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Workers without Borders

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Workers without Borders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Workers without Borders

Posted Work and Precarity in the EU

Ines Wagner

176 Pages
ISBN: 9781501729157
Cornell University Press

How the European Union handles posted workers is a growing issue for a region with borders that really are just lines on a map. A 2008 story, dissected in Ines Wagner’s Workers without Borders, about the troubling working conditions of migrant meat and construction workers, exposed a distressing dichotomy: how could a country with such strong employers’ associations and trade unions allow for the establishment and maintenance of such a precarious labor market segment?

Wagner introduces an overlooked piece of the puzzle: re-regulatory politics at the workplace level. She interrogates the position of the posted worker in contemporary European labour markets and the implications of and regulations for this position in industrial relations, social policy and justice in Europe. Workers without Borders concentrates on how local actors implement European rules and opportunities to analyze the balance of power induced by the EU around policy issues.

Wagner examines the particularities of posted worker dynamics at the workplace level, in German meatpacking facilities and on construction sites, to reveal the problems and promises of European Union governance as regulating social justice. Using a bottom-up approach through in-depth interviews with posted migrant workers and administrators involved in the posting process, Workers without Borders shows that strong labor-market regulation via independent collective bargaining institutions at the workplace level is crucial to effective labor rights in marginal workplaces. Wagner identifies structures of access and denial to labor rights for temporary intra-EU migrant workers and the problems contained within this system for the EU more broadly.


"A good read for those who want to understand the difficulties in defining a regulatory floor for new types of work in fragmented arenas of crossborder industrial relations. Similarly, those looking for inspiration about options to engage with the obstacles in practice are well-served here. In addition, the pages are filled with many important observations regarding the more fine-grained realities that posted workers face: from their temporary status and lack of embeddedness in foreign host countries to the organizing difficulties they confront. Also, the explanations of regulatory details of posted work are informative, especially those about the political and legal rationales for defining posting within the framework of the European treaties as an economic freedom of service providers. This relevant observation points to the ideological cleavages around decent work more generally."

- ILR Review

"The theoretical underpinning and research methods of Workers without Borders are of very high quality and provide a greatly needed analysis of labor processes and transnational employment relationships in Europe. Ines Wagner has written a significant contribution to our understanding of the emerging European labor market, and to theoretical discussions on institutional change."

- Jörg Flecker, Professor of Sociology, University of Vienna, and editor of Space, Place and Global Digital Work

"Workers without Borders is an exceptionally thoughtful book on an important subject matter in Europe and beyond. Ines Wagner advances discussions on industrial and labor relations by combining empirical evidence and theoretical interpretations, pointing to implications that have not been discussed before."

- Anke Hassel, Professor of Public Policy, Hertie School of Governance, and author of Wage Setting, Social Pacts, and the Euro: A New Role for the State

About the Author

Ines Wagner is a Researcher at the Institute for Social Research in Oslo. She has published widely on the themes of posted work, intra-EU labor migration, and the changing patterns of work and labor market regulation in the European Union.

This work can be downloaded for non-commercial purposes:

Creative Commons License
Workers without Borders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.