Research Handbook of Comparative Employment Relations
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Research Handbook of Comparative Employment Relations

Edited by Michael Barry and Adrian Wilkinson

The Research Handbook of Comparative Employment Relations is an essential resource for those seeking to understand contemporary developments in the world of work, and the way in which employment relations systems are evolving around the world.
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Chapter 17: The Role of MNEs

David G. Collings, Jonathan Lavelle and Patrick Gunnigle


David G. Collings, Jonathan Lavelle and Patrick Gunnigle INTRODUCTION Multinational enterprises (MNEs) have become dominant players in the global economy. Despite the recent economic downturn, UNCTAD data indicate that there are some 82  000 multinational enterprises with some 810 000 subsidiaries operating in the global economy (UNCTAD, 2009). The largest MNEs are comparable to large countries in terms of their economic worth. Of the largest 150 global economic entities, 74 are nation states and the remaining 76 are MNEs (Butler, 2007). The significance of MNEs in the world economy is highlighted by the fact that they employ some 77 million employees (UNCTAD, 2009). It is therefore evident that employment practices and employment relations in MNEs affect the work experiences of an ever-growing number of employees on a global scale. Rather than taking a comparative focus and examining differences between employment relations issues in different countries (see Part 3 of this volume), this chapter adopts an international focus. Following Collings (2008, p. 175) we define international employment relations1 as ‘the IR [industrial relations] issues and problems, for both capital and labour, arising from the internationalization of business, and the IR strategies, policies and practices which firms, employees and their representatives pursue in response to the internationalization of business’. In this chapter, we adopt a pluralist frame of reference that recognizes the existence of a conflict of interest between capital and labour and the key role of power in the interaction between the parties in employment relations. Drawing on the institutional literature...

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