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Workplace inequality, trade unions and the transnational regulation of the employment relationships: the case of Europe

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

© 2017, © Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to report on research on the strategies of inequality at the workplace level of multinational corporations within the context characterized by the weakening of traditional bargaining and representation structures. Through which specific strategies multinational corporations foster inequality across different workplaces across borders and how do trade unions in Europe respond to it? Design/methodology/approach: This paper is a conceptual one and it is based on existing qualitative comparative research developed by the author. Findings: The regulatory regime of organized and governed labor markets and employment relationships is undermined by the employment relationships becoming increasingly unstable in most industrialized countries in Europe. The breakdown in the collective structures for employment regulation, particularly collective bargaining, has led to growing insecurity and inequality among working people. At the workplace level of multinationals inequality is fostered by strategies of flexibilization and benchmarking which force trade unions to negotiate concessions regarding the working conditions of different workers. Trade unions are seeking effective responses to increasing labor market instability and inequality. The paper argues that the transnational regulation of employment relationships through the European Framework Agreements (EFAs) can serve the purpose of constraining benchmarking, while containing workplace inequality. Originality/value: This paper offers an in-depth view that the EFAs can constrain the multinationals’ strategies of benchmarking and workplace inequality. This is because EFAs can potentially spread across countries the positive gains of local negotiations where unions are able to negotiate on employment protection to other local subsidiaries where unions may struggle to do so.
Journal: Employee Relations
ISSN: 0142-5455
Issue: 3
Volume: 39
Pages: 1 - 18
Publication year:2017