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Varieties of decentralisation in German collective bargaining – experiences from metal industry and retail trade. WP CSDLE “Massimo D’Antona”.INT – 137/2017

Schulten, Thorsten and Bispinck, Reinhard (2017) Varieties of decentralisation in German collective bargaining – experiences from metal industry and retail trade. WP CSDLE “Massimo D’Antona”.INT – 137/2017. [Working Paper]

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    Germany is well to the fore in terms of collective bargaining decentralisation in Europe (Keune 2011). In the international literature it is often regarded as a standard case of ‘organised’ or ‘controlled decentralisation’, within the framework of which the bargaining parties at sectoral level define the scope for derogations at company level via socalled opening clauses (Visser 2016; OECD 2017). In many European countries German experiences have served as an important reference point for reform of national collective bargaining systems. The international perception of the German variant of decentralisation, however, is often rather one-sided and does not reflect German collective bargaining in all its diversity. There are at least two fundamental problems. First, its development is very much viewed through the lenses of major manufacturing industries, such as chemicals or metalworking, which industrial relations regimes differ very much from those in other sectors, such as private services (Dribbusch et al. 2017). In addition to a general overview of German collective bargaining and its decentralising tendencies, in this chapter we provide two in-depth case studies – one on the metal industry and one on retail trade – which provides a comprehensive picture of the differentiated world of collective bargaining in Germany. Secondly, the concept of ‘organised decentralisation’ often takes too rosy a view and underestimates the level of conflict. As German experiences show clearly, collective bargaining decentralisation is not about a more or less ‘intelligent’ mode of regulation, but about different interests and power relations. It deals with the fundamental conflict between setting up a level playing-field for all companies and recognising the specific interests and circumstances of individual firms. The trend towards decentralisation has fundamentally changed the German collective bargaining system. Organised and non-organised forms of decentralisation exist side by side, together with an overall trend toward the erosion of collective bargaining in some parts of the economy. While decentralisation often goes together with a shift in power from labour to capital, it sometimes creates new opportunities for revitalising union power.

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    Item Type: Working Paper
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > industrial policy
    Countries > Germany
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > University of Catania > Department of Law, C.S.D.L.E. "Massimo D'Antona" Working Papers .INT
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2019 15:45
    Number of Pages: 57
    Last Modified: 15 Nov 2019 15:45

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