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Project 9.5. Reconciling Employee Interests: Migrant Workers’ Workplace Participation

Challenge 9: Reconciling Stakeholder Interests

Aim of the project                                                                                                      

In the light of the increased migration both from European and non-European countries and in the context of the mobility partnerships between the EU and third countries, understanding immigrant workers’ workplace participation is highly relevant. This project aims to explain the variations in participation in organizational decision making and voice between (and within) labor immigrants.

Theoretical background

This research project aims at theory development on immigrant workers’ socialization and their access to and participation in organizational decision making and employee voice. Workplace participation includes the involvement in organizational decision making and the use of institutions for collective employee voice, such as unions and work councils. Several societal developments such as current labor migration law and practices, the development towards more flexible forms of work and contracts and the further individualization of work, may affect willingness to participate in organizational decision making. We know little about how such institutional factors and labor developments affect workplace participation of immigrant workers. Our study will provide the much needed inputs about the ways in which the lessons of the past can be used for a more effective management of the present migrant worker employment and workplace integration.

This  project focuses on differences between (and within) migrant workers and Dutch employees in a longitudinal  perspective covering the period 1950-2010, and describes and explains their access to and participation in work councils, trade unions, workers associations and other participation strategies in organizational decision making and employee voice. The project attempts to explain both cross sectional differences between groups of (immigrant) workers and longitudinal developments in (immigrant) workers’ workplace participation. Cross-sectional explanations focus on immigrants’ experiences with political and workplace participation in the country of origin on the one hand and employee participation in the receiving country (i.c. the Netherlands) on the other hand using institutional variables (and changes therein) in the country of origin and the receiving country i.e. (a) the political opportunity structure in the country of origin; (b) labor market institutions in the receiving country, in particular institutions for workplace participation and (c) organizational level institutions and practices of employee co-determination. Longitudinal explanations focus on external threats such as macro-economic crisis and labor market shocks.

Research design

This project aims at identifying the conditions that facilitated and hindered workplace participation by immigrant workers. The main research question of this project is: how different groups of labor immigrants developed their participation and voice strategies? The project uses multiple data sources, such as (a) a literature study to sketch the historical developments of the political context in the countries of origin and host country (a) statistics (by taking test samples) on Work Council composition; union membership; interest representation by – or for - specific immigrant workers; (b) scientific sources on immigrant participation in organization and employee voice; (c) a multiple case study, for which work council archives and company archives will be supplemented by conducting interviews with (immigrant) workers, employers and union representatives. 

The findings of this historical study will be used to construct a vignette study that will be held under current work immigrants, linking our understanding of the relevant results of previous waves of immigrants to preparedness for workplace participation of current labor immigrants.


Martinovic, B., van Tubergen, F., & Maas, I. (2009). Changes in immigrants’ social integration during the stay in the host country: The case of non-western immigrants in the Netherlands. Social Science Research38(4), 870-882.

Abe de Jong, Ailsa Röell and Gerarda Westerhuis, 'Evolving Role of Shareholders in Dutch Corporate Governance', in: Keetie Sluyterman (ed.), Varieties of Capitalism and Business History. The Dutch case. New York: Routledge, 2015.

Greer, I., Ciupiujus, Z. and Lillie, N. (2013) ‘The European Migrant Workers Union and the Barriers to Transnational Industrial Citizenship’, European Journal of Industrial Relations 19 (1): 5-20.

Marino, S., Penninx, R., & Roosblad, J. (2015). Trade unions, immigration and immigrants in Europe revisited: Unions’ attitudes and actions under new conditions. Comparative Migration Studies3(1), 1.

Project initiators

Agnes Akkerman, Bas van Bavel, Gerarda Westerhuis


University of Groningen, Department of Sociology


Sociological expertise, preferably with an interest in historical development

How to Apply

For background information on this vacancy and further instructions, click here (portal opens June 1).

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