T2-19: Values, trust and action

5 September 2019, 14:00–15:30

Chair: Berndt Keller


(A)symmetric trust relationships between employer and employee representatives in Europe

Some (not so) known stylized facts

Bernd Brandl, Durham University Business School

Trust between employers and employees and their representatives, i.e. in the employment relationship, is usually seen in literature as beneficial for the efficacy of their interaction. The beneficial role of trust between the employee and employer side on the efficacy of their interaction is rooted in the beneficial role of trust in negotiation and bargaining situations in general. Although literature contains a reasonable amount of theoretical and empirical research on the reasons why trust can be high or low (or somewhere in-between) in different countries and companies relatively few stylized and generalizable facts have emerged because the majority of analyses focused on case (e.g. single company or country) studies. Furthermore, previous literature concentrated on trust from the employee side in the employer side, i.e. on trust in management, but very little research can be found on trust in the other direction, i.e. on trust of the employer side in the employee side. Even more scarce is research in mutual trust. On basis of a unique, large and comprehensive matched employee/employer data set which covers trust relationships at establishment level between the employer side, i.e. the management, and the employee side, i.e. employee representatives, this article not only gives an overview of how trust between the two side differs in different companies in different European countries, but also provides a systematic analysis of the factors which determine trust in the employment relationship.

European practices of the union ver.di

Proposal of a field theoretical perspective

Nele Dittmar, TU Berlin

Research in social sciences often draws rather pessimistic conclusions on the perspectives for trade union action in Europe. Differences in union cultures and between industrial relations systems, adverse material interests and asymmetric power relations within a competitive European economy are found to be restricting factors. It is less common, however, to look inside a trade union and take account of power relations or different practices prevailing within the organization, which might also hinder or facilitate European action (see Rüb 2009 as an exception).

In this paper, I would like to propose a field theoretical perspective (e.g. Bourdieu/Wacquant 1992) on the possibilities for and obstacles to trade union action in Europe. From this perspective, which was so far rarely applied to industrial relations or trade unions (see however Meise 2014 and Pernicka 2015 as examples), an organization is neither seen as a means of rational actors to reach a specified goal, nor as determined by its environment. Rather, a field – and an organization-as-field – is conceived of as a power structure in which actors struggle over organizational goals and strategies. It is assumed, however, that these struggles can only be explained by looking at both, the power relations within the organization-as-field itself and the position of the organization in other fields (Bourdieu 2005: 205).

Drawing on a case study of the German services union ver.di , I would like to sketch out how power relations and “rules of the game” in the German and European fields of industrial relations as well as within the union itself influence ver.dis Europe-related work. This might help to draw a more differentiated picture of trade union action in Europe in two respects: on the one hand, it could bring to light Europe-related practices of unions, which are overlooked by a macro-level perspective; on the other hand, it might point to obstacles located within the unions themselves.

The German field of industrial relations has been characterized by a relative balance of power between the organizations of labour and capital and a prevailing logic of concertation until the beginning of the 1990s. Since then, however, power relations have shifted to the detriment of unions, one reason for this being European and international economic integration. Schroeder (2016) differentiates three different “worlds” of industrial relations in Germany by now. The regulatory capacity of unions, employers’ associations and collective agreements decreases drastically from the first (e.g. core areas of the public sector) to the third world (e.g. big parts of the private services sector) (Schroeder 2016: 378f.). With the changing power relations, the rules of the game are also increasingly contested. The logic of concertation is put into question and both unions and employers’ associations have re-oriented themselves to some extent away from a “logic of influence” towards a “logic of membership” (Schmitter/Streeck 1999).

At EU-level, most commentators feel that only a rudimentary field of industrial relations has evolved, including elements of a rather symbolic euro-corporatism (Bieling/Schulten 2002), characterized by an imbalance of power to the disadvantage of trade unions. While EU-industrial relations institutions are arguably generally less developed than in Germany, power relations and “rules of the game” still vary in different economic sectors and policy areas at European level.

The union ver.di which is itself very heterogeneous – it organizes employees from all three “worlds of industrial relations” and encompasses 13 departments responsible for different economic sectors – is embedded in complex power relations in national and European (and – to make it even more complex –international) industrial relations fields. Affected by developments within these fields, rules of the games and power relations within ver.di are also changing. One can observe a certain shift in priorities to practices more strongly oriented towards a “logic of membership” (see for example ver.di’s organizational development program “Perspective – ver.di grows”). Rüb and Platzer (2015: 180) see an explicit conflict between Europe-related work (in their case, work with European Works Councils) and ver.di’s current priority on winning and activating (new) members. However, there are departments in ver.di in which “Europe” is an integral part of day-to-day work. Representatives of ver.di’s transport department work in close cooperation with “their” European union federation and workers and their unions in the transport sector have been able to block several EU-regulations through intensive lobbying and mobilizations at EU-level. A representative of ver.di’s health and social services department speaks of times in which (s)he has invested 100% of her/his working time in European issues. And ver.di has played an important part in the European citizens’ initiative “Right2Water”.

The proposed paper will take a closer look at how these diverse Europe-related practices within the union ver.di could be better understood by taking into account shifting power relations and changing rules of the game within industrial relations fields at national and European level as well as within the union itself.


  • Bieling, H.-J./Schulten, T. (2002): Reorganisation der industriellen Beziehungen im europäischen Mehrebenensystem. In: Industrielle Beziehungen, 9(3): 245-273.
  • Bourdieu, P. (2005): The Social Structures of the Economy. Cambridge/Malden.
  • Bourdieu, P./Wacquant, L.J.D. (1992): An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago.
  • Meise, S. (2014): Organisation und Vielfalt. Modernisierungen der Gewerkschaftspraxis. Wiesbaden.
  • Pernicka, S. (2018): Dynamiken von Macht und Gegenmacht in der europäischen Lohnkoordinierung. In: WSI-Mitteilungen 8/2015: 604-612.
  • Rüb, S. (2009): Die Transnationalisierung der Gewerkschaften. Eine empirische Unter¬suchung am Beispiel der IG Metall. Berlin.
  • Rüb, S./Platzer, H.-W. (2015): Europäisierung der Arbeitsbeziehungen im Dienstleistungssektor. Empirische Befunde, Probleme und Perspektiven eines heterogenen Feldes. Berlin.
  • Schmitter, P./Streeck, W. (1999): The Organization of Business Interests. Studying the Associative Action of Business in Advanced Industrial Societies. MPIfG Discussion Paper 99/1.
  • Schroeder, W. (2016): Konfliktpartnerschaft – still alive. Veränderter Konfliktmodus in der verarbeitenden Industrie. In: Industrielle Beziehungen, 23(3): 374-392.


Engagement and cooperation in collective action

The role of `shared values‘

Sabrina Weber, Pforzheim University
Barbara Bechter, Durham University Business School
Manuela Galetto, University of Warwick
Bengt Larsson, University of Gothenburg
Tom Prosser, Cardiff University


We investigate the reasons behind engagement and cooperation in European sectoral social dialogue. By taking a closer look at two most similar cases of sectoral social dialogue committees (SSDC) with most different outcomes, we outline the role of ‘shared values’ to overcome diverging interests between trade unions and employer organisations, but also within these social partner organisations.


We argue that the intention to engage in SSDC depends on the relevance or importance of topics to (most) affiliates. When actors identify relevant topics of common interest and goal congruence (e. g. solving problems) within and between social partners, this increases the motivation to influence and tackle a certain topic in the SSDC and produce joint outcomes. Goal congruence is more likely when trade unions and employers are able to articulate their goals in terms of (shared) ‘values’ rather than conflicting ‘interests’ (Provis, 1996). We therefore argue that collaborative problem solving and consensus building is more likely if shared values are identified in a certain SSDC.


We use secondary data and primary data in the context of our two cases, the hospital SSDC and the metal SSDC. Our secondary data includes joint social partner texts, work programmes, and meeting minutes. Primary data is made up of interviews with social partners at the national and the European level and observation of SSDC meetings. Where appropriate, we also include quantitative data (on the economic sector, on the 43 SSDCs) to inform our analysis.


Our findings support the assumption that cooperation is more likely to occur in more homogenous SSDCs with ‘shared values’. In the hospital sector, ‘patient safety’ and ‘quality of care’ represent such shared values that allow trade unions and employer organisations to work together to find solutions to staffing problems, high workloads, and stress at work. Values such as ‘quality of services/care’ are supportive of patient safety as well as the reasonable workloads and if workforce is sufficiently well-trained (EPSU, 2017). In the metal sector, ‘digitalisation’ (Ceemet and industriAll, 2016) has to some extent a similar standing, since it connects to both working conditions and competitiveness. However, in comparison with the quality of care in the hospital sector, digitalisation does not (yet) seems to have as strong relevance for all affiliates. Even more, by some digitalisation is seen as a bit of ‘advanced’ topic pushed for by pro-active organizations, large businesses from members states in which this is most topical.


  • Ceemet; industriAll (2016) “The impact of digitalisation on the world of work in the metal, engineering and technology-based industries, by European sector social partners”. Available from: https://www.ceemet.org/sites/default/files/joint_statement_digitalisatio... [Accessed 17 December 2018].
  • EPSU (2017) HOSPEEM-EPSU EU-funded project “Promoting effective recruitment and retention policies for health workers in the EU by ensuring access to CPD and healthy and safe workplaces supportive of patient safety and quality care” (2017–2018). Available from: https://www.epsu.org/sites/default/files/article/files/Summary-Informati... [Accessed 17 December 2018].
  • Provis, C. (1996) Unitarism, pluralism, interest and values. British Journal of Industrial Relations 34(4), 473–495.



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