Lillie Nathan, Professori/Professor

My research areas include trade union strategy, international trade unionism, labour mobility, trade union relations with migrant workers, posted work, European integration and labour politics, and changes in the interpretation of state sovereignty. I am current coordinating an EU Commission funded project on protection of migrant "posted" workers in the European Union with 5 EU partners, and am involved as a partner in a Horizon 2020 project on the labour market integration of migrants. I teach MA level courses in Social and Public policy, including Migration Policy.
Lillie Nathan, Professori/Professor
Yhteiskuntapolitiikka/Social and public policy
Opinkivi 216.1.


Reconstructing Solidarity

Labour Unions, Precarious Work, and the Politics of Institutional Change in Europe

Edited by Virginia Doellgast, Nathan Lillie, and Valeria Pulignano


Labour unions have traditionally been at the forefront of the struggle to improve job security , pay, and working conditions. The widely observed growth in precarious work in recent decades is a result of union weakness, as they are increasingly likely to lose these battles. Many, including scholars in the influential dual labour market school of thought in Comparative Political Economy, have argued that unions often promote the job security of their ‘insider’ core members at the expense of more precarious ‘outsiders’. It cannot be denied that unions sometimes accede to employer demands to shift jobs to non-standard, insecure contracts and deregulate labour markets, or neglect the interests of precarious workers. However, these exclusive strategies are often developed under the frame of competitive collective bargaining and are rarely sustainable in the long term. Where core workers do not show solidarity with vulnerable workers, they often undermine their own bargaining power through allowing lower-cost competition to expand. On the other hand, ensuring equal treatment for all workers, particularly those in unstable work, is essential to the long-term viability of the labour movement.

 Labour unions increasingly seek to regulate precarious work and represent precarious workers, both to protect their members’ working conditions and to pursue broader commitments to equity and social justice. They succeed in these objectives when they can mobilize power resources derived from inclusive institutions and inclusive forms of worker solidarity. These factors are complementary: inclusive institutions make it easier for unions to organize and represent diverse groups of workers, while unions rely on inclusive solidarity to mobilize the broad forms of collective action necessary to sustain or rebuild encompassing institutions. In this sense, employment precarity is both an outcome of and a central contributing factor to a mutually reinforcing feedback relationship between labour market, welfare state, and collective bargaining institutions; worker identity and identification; and employer and union strategies. Most crucially, grounding labour power in inclusive solidarity depends on two factors: first, building or sustaining coordinated bargaining within the labour movement; and second, coalition building across unions and among organizations representing workers and their communities.



Research Projects

SIRIUS, Horizon 2020 collaboration partner


SIRIUS, builds on a multi-dimensional conceptual framework in which the host country or political-
institutional, societal and individual-related conditions function either as enablers or as barriers to
migrants’, refugees’ and asylum seekers’ integration via the labour market. The project aims to
understand which aspects play an enabling role and which play an obstructing role, and to discern
how to strengthen the former and mitigate the latter.

The role of the JYU team is to conduct field research on migrant labour market integration in Finland.  The project lasts from January 2018 to December 2020.  Nathan Lillie is the Principle Investigator, and Ilona Bontenbal is the main project researcher.   The project is coodinated by Glasgow Caledonian University, and involves partners from around Europe.   



PROMO: Porting of Workers - Protecting Mobility through Improving Labour Rights Enforcement in Europe


The situation of posted workers has become an increasing concern. It has even been among the agenda points of election campaigns in European Member States like France and others. Among workers, employees, their  unions, researchers, representatives of labour inspectors, social partners and other relevant actors the serious inadequacies of the protection systems for posted workers in the European Union are perceived as unfair competition on jobs, wages and income. Problems include significant wage differences, growth of a grey and informal economy, labour intermediaries, violations of social standards, social rights, and social security fraud. The perception of the problem has and continues to nourish right wing populist campaigns and parties.

Posting of workers brings about a conflict between the free movement of services and labour on the one hand, and basic social rights of association and industrial action, on the other hand.

JyU is leading the ‘Protecting Mobility through Improving Labour Rights Enforcement in Europe’ (PROMO) project that aims to enhance administrative cooperation and information sharing between relevant stakeholders engaged with posting of workers. In the framework of this project the following three briefing papers are now available to read:

On 24 and 25 November the PROMO project is hosting a conference to discuss “Strengthening Trans/national Cooperation among Labour Standards Enforcement Agencies in Europe: Challenges and Opportunities”. The conference was held in Prague and explored and discussed challenges and opportunities to strengthen the enforcement of labour standards for more effective protection and equal treatment of posted and migrant workers in Europe.

In June, 2018 in Padova, Italy, we will hold our third conference on Industrial Democracy and Trade  Union Representation of Posted Workers.  To get on our email list and receive an invitation, please email Kairit Kall at kairit86@tlu.ee.



Professor Lillie was involved as a scientific advisor in the project "Testing EU Citizenship as Labour Citizenship".  The project was coordinated by the Multicultural Centre Prague and brought together 12 partner organisations. It involving collecting EU and non-EU migrant workers’ testimonies about serious labour rights violations in a number of EU countries. The testimonies were the basis for launching a discussion of the role of EU and national institutions and laws in improving the working conditions in Europe and ensuring labour rights are respected. Individual Country Reports described key labour rights violations that they examined in specific sectors, the mechanisms of exploitation, and policy recommendations on the local and EU level.  Workshops were held in various EU countries, and there was a final conference in Brussels attended by various national and EU policy actors, academics, and NGOs. The project was funded by the European Commission's "Europe for the Citizens".   See the attached Labcit MKC info template for a description of the project.   Follow this link to get more information about the project results http://migrationonline.cz/en/about-us/current-projects/testing-eu-citizenship-as-labour-citizenship-from-cases-of-labour-rights-violations-to-a-strengthened-labour-rights-regime.                

PDF document icon                Labcit MKC info template EfC-1 Copy.pdf                              —                   PDF document,                  179 KB (183927 bytes)


Research Areas

Labour migration, union strategy, European Union labour politics, off-shoring, industrial citizenship, posted work, precarious work, union organizing

Selected Recent Publications

Kairit Kall, Nathan Lillie, Markku Sippola and Laura Mankki (2018) “Overcoming Barriers to Transnational Organizing Through Identity Work: Finnish–Estonian Trade Union Cooperation”, Work, Employment and Society, DOI: 10.1177/0950017017746086

Virginia Doellgast, Nathan Lillie, and Valeria Pulignano (2018)  From dualization to solidarity: Halting the cycle of precarity,  in V. Doellgast, N. Lillie and V. Pulignano, eds Reconstructing Solidarity Labour Unions, Precarious Work, and the Politics of Institutional Change in Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press:  

Sonila Danaj, Erka Caro, Laura Mankki, Markku Sippola, and Nathan Lillie (2018) “Unions and Migrant Workers: The Perspective of Estonians in Finland and Albanians in Italy and Greece,” in V. Doellgast, N. Lillie and V. Pulignano, eds Reconstructing Solidarity Labour Unions, Precarious Work, and the Politics of Institutional Change in Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 

Nathan Lillie and Anna Simola (2016) “The Crisis of Free Movement in the European Union,” Mondi Migranti 3: 7-19.

Nathan Lillie (2016)The Right Not to Have Rights: Posted Worker Acquiescence and the European Union Labor Rights Framework,” Theoretical Inquiries in Law, 17(1): 39-62.

Erka Caro, Lisa Berntsen, Nathan Lillie and Ines Wagner (2015) “Posted Migration and Segregation in the European Construction Sector” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 41(10): 1600-1620

Chenchen Zhang and Nathan Lillie (2015) “Industrial Citizenship, Cosmopolitanism and European Integration,” European Journal of Social Theory http://est.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/10/30/1368431014553756.full.pdf?ijkey=OIf1dmL0rroXySh&keytype=ref

Lisa Berntsen and Nathan Lillie (2015) “Breaking the law? Social dumping in a pan-European labour market,” in Market Expansion and Social Dumping in Europe Magdalena Bernaciak (ed.) Routledge.

Lisa Berntsen and Nathan Lillie (2015) “Hyper-mobile migrant workers and Dutch trade union representation strategies at the Eemshaven construction sites,” Economic and Industrial Democracy, DOI: 10.1177/0143831X14537357.

Ines Wagner and Nathan Lillie (2014) “European Integration and the Disembedding of Labour Markets: Transnational Labour Relations at the European Central Bank Construction Site,” Journal of Common Market Studies, 52:2, pp. 403-419.

Nathan Lillie, Ines Wagner, and Lisa Berntsen, (2014) “Posted Migration, Spaces of Exception, and the Politics of Labour Relations in the European Construction Industry,” in Marco Hauptmeier and Matt Vidal, eds., The Comparative Political Economy of Work and Employment Relations, Palgrave, pp. 312-331.

Nathan Lillie (2012) “Subcontracting, Posted Migrants and Labour Market Segmentation in Finland,” British Journal of Industrial Relations, 40(1), pp. 148-167.

Nathan Lillie and Markku Sippola (2011) “National Unions and Transnational Workers: the Case of Olkiluoto 3, Finland,” Work, Employment and Society, 25(2), pp.1-17.

Teaching (list of courses)

Migration and the Life Course: A Collaborative Course with Tallinn University

YKP Maisteriseminaari I ja II

Johdatus yhteiskuntapolitiikan maisteriopintoihin

Vertaileva sosiaalipolitiikka

YKPS3102 Migration Policy