Handbook of Research on Comparative Human Resource Management
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Handbook of Research on Comparative Human Resource Management

Edited by Chris Brewster and Wolfgang Mayrhofer

This unique and path-breaking Handbook explores the issue of comparative Human Resource Management (HRM) and challenges the notion that there can be a ‘one best way’ to manage HRM.
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Chapter 10: Comparative Employment Relations: Definitional, Disciplinary and Development Issues

Werner Nienhüser and Chris Warhurst


Werner Nienhüser and Chris Warhurst In the United States, the hotel industry is regarded as a ‘classic low wage’ industry (Bernhardt et al., 2003). Concerned about the perilous low level of wages in the US industry, a multinational team of US-led researchers turned their attention to Europe, anticipating that similar jobs in the European hotel industry would be better. ‘In fact’, the researchers discovered, ‘things don’t seem that much better on the other side of the Atlantic’ (Vanselow et al., 2010: 270). Jobs in the European countries’ hotels were also low skilled and work intensification was likewise common. As in the United States, low pay was endemic but, strikingly, the relative level of that low pay varied amongst the countries. Moreover, some aspects of hotel jobs in Germany were becoming to resemble those in the United States. The initial expectations of an enlightened European hotel industry were thus confounded: there were as many differences amongst the countries of Europe as there were between those countries and the United States, and even then, jobs in Europe were changing. These findings were replicated across a number of other service and manufacturing industries included in the study, ‘there is no simple one-dimensional US versus Europe story. There is variation within Europe too’, Solow and Wanner (2010: xx) noted. Whilst this research was overtly concerned with job quality, as Solow and Warner note, defining job quality is difficult, even pointless they say; in practice, the focus was employment relations within each country, how...

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