Competitiveness, costs, division of labour and changes in employment relationships

Theme N°: 

Transformations of the global geopolitics of the automotive sector, relating specifically to the restructuring and structuring processes affecting the older and new production spaces that are relevant to such changes, have led to an in-depth modification of employment relationships within this field and even beyond. In this context, the competition that exists between transnational companies in terms of production sites and regulation spaces constitutes a powerful lever for reorganising employment relationships as management sees fit. It remains that the establishment of international framework agreements, codes of conduct and global and/or European work councils also opens up new transnational spaces where social partners can negotiate and harmonise regulations.

Given the renewed heterogeneity of national and transnational regulation spaces and the corporate wage labour nexus systems generated by such transformations, these developments deserve to be studied on different levels. From a comparative perspective as such, we welcome any studies covering such topics. Special attention will be paid this year to studies elucidating the restructuring processes in countries characterised by high labour costs. As the crisis deepens the pressure exerted on the employment relationship in these countries increases and the survival of many production sites is now hanging on the negotiation on new agreements aimed at improving their “competiveness” against low labour costs sites. Such a process raises many questions that are important for our international programme. For instance, how the notion of “competiveness” is framed and used by the different actors in these negotiations? How the growing interdependence between the structuring of new industries and the restructuring of the old ones is playing in this process and with which effects? What kind of new compromises of government are emerging in these industries? Are we witnessing a race to the bottom, or this restructuring process can lay the foundations of a renewed domestic and international “competiveness” of these industries? In particular, we should ask whether the development of zero carbon automobiles does or doesn’t open the opportunity for new socials deal on green technologies and jobs, which means investigating its impact on the structure of branch competencies, employment and international division of labour.
Concerning the BRIC countries, the rapid rise of these markets and the greater range of competencies required by local industries seem to imply increasing tension on their labour markets and more pressure on companies to recruit, train and retain their workforce. Questions remain, however, as to the realities in this situation and how such developments might play out at the employment relationship level. Both case studies and national sectoral analyses will be welcome.

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Concéption Tommaso Pardi
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