Challenges for Workers and Unions
Edited by Carole Thornley, Steve Jefferys and Beatrice Appay
Chapter 5: Global Restructuring of Transnational Companies: Negotiations in the Auto Industry
Isabel da Costa and Udo Rehfeldt INTRODUCTION The internationalization of the economy has, from the beginning, represented a challenge for workers and unions. The labour movement tried to address this challenge as early as 1864 with the creation of the International Working Men’s Association. The latest form of economic internationalization is generally referred to as ‘globalization’. As many chapters of this book show, one of its dimensions is the development of precarious forms of production and employment, including ‘atypical’ forms of work, but globalization also has an impact on ‘full-time core work’, particularly through restructuring. We will here address one of the aspects of global restructuring, the emergence of transnational negotiations with multinational or transnational companies (TNCs). Transnational collective bargaining (TCB) with TNCs is relatively recent since most of the agreements were signed after 2000. By TCB we mean collective bargaining practices between employer and employee representatives aiming at reaching transnational agreements (global, European or other regional) whose content can range from symbolic to far-reaching. At the global level, TCB between TNCs and global union federations (GUFs) has led to the signature of international framework agreements (IFAs), which so far have been primarily concerned with core labour standards and corporate social responsibility (CSR). In Europe, there is no legal framework for TCB at the transnational company level, but this level of bargaining has none the less been emerging. If we exclude the agreements to set up European works councils (EWCs), restructuring is the major issue for TCB at the company...
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