Analysing Union Power, Opportunity and Strategic Capability: Global and Local Union Struggles Against the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)

  • Donna McGuire University of Kassel
Keywords: campaigns, GATS, power, social movement theory, unions,


This article presents a framework for identifying opportunities, and assessing the power and capacity needed for unions to develop strategic campaigns that can effectively challenge current neoliberal policy and practice (e.g. financialisation, trade liberalisation, privatisation and precarisation of labour). As the following analysis of union protests against the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) shows, opportunities to oppose and challenge the current system do exist but these opportunities must be recognised and strategically framed in a way that encourages widespread contestation and solidarity. In addition, oppositional movements must prioritise the issue and have sufficient power, and mobilisation and organisational capacity, to take advantage of opportunities where they are identified. I argue that this framework, which draws on social movement theory concepts and studies on the sources of union power, provides conceptual tools that can be utilised for analytical assessment of past union campaigns and further developed for improving campaign planning.