Work in the International Automotive Industry


Work and labour relations have been at the heart of Gerpisa's research since its creation. Today, this subject is becoming increasingly important in the light of the socio-technical changes in the automotive sector and the economic crisis it is experiencing. Debates on the future of work are particularly lively in the industry. Similarly, the rapid electrification of car production raises the question of the future of the industry in developed countries and the structure of the global value chain. We have also noted a renewed interest in these issues among Gerpisa researchers or those close to the network, as evidenced by the many contributions on these subjects at the international colloquium last June.
For this reason, Gerpisa has decided to launch a working group on « Work in the International Automotive Industry » with the aim of combining our efforts and research in this field. This group is open to researchers from different disciplines and non-academic participants.

Several research questions could structure this group:

1. Work organisation, technological change and the future of work
Digital technologies that draw from the « fourth industrial revolution » are now common in the automotive industry and some research has begun to shed new light on how the labour process is transformed in order to achieve « high-tech factories ». Can these digital technologies become a tool to overcome the current economic crisis? Can they make the issue of labor costs secondary, thus allowing production to be relocated to countries with high labor costs? Can the digital revolution contribute to save the automotive industry in developed countries from offshoring? And how are these technologies implemented in developing countries with emerging automobile industries ?

2. Electrification and Just Transition : impact of the electrification on work and the workforce
The electrification of the automotive industry represents a major challenge in terms of work, employment and industrial relations. As several studies show, the transition to electric vehicles could involve a significant reduction in the workforce and a transformation of the skills required, particularly for battery manufacturing. What would be the effects of this transition on the workforce and industrial basins? What does the emergence of the battery industry in Europe and the creation of gigafactories imply in terms of skill requirements and training programs? Finally, what role can trade unions play in this transition?

3. Labour and Industrial Relations : conflicts, collective bargaining and trade union renewal
The major changes described above are likely to cause turmoil in industrial relations within the industry. Moreover, these changes are taking place in the context of a major transformation of industrial relations in developed countries, as in the case of European countries. What do these changes imply for countries with a long tradition of collective bargaining on labour and employment? Are they likely to provoke conflict and opposition to transitions to electric vehicles or to Industry 4.0? Also, the debate on “just transition” raises the question of trade unions' alternative proposals to the firms' strategies for electrification. Similarly, are these changes likely to foster trade union renewal in countries with little tradition of industrial relations?

The goal of this research group is to build longer term collaborations and to produce joint publications. The first step will be to organize one or more panels at the next International Conference of Gerpisa next summer in Detroit and to produce a joint publication following the conference. Participation in this group is of course not contradictory with participation in other Gerpisa working groups. 

If you are interested please first log in with your account (ot create one first) and then click on the link "join in" that will be visible below. You will then be also able to join in the same way the different working projects displayed below. 

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Concéption Tommaso Pardi
Administration Juan Sebastian Carbonell, Lorenza MonacoGéry Deffontaines

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