Managing flexibility: Transfer of employment practices in automotive multinationals in Central and Eastern Europe

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Kyoto (2014)


automotive, Eastern Europe, employment relations, Flexibility, labour market, Multinational Corporations


This paper investigates flexibility strategies of automobile producers in nine assembly subsidiaries in three Central and Eastern Europe Countries (CEECs). Problems of labour flexibility are characteristic of the motor-vehicle sector in general, but they were especially acute during the conditions of economic crisis from 2008. Particular attention is therefore given to how companies coped during that period, using this as a guide to the nature and impact of local employment relations systems on strategy of the multinationals. The analysis contributes to the debate on employer strategies by adjudicating the efficiency and political (industrial relations) explanations of variation in flexibility arrangements. It also addresses the literature on employment practices and their transfer in MNCs. The outcomes were the result of contextual negotiations between employers and employees. Management tended to rely on company-specific ways of dealing with the flexibility problem, but it was willing to adjust them to local conditions if needed. The differences in the outcomes were thus linked to the ability of employees to challenge the default practices introduced in the affiliates. The parent company influence had a major role as the opportunities for union organizing were conditioned by employment relations in the company.

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