T2-02: Collective bargaining: National perspectives

5 September 2019, 16:00–17:30

Chair: Gerhard Bosch



Farewell from the industry-level bargaining or an increased diversity of bargained employment conditions?

Catherine Vincent, IRES
Kevin Guillas-Cavan, IRES

Multi-employer bargaining has been under pressure in recent years from the dual impact of the economic crisis and government interventions in areas traditionally within the remit of social partners’ autonomy (Marginson, 2014). Such pressure has impacted the structure of collective bargaining system and its outcome. The space for decentralised bargaining has increased and the degree of coordination of different levels of collective bargaining has weakened (Pedersini, Leonardi, 2018).

In France, until the last years, industry-level bargaining remained the main pillar of the industrial relations system, even if the strength and spread of collective bargaining have never relied on the existence of strong and encompassing bargaining parties, but on support from the state, particularly in the form of extension procedures and through the statutory minimum wage. In the past two decades, however, employers have chosen to privilege company-level bargaining to weaken the constraints imposed by legislation or by sectoral bargaining, but industry has remained an important level for determining employment and working conditions.

Since the 2008 crisis, France had to face similar economic challenges as many others European countries: sharp falls in employment and wage cuts or freezes. Its industrial relations regime has also come under growing pressure from European institutions to decentralize collective bargaining. This has opened the way to reforms based on government unilateralism which aim at increasing and relaxing the possibility for a company-level agreement to derogate to the industry-level ones. Most notably, the 2016 and 2017 reforms of labour market regulation and industrial relations conferred more autonomy on company bargaining and introduced a reversal of the norm hierarchy, by extending the issues for which priority is given to company-level agreements.

This overhaul of collective bargaining will certainly hasten the decline of the regulatory heft of industry agreements but not necessarily in the same way depending on the sectors. The existence of divergent practices between bargaining sectors is not new: many researches had highlighted that regulatory capacity differs according to industry (Bareau & Brochard, 2003; Castel et al., 2014; Rehfeldt & Vincent, 2018). In some industries, sectoral agreements are still central and create convergence of employment conditions in all companies whereas in most areas, particularly in the metal industry, employers’ federations sought to negotiate standards that preserve some leeway in large companies.

Our communication questions the room left for sector-level collective bargaining under the strain of the new forms of employment relations regulation: is the trodden path of sector-level bargaining now replaced by enterprise level? More particularly, we focus on the coordination between sector and enterprise as bargaining levels and its evolution . Is there disorganized and decentralized collective bargaining in all the sectors of activity? Do old sectoral differences persist or do new typologies emerge?

Regarding the decentralization and the ‘reversal of the norm hierarchy’, a part of the literature assumes the idea of a substitution of the company-level agreements to the ones occurring at the industry-level (Freyssinet, 2017). Recent works hint that, in a number of cases, there could still be complementarity between both levels (Gantois & France, 2016; Lemière & Denimal, 2016). Based on the first results of a study using the workplace survey REPONSE, this communication aims at presenting a typology of the different forms of articulation between industry and company-level agreement: does the company-level bargaining refer to the industry-level agreements, and if so, do company agreements precise, reinforce or derogate from the sectoral ones? In other words, this communication will present some insights in the often-used notion of articulation and try to enlighten the determining factors of the different modes of articulation (sector, company size, economic result, structure and density of the industrial relation in the company, etc.).

Our communication is based on research on the evolution of the French collective bargaining system carried out as part of two European projects on the coordination and decentralisation of collective bargaining, financed by the European Commission, and the first preliminary results of a research financed by the French Ministry of Labour on the articulation between industry and company-level bargaining.

  • Barreau J., Brochard D. (2003), « les politiques de rémunérations des entreprises : écarts entre pratiques et discours », Travail et Emploi, n°93.
  • Castel N., Delahaie N. and Petit H. (2014) “Diversity of compensation policies and wage collective bargaining in France”, in Rodriguez Fernandez M. L. and Vincent C. (eds), Dinámicas de la negociación collectiva en Europa, Cuadernos de Relaciones Laborales, 32 (2), 311-336.
  • Delahaie N., Husson M., Vincent C. (2013), « Collectively agreed wages in France », in Shulten, Van Gyes, Collectively agreed wages in Europe, Bruxelles, European Commission.
  • Freyssinet J. (2017), « Accords de branche et accords d’entreprise : dérogation, supplétivité ou autonomie ? », mimeo IRES, novembre.
  • Gantois M., France P. (2016) Les négociations de branche et d’entreprise à la CFDT : Acteurs, ressources et pratiques, Noisy-le-Grand, IRES.
  • Leonardo S., Pedersini R. (eds) (2018), Multi-employer Bargaining under Pressure. Decentralization Trends in Five European Countries, Bruxelles, ETUI.
  • Lemière S., Denimal P. (2016), Quelle application des accords de classification de branche en entreprise ? Retours d’expérience dans trois branches, Noisy-le-Grand, IRES.
  • Marginson P. (2014), “Coordinated bargaining in Europe: from incremental corrosion to frontal assault?”, European Journal of Industrial Relations, 21 (2), 97-114.
  • Rehfeldt U., Vincent C. (2018) “The decentralization of collective bargaining in France: an escalating process”, in Leonardo S. and Pedersini R. (eds) Multi-employer Bargaining under Pressure. Decentralization Trends in Five European Countries, Bruxelles, ETUI, 151-184.


Wage effects in the Norwegian constructing – an industry with major changes

Elin Svarstad, Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research, Oslo
Bård Jordfald, Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research, Oslo

We will study wage growth and wage dispersion in the Norwegian construction industry. In the paper we focus on descriptive findings concerning wage development. We are interested in how legal extension of collective agreements (LECA) has affected the wage distribution in the industry, and how the LECA affects different crafts.

In relation to the size of the workforce, the Norwegian labor market was among those who absorbed most workers from the new EU countries . Workers from Polen, Lativa, Lithuana and other countries has entered the Norwegian labor market the last two decades.

In comparison to most other European Countries, there is no statutory minimum wage in Norway. The shift in the supply side in the labor market following the 2004 enlargement of EU put a pressure on the wage levels in several industries. As an instrument to avoid downward pressure on the wages, Norwegian Unions implemented legal extensions of the collective agreements (LECA). The purpose of the LECA is to ensure that foreign workers receive wage conditions that are equivalent to the conditions Norwegian workers have, and to prevent competition distortion to the disadvantage of the Norwegian labor market.

We will use the wage statistics collected by the Statistics Norway to analyze the developments in wages in the construction industry. First we will look into the aggregated increase in wages for the period, and how this increase is distributed. Secondly, we will analyze different crafts in the industry. We want to examine how the wages of workers with different qualifications is  affected by work immigration.

Diversified strength of workers’ voice in Central and Eastern Europe

Katarzyna Skorupinska-Cieslak, University of Lodz

European Union enlargement to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) significantly increased the heterogeneity of industrial relations in the EU. Weakness of social dialogue and industrial relations in CEE countries in comparison with the old EU-15 was visible in the lack of statutory forms of workers representation at company level, lower coverage of collective bargaining, lower trade union density and the absence of sectoral collective agreements. The initial “catching-up” process in these countries slowed down during the economic crisis. Reforms and austerity measures implemented during the crisis resulted in the fact that particular components of industrial relations in CEE countries have become similar. Based on the analysis of statistic data from the Eurostat, AMECO, ILO, OECD and ICTWSS databases, I examine the scope of convergence of CEE countries in the area of industrial relations in relation to the EU average. The construction of Employee Participation Index adapted to the specifics of industrial relations in eleven CEE countries, made it possible to determine the differences in the strength of workers’ voice in these countries. The highest value of this index for Slovenia results mainly from the highest coverage of collective bargaining among CEE countries, the level of ‘unionization” as well as the best indicators regarding the functioning of works councils (i.e. rights, potential range).

Subscribe to RSS - T2-02: Collective bargaining: National perspectives