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Collective bargaining in a time of crisis

[Vera Glassner, Maarten Keune] and Paul Marginson
Transfer 17, 3, 303-21


This article discusses crisis-related developments in collective bargaining in the private sector across the EU since the onset of the crisis during 2008. It analyses developments in the incidence, procedures and content of collective bargaining during the crisis and is cross-nationally and cross-sectorally comparative. It also examines how economic developments, industrial relations institutions and public policy might explain these developments. The article shows that collective bargaining responses to the crisis have been much more frequent in multi-employer bargaining systems than in single-employer bargaining systems, both at sectoral and company level. Major differences also exist between manufacturing and services, with bargaining being more prevalent in the former. In procedural terms, with some exceptions, the crisis has accelerated the longer-term trend towards organized decentralization. Substantively, restoring competitiveness and maintaining employment are central to the agenda of crisis-response agreements. The trade-offs are more integrative under multi-employer bargaining systems and where public policy offers support in negotiating short-time working schemes, and more distributive under single-employer bargaining.