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Transnational Company Bargaining and the Europeanization of Industrial Relations

Prospects for a Negotiated Order

Series:

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 3 The Structural Context for European Company-Level Bargaining

Extract

3.1 The Political and Economic Dynamic of EU Integration, EU Governance and Transnational Industrial Relations The process of European integration has acquired an historically unprec- edented momentum since the 1990s. The completion of the Single Market and Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) has significantly deepened economic integration, with the number of EU Member States nearly dou- bling following the two waves of expansion in 2004 and 2007. In the economic field, the process of EU integration is notable for: • The historic and unprecedented debordering of national economies ef fected through the Single Market and the equally unprecedented degree of economic interdependence as a result of EMU. • The concomitant and ongoing process of corporate restructuring in the EU expressed quantitatively in a growth in the number of transnational companies and qualitatively in a transformation in corporate strategies (Europeanization of management strategies). • The intensified logic of competition as a result of market liberali- zation and privatization that, in addition to product and service markets, also increasingly encompasses labour markets. The competitive logics of market integration and corporate transnationali- zation, along with other factors, have also reinforced a trend to the decen- tralization of collective bargaining, with a shift in the locus of industrial relations to the workplace (including, indeed in particular, in systems with a 60 Chapter 3 tradition of sectoral, supra-workplace collective bargaining). This ‘dual shift’ – consisting of more or less ‘controlled’ decentralization/localization/f lexi- bilization of national collective bargaining arrangements and the simultane- ous transnationalization of corporate structures with associated impacts...

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