Climate Change and Work in Transformation: Opportunities and Challenges for Interest Organizations

Research question/goal: 

The public debate on climate change reflects a high degree of polarisation in society. As institutional actors who influence political decisions, trade unions and employers' associations find themselves in the middle of this field of tension. They are forced to assert their interests between the general interest in a successful climate policy and the structural change endangering jobs and profits in some significant economic sectors. The project deals with the question of how interest organisations position themselves in the field of policies addressing climate change and which strategies they choose to balance opportunities and challenges.

Attitudes of business organisations towards policy initiatives are obviously very much influenced by economic considerations, both at the micro- and macroeconomic level. Trade unions as membership organisations, although driven by economic considerations too, have to win over large sections of the public and reach them with their positions. In addition, trade unions and employers' organisations are in a relationship that is characterised by mutual dependence, possibly even a “conflictual partnership” (Müller-Jentsch 1993), which also influences their positions on political issues. We assume that the role of public opinion is important especially for trade union positions and that a broad support of public opinion together with the support of a partner trade union has the potential of shaping the position of a business organisation. The proposed research project aims to investigate this triangle of mutual interference between public opinion, business organizations, and trade unions. Drawing on the growth regime approach developed by Palier and Hassel (2020), we will investigate how interest organizations embedded in different growth regimes address challenges and reform requirements caused by climate change.

To answer the question, the project conducts text analysis using Twitter data and expert interviews of the largest trade unions and business organizations. We complement the analysis of interest organisations by secondary survey data analyses and own data collections on attitude change among citizens regarding climate change. The project pursues a comparative approach covering three European countries, each one representing a distinct growth regime. The growth regime approach considers the role of institutions in negotiating changes to a growth strategy, and in particular the role of core producers. We combine the growth regime approach with insights from neo-corporatism (Schmitter 1979, Streeck and Kenworthy 2003) to derive the positions of interest organisations.

Fact sheet

2021 to 2025
Data Sources: 
Survey and social media data
Geographic Space: