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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 8: Temporary surge of European industrial relations triggered by a dispute: The case of MM Packaging


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Temporary surge of European industrial relations triggered by a dispute: The case of MM Packaging

8.1 MM Packaging

MM Packaging is the leading manufacturer of folding cartons in Europe, in a highly fragmented sector largely populated by SMEs (MM Karton AG, 2012: 14).1 The company makes cardboard packaging for food, cigarettes, detergents and sanitary products, with an annual output of around 57 million units consuming 650,000 tonnes of card and paper. MM Packaging has a workforce of some 6,400 employees in thirty-two plants, distributed across sixteen countries in Europe, the Middle East/North Africa, Latin America and Eastern and South Eastern Asia (ibid. 13).

It is one of two business divisions of the Mayr-Melnhof Group. The two divisions, cartons and packaging, are ‘managed as independent profit centres that do business with each other on commercial terms’ (ibid. 11) and have separate identities as M(ayr) M(elnhof) Karton and M(ayr) M(elnhof) Packaging. In formal terms, MM Packaging is part of Mayr Melnhof Karton AG, with its headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

Modern industrial operations at the company were started in 1950 with the adoption of carton-making equipment at the company’s principal plant in Frohnleiten (Austria). Internationalization began in 1984 with the acquisition of the German firm, FS-Karton. In 1994, the company was floated on the Vienna Stock Exchange. The packaging division subsequently ← 149 | 150 → embarked on a phase of strong international growth,...

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