Alternative Trade Union Organizing of Migrant Workers in Northern Ireland in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement

Main Article Content

Paul Stewart
Brian Garvey
Tommy McKearney


The paper deals with an organised labour response to recent migration to Northern Ireland from the New Member States (NMS) following EU enlargement in 2004. A trade union's approach to the problems confronting migrant workers is analyzed in the context of neo-liberal reforms of the labour market and shrinking of the welfare state. These changes have taken place in the context of a specific region still struggling to overcome the legacy of a long-lasting conflict from the 1960s until 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Furthermore, an innovative approach to migrant workers organising combining elements of solidarity and membership mobilisation and aiming at promoting a political and class solidaristic cross-sectarian agenda developed by the Independent Workers' Union (IWU) is examined. The results are based on a research programme undertaken by the IWU to uncover the nature of the relationship between migrants, labour market changes and the trajectory of sectarianism in the north.

Article Details

How to Cite
Stewart, P., Garvey, B., & McKearney, T. (2013). Alternative Trade Union Organizing of Migrant Workers in Northern Ireland in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement. Warsaw Forum of Economic Sociology, 4(7), 91-108. Retrieved from


Bell, K., Jarman, N. and Lefebvre, T., (2004), Migrant Workers in Northern Ireland, Belfast: Institute for Conflict Research
Burawoy, M., (1986), The Politics of Production, London: Verso
Ciupijus, Z., (2011), Mobile Central Eastern Europeans in Britain: successful EU citizens and disadvantaged labour migrants, Work, Employment and Society: 25(3)
Coulter, C., Murray, M., red., (2008), Northern Ireland After the Troubles? A Society in Transition, Manchester: Manchester University Press
(DETI) Department for Employment and Learning Northern Ireland, The Economic, Labour Market and Skills Impacts of Migrant Workers in Northern Ireland (2009), Oxford Economics, Belfast: McClure Watters and Perceptive Insight Market Research
Harvey, D., (2010), The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism, London: Profile Books
Holgate, J., (2005), Organizing migrant workers: a case study of working conditions and unionization in a London sandwich factory, Work Employment and Society, vol. 19, no. 3 (September): 463-480
Holgate, J. Pollert, A., Keles, J. Kumarappan, L., (2012), Union decline and voice among minority ethnic workers; do community support networks help fill the gap? Urban Studies 49(3), 491-508
Jamieson, R., Shirlow, P., Grounds, A., (2010), Ageing and Social Exclusion among Former Politically Motivated Prisoners in Northern Ireland, Belfast: Changing Ageing Partnership, Journal of Law in Context 3(2): 105-125
Jarman, N., (2004), Migrant Workers in Northern Ireland, Labour Market Bulletin No 18, Belfast: Department of Employment and Learning
Jarman, N., (2006), Diversity, Economy and Policy: New Patterns of Migration to Northern Ireland, Shared Space: no. 2
Lentin, R., (2009), Migrant womens networking: New articulations of transnational ethnicity, in: Bhattacharyya, G. (ed.), Ethnicities and Values in a Changing World, Farnham and Burlington VT: Ashgate Publishing: 65-82
Maguire, M., (1988), Work, Locality and Social Control. Work, Employment and Society. March: vol. 2, no 1
McKeever, G., ORawe, M., (2007), Political Ex-Prisoners and Policing in Transitional Societies: Testing the Boundaries of New Conceptions of Citizenship and Security, International Journal of Law in Context vol. 3, issue 2
McVeigh, R., (2007), Migrant Workers and their Families in Northern Ireland: A Trade Union Response, Belfast: Irish Congress of Trade Unions
O'Dowd, L., Rolston, B., Tomlinson M., (1980), Northern Ireland, Between Civil Rights and Civil War, London: CSE Books Office of National Statistics, Department of Trade, Enterprise and Investment, (2009), Labour Force Survey
Shirlow, P., Graham, B., McEvoy, K., O hAdhmaill, F., Purvis, D., (2005), Politically Motivated Former Prisoner Groups: Community Activism and Conflict Transformation, Belfast: Northern Ireland Community Relations Council
Shirlow, P., Murtagh, B., (2006), Belfast: Segregation, Violence and the City, London: Pluto Press
Solorzano, D.G., (1989), Teaching and social change: reflections on a Freirean approach in a college classroom, Teaching Sociology, vol. 17, vol 2
Standing, G., (2009), Work after Globalisation: Building Occupational Citizenship.Northampton: Edward Elgar Cheltenham
Wills, J., May, J., Datta, K., Evans, Y., Herbert, J., McIlwaine, C., (2009), Global Cities at Work: New Migrant Divisions of Labour, London: Pluto Press