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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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Preface and acknowledgements


This study, the empirical core of which is based on a large number of expert interviews, would not have been possible without the cooperation of our interviewees: trade union officials, workplace employee representatives, and management. We are indebted to them for enabling our research to take place.

We are especially grateful to those individuals who made themselves available, as field research in the service sector proved to be more difficult and time-consuming than previous comparable research in manufacturing industry. In one instance, for example, group management refused to grant us any access at all. We discuss the factors behind these difficulties both in the section on methodology as well as in the context of the individual case studies, insofar as they had implications for acquiring data.

Torsten Müller was a member of the project team during the initial stages of the project and, prior to his move to the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), took part in the initial round of trade union interviews and also conducted interviews for two case studies. We are very grateful to Torsten for his contribution to the project.

We are also indebted to our ‘foreign correspondents’, Ingegerd Akselsson Le Douaron and Jean Claude Le Douaron, Magdalena Bernacziak, Marie Meixner and Lisa Schulte, who conducted and minuted interviews in Sweden, Poland, France, and the United Kingdom.

A two-day project workshop in Brussels, organized by Torsten Müller and financed by the ETUI, provided an...

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