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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 2: Methods and context


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Methods and context

2.1 Theoretical and conceptual framework

This study is guided by three analytic concepts that we have developed and detailed in previous studies of the Europeanization of company-level industrial relations and transnational collective bargaining for the metalworking industry (Rüb et al., 2013: 19ff.): the concept of multilevel transnational industrial relations, the concept of Europeanization, and a concept of negotiation that draws on the work of Anselm Strauss (1978).

2.1.1 The Multilevel System of Transnational Industrial Relations

The aim of conceptualizing transnational industrial relations as a multilevel arrangement is to structure the research field by revealing both the framework of levels and actors as well as the interdependence of a set of linked and overlapping levels.

The model is based on the idea that, as a consequence of globalization and EU integration, and in addition to national functional-institutional multilevel structures of industrial relations that have arisen over time (company, multi-employer, political levels), a European and global level of industrial relations has emerged, creating a complex and dynamic multi-tier structure of transnational industrial relations (see Table 1). The dynamics of this structure are generated through a process of constant change to which these interdependencies, interactions and balances between spatial and functional levels, including the roles of the actors, are subject. ← 7 | 8 →

This multilevel structure encompasses both horizontal and vertical processes of Europeanization.

Horizontally, company-level industrial relations are...

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