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Transnational Company Bargaining and the Europeanization of Industrial Relations

Prospects for a Negotiated Order


Stephan Rüb, Hans-Wolfgang Platzer and Torsten Müller

Over the past decade, European company-level employment regulation has emerged: European Works Councils (EWCs) and trade unions have begun to negotiate company-level collective agreements which have a far-reaching impact across borders on issues as diverse as company restructuring, health and safety, and profit-sharing. The negotiating parties have thus begun to fill the gap left by low levels of regulation and little formal structure, necessarily leading them to also bargain about the negotiating process itself.
This study is the first to provide a detailed analysis of the process of negotiating European company-level agreements based on ten company case studies as well as a quantitative study of European company-level bargaining in the metalworking industry. The study provides a comprehensive overview of the emerging order of European company-level industrial relations and the strategies and assessments of the key actors, with a particular focus on the emergence of a new and dynamic interplay between EWCs and trade unions at the national and European levels. The findings are also placed in the wider context of political science research into European integration and thus contribute to European governance debates that go beyond the employment and industrial relations field.


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Chapter 1 Introduction


1.1 Subject and Aims of the Study The subject of this study is the emergence of transnational company-level agreements within Europe. Such agreements constitute a recent, expand- ing and novel instrument in the relationships between company manage- ments and workplace employee representatives, and in some instances trade unions, both in terms of shaping patterns of industrial relations and as a form of employment regulation that spans national borders. This study aims to survey and analyse the scale and nature of this developing transnational terrain of bargaining relationships that, as yet, has represented something of a terra incognita both in industrial relations research and the wider field of European studies. Based on a number of company case-studies, our aim is to gauge the significance of European company agreements for employee representation, assess their scope as instruments of employment regulation, and venture a judgement about their prospects for development.1 These concerns are 1 European company agreements are regarded here as agreements for which the key role is played by European-level actors (principally EWCs, European Trade Union Federations and European trade union negotiating groups). Correspondingly, global company agreements are defined as those involving global-level actors (in particular Global Union Federations, but also World Company Councils or global trade union company networks). These agreements are also notable for the fact that they have the formal status of written agreements. In addition, as analysed in Chapter 5, there are also informal arrangements (sometimes in writing and sometimes agreed verbally) between EWCs and managements that do...

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