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The Europeanization of Industrial Relations in the Service Sector

Problems and Perspectives in a Heterogeneous Field


Stefan Rüb and Hans-Wolfgang Platzer

The service sector has not always received the attention it merits in industrial relations research when set against its enormous economic significance. One factor in this is certainly the highly diverse nature of services. Research attention has also lagged behind long-standing processes of transnationalization undertaken by service sector companies and the challenges these pose for policy and practice in the field of employment relations. This study by Stefan Rüb and Hans-Wolfgang Platzer represents a pioneering effort to remedy this gap. Through six named company case studies, Rüb and Platzer explore the scope and background for transnational employee relations conflicts and the mechanisms that have emerged to resolve and anticipate these, highlighting the complex relationships between employee representatives, management and trade unions.
The choice of case studies aims to capture a broad range of service sector employment, in terms of both working conditions and employment relations arrangements. As well as covering a number of key sectors, the choice of home countries of the selected firms also aims to capture the impact of national influences for the main industrial relations models in Europe. Overall, the study offers insights into the complexities of the Europeanization of company-level industrial relations in a dynamic field now also confronted by the convulsions unleashed by the Eurozone crisis.
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Chapter 1: Introduction


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The complexity and dynamics of change in the process of European integration are currently confronting industrial relations researchers with new, fascinating – and challenging – arrays of problems, irrespective of whether the concern is with developments and changes in national systems of industrial relations in EU Member States prompted by EU integration or, as in this case, principally with cross-border and supra-state processes.

This study, which addresses the issue of Europeanization in the service sector, is located within such a transnational perspective. Through a methodology based on qualitative empirical research, it aims to respond to the following research questions:

• What transnational networks, actors, and institutions are emerging in industrial relations at group-level within large companies in the EU?

• What interests shape the actions of managements, employee representatives and trade unions in addressing cross-border employment issues?

• What strategies and instruments are being deployed by companies and trade unions in their efforts to develop forms of employment regulation beyond the level of the nation state?

• Is the Europeanization of industrial relations at company level in the service sector characterized by a particular set of dynamics and sector-specific features?

Research in the field of industrial relations generally, and European integration in particular, is anything other than an academic growth industry, in which large data sets, tried-and-tested theoretical models and a canon of established academic literature offer a foundation for ongoing work (for an...

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