Over the last three decades, the issue of labour market segmentation has acquired a renewed significance in the political and scientific debate. Within this debate, a particularly discussed topic has been the role of trade unions in segmentation processes. According to the dualisation literature, trade unions have contributed to strengthen, rather than limiting, segmentation and the growth of inequalities on the labour market, since they are focused on the defense of their members, mainly concentrated in the most protected labor market segments. Through the analysis of the strategies adopted by German unions of the chemical and metalworking sectors towards outsourcing and nonstandard forms of employment, this study challenges this view. We will show that trade unions do not necessarily exclude outsiders. This is because the defense of their members is just one of the possible reasons that define trade unions’ strategies. In addition, we show how the same willingness to defend the interests of their members does not lead necessarily to the exclusion of more peripheral workers, since the growth of the latter often puts the former under strain. To represent more vulnerable workers becomes, therefore, a need for trade unions in order to defend also more stable workers.
Keywords: Segmentation, insider/outsider, trade union strategies, Germany