The Ambivalence of Structural Power: Alternative Trade Unions Challenging Transnational Automotive Companies in Russia


  • Sarah Hinz Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena (Germany)



Russia’s traditional system of employment relations was marked by an overt quiescence about past decades. From 2000 onwards, increasing numbers of transnational companies throughout Russia’s booming regions gave rise to the unfolding of an alternative union movement. In Kaluga, located south-west of Moscow, plant organisations successfully struggled to receive formal recognition as negotiating unions in foreign automobile firms, not shying away from open conflict. However, processes indicate their prospects for lasting consolidation go along with certain difficulties. Successes achieved are ostensibly the result of utilising workers’ strong primary bargaining power. The unions’ sole local focus of conflict, as well as the absence of employers’ associations, prevent negotiations for sectoral or regional agreements, possibly impairing unions’ associational power. Since societal power is practically absent, a substantial shift in power balances is not yet in sight.