9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN17 Industrial Relations, Labour Market Institutions and Employment

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Old and New Actors in Industrial Relations Building AA, AA.223

Struggles against the closures of companies in boom and crisis of finance market capitalism and new forms of workers´ participation - a challenge for consensus-based industrial relations

Under the conditions of finance market capitalism, the shutdown of plants ? in the past primarily the consequence of economic crisis and structural change ? have become a regular instrument of corporate restructuring. Not only corporations in difficult economic situations decide to close plants, but flourishing corporations pursuing strategies of cost cutting, market shake-out and adjustment and international offshoring and outsourcing as well. This applies to the decade of boom of the finance markets. Against the background of the recent developments ? the crisis of the international finance markets ? a new constellation shows up: crisis-driven and finance market orientated corporate strategies of firm closures and relocations superpose each other.
Workers and their representatives previously are responding more and more with protest and resistance. We can differentiate between four strategies:
1) a strategy of negotiation and public involvement combined with alternative economic concepts,
2) a strategy of striking for collective agreements, which is fostered by new developments in the german labour legislation,
3) a participatory strategy of mobilizing protest where new actors of participation and resistance enter the arena,
4) a strategy of international networking in global corporations.
The new forms of protest and participation challenge the consensus-based system of industrial relations and the conventional settings of actors (i.e. the workers, the work councils, and the unions) and leads to new forms of the ?politics of struggle? but also to new antagonisms and distortions between these actors.
In a first step, we sketch different types of corporate strategies concerning the closure of firms in a historical perspective and describe the current constellations in the context of boom and crises of finance market capitalism. In a second step we outline the differentiation between the four types of strategies and conflict handling in the struggles against firm closures. Our emphasis lies on the different actor relations and dynamic change. In our conclusion we draft a political perspective on innovative strategies of workers? participation which combine the dimensions of resistance and appropriation of economic strategies.

Our contribution is based on an empirical study on struggles about firm closures in Germany which is financed by the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung.