The Politics of Flexibility: Employment Practices in Automotive Multinationals in Central and Eastern Europe
Forthcoming, European Journal of Industrial Relations, December 2015, Published online before print 26 August 2014, doi: 10.1177/0959680114546437.
21 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2014 Last revised: 27 Aug 2014
Date Written: June 4, 2014
This paper investigates flexibility strategies of automobile producers in nine assembly subsidiaries in three Central and Eastern Europe Countries (CEECs). The organization of employment flexibility is an important concern for car makers, as well as for their employees. In CEECs, employment flexibility has become the major employment relations question, and is an area of conflict with unions. Analyzing the processes through which incoming MNCs established their labour flexibility strategies also demonstrates how they coped with the established legal and employment relations environments in the region. This analysis draws on a comparative case study approach, based on information obtained from published sources and semi-structured interviews with management and trade unions, to analyse these processes in nine automobile assembly subsidiaries in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. The argument here is that the flexibility strategies were shaped by parent-company flexibility practices, the flexibility needs of individual affiliates, and the relative strength of labour in negotiating the implementation of these practices in the affiliates. Given the relatively weak industrial relations institutions in the region, the relative strength of labour is conditioned primarily by market factors and parent-company contexts. The findings thus highlight the importance of political resources and agency of actors in the MNCs in shaping the employment policies.
Keywords: multinational companies, employment relations, flexibility, Central and Eastern Europe, automotive sector
JEL Classification: J04, J05, J51, J52, J53,J61, J64
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