind this special issue of Transfer presents seven articles reflecting the work of the SMALL project, which examined the nature of employee representation and voice in SMEs in eight European countries as part of a European Union Fifth Framework Programme project. By voice we mean the way in which the interests of employees are expressed in the workplace. In the first article Stephen Bouquin, Salvo Leonardi and Sian Moore explain the research methodology and explore the role of favourable national legal contexts in determining rights to workers’ representation in SMEs.