German and British labour law in a European context following European Union enlargement

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis examines and compares German and British trade union responses in a European context following the recent European enlargements which are unprecedented in the history of the European Union. In terms of labour law, a majority of the ten Central and Eastern European countries which acceded in 2004 and 2007 combine weak domestic labour protection systems with a high proportion of workers and enterprises keen to take advantage of their free movement rights under the European Treaty. This has created a climate of fear amongst workers and trade unions in old Member States that their economic and social position is being threatened by those workers and enterprises who may avail themselves of their rights under the Treaty in order to engage in ‘social dumping’. Historically, the European Union has sought to counteract these fears by ‘europeanising’ certain aspects of national legal systems in order to alleviate competition. However, the ‘europeanisation’ of different labour law systems has always proved problematic due to the socio-cultural context within which national labour laws have developed. Following the recent European enlargements, the debate on the role of the EU in ‘europeanising’ national social and legal practices has been revived. In particular, European enlargement has thrown up changed regulatory and opportunity structures for the social partners. These structural changes at a European level have occurred primarily as a consequence of an increase in the free movement of workers, services and establishment. Against this background, the purpose of this thesis is to undertake a comparison of the responses of German and British trade unions to the challenges posed by the recent European enlargements. A successful comparison and analysis of the responses of trade unions enables a determination of the impact that trade union responses may have on new Member State workers availing themselves of their free movement rights under the EU Treaty. There is an intense debate as to how, and if, social partners at a national and European level may be able to contribute to, or hinder, the protection of new Member State workers in Germany and the UK. Depending on how trade unions respond their contribution may be viewed as positive or negative. However, this thesis yields suggestions as to how trade unions could respond in order to facilitate the integration of new Member State workers into the host labour markets and proposes a new model for studying aspects of europeanisation.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Shaw, Jo, Supervisor, External person
  • Brodie, Douglas, Supervisor
Award date1 Jul 2011
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • German labour law
  • British labour law
  • European Union enlargement
  • european context

Cite this