Friday, November 12, 2010
[IWS] COLLECTIVE BARGAINING IN A TIME OF CRISIS (GUSTO WP6 Working Paper--September 2010)
IWS Documented News Service
Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach
School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies
16 East 34th Street, 4th floor---------------------- Stuart Basefsky
New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau
GUSTO WP6 Working Paper--September 2010
Collective Bargaining in a Time of Crisis
Vera Glassner (ETUI), Maarten Keune (AIAS – University of Amsterdam) and Paul Marginson (IRRU - University of Warwick)
[full-text, 31 pages]
The magnitude of the deterioration in economic conditions since mid-2008, and the consequences for employment and employment conditions, are unprecedented in the post-war era in western Europe. Likewise, they are unknown in central and south-east Europe since the economic upheaval that accompanied the post-communist transition twenty years ago. In the present paper we consider the capacity of collective negotiators across the EU to frame and agree measures which respond to the challenges thrown up by the financial and economic crisis. Three main questions arise. First, what has been the incidence and character of negotiated responses at different, inter-sector, sector and company, levels? The prominence or otherwise of collectively agreed measures provides a critical indication of the continued robustness of collective bargaining as a central mode of labour market governance in (most of) Europe’s social models. The character of agreements refers to the substantive measures, in the form of collective goods, provided as protection against uncertainty, but also to the (re)distribution of uncertainty involved and to procedural innovations. Second, what factors influence the cross-country and cross-sector pattern in terms of the incidence and the nature of crisis-response agreements? Four types of factors will be posited as potentially relevant: economic conditions; public policy; industrial relations institutions; and employer and trade union strategies. Third, what might be the medium-term implications of the crisis, both substantively and procedurally, for collective bargaining? The impact of the crisis may have served to reinforce existing trajectories, towards greater prominence of employment as a focus of substantive trade-offs (Léonard, 2001) and, procedurally, towards greater decentralisation of collective bargaining (Marginson and Sisson, 2004; Visser, 2005), or it may have prompted new directions of travel.
In addressing these questions, the paper focuses on crisis-related developments in collective bargaining in the private sector across the EU since the onset of the crisis during 2008. The agreements, and unsuccessful negotiations, that it considers take one of two forms: specific agreements, or negotiations, aimed at tackling the effects of the economic downturn; and crisis response measures adopted as part of ‘regular’ collective agreements, or negotiations on pay and/or other matters. The public sector will be addressed only briefly (see Box 1 in the Annex). The austerity measures aimed at scaling back public deficits embraced by most EU member states in the opening half of 2010, although rather earlier by some including Ireland, Hungary and the Baltic States, carry major consequences for employment and employment conditions in the public sector. However, implementation is still at an early phase in many
countries and the specific nature of the consequences, and therefore the issues to be dealt with by collective negotiators, is as yet not fully clear.
The paper’s analysis is cross-nationally and cross-sectorally comparative. Whilst being alert to innovations in the substance of agreements and in procedural arrangements, the data available preclude a systematic comparison over time. Empirically, the paper draws on two reviews and analysis of secondary sources already undertaken by, respectively, two of the authors and the third working jointly with another colleague1 (Glassner and Keune, 2010; Carley and Marginson, 2010; Marginson and Carley, 2010). A detailed empirical account of crisis-induced developments in private sector collective bargaining across the EU will not be presented here. Instead, readers are referred to these two sources. Examples of particular agreements will be used to illustrate the paper’s arguments.
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