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The Transnationalisation of Collective Bargaining

Approaches of European Trade Unions


Vera Glassner

This book analyses the transnationalisation of collective bargaining by European trade unions, presenting key theoretical concepts and debates on the Europeanisation of collective bargaining and social dialogue.
The author uses comprehensive empirical evidence to illustrate that trade union strategies can be linked to sector-specific economic, institutional and actorrelated factors.
Looking at seven different industrial sectors, the book investigates whether western European trade unions pursue a centralised, vertical approach towards the transnationalisation of collective bargaining policies or embark upon decentralised, horizontal cross-border initiatives.
It identifies and operationalises the most important determinants of processes and explores commonly held assumptions about relationships between different forms of trade union-driven transnationalisation.
Overall, the study reveals a number of patterns in the variation between countries and sectors, both of the institutions and instruments involved and of the intensity of cross-border coordination.
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7.5 Construction Sector


The construction sector exhibits a range of particularities. First, it ranks among the most labour intensive industries in Europe, with 50% of production costs being labour-related. The high share of labour cost in production cost puts a strain on the labour factor by imposing stict requirements with regard to flexibility. Working time regulations, the timely framework for the completion of construction projects, seasonal, weekend and overtime work are all characterised by a high degree of flexibility. As a general trend, processes of outsourcing, subcontracting and down-sizing were widespread in labour intensive industries. For instance, in the Netherlands around 60% of construction services were carried out by subcontractors and only 40% by the main contractors in the year 2005 (Cremers, 2008).

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Thus, secondly, “atypical” forms of employment such as self-employed persons and agency worker account for a comparably high percentage in the sector’s total workforce. The diffusion of such employment relations is considered as a response of employers to increased competitive pressures ensuing from the completion of the European Single Market and the enlargement of the EU. Prior to the step-by-step implementation of the Common Market principle from the 1980s onwards, the construction sector was dominated by large national companies and an array of small and medium-sized supplier and subcontracting firms. The company structure in the sector often resembled a “quasi” or a “factual” cartel of large building companies in a large number of member countries. The procurement of public building works was...

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