Out now | Flexible workforces and low profit margins: electronics assembly between Europe and China

Jan Drahokoupil (ETUI), Rutvica Andrijasevic (Univ Bristol, UK) and Devi Sacchetto (Univ. Padua, Italy)

This book investigates restructuring in the electronics industry and in particular the impact of a ‘Chinese’ labour regime on work and employment practices in electronics assembly in Europe. Electronics is an extremely dynamic sector, characterized by an ever-changing organizational structure, as well as cut-throat competition, particularly in manufacturing. Electronics assembly has become notorious for poor working conditions, low unionisation and authoritarian labour relations.
Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturing service provider, is studied in detail. The company is best known as the main assembler of Apple’s iPhone and iPad and for the harsh working conditions in its mainland Chinese factories. Foxconn has become an important employer also in Europe, establishing factories in Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary and Turkey.
The chapters analyze the labour regime that Foxconn has exported from mainland China to Europe and the factors influencing the adaptation of the firm’s practices in different European countries. The objectives are, first, to investigate the export of work and employment practices from Foxconn’s Chinese to its European subsidiaries and second, to examine whether and how work and employment relations established in mainland China have been adapted to the social actors and institutional context of the European host country. This provides a basis for identifying challenges involved in organizing workers and opportunities for improving working conditions in the electronics industry through labour representation.

Foreign investment in eastern and southern Europe after 2008. Still a lever of growth?

This book investigates the role that foreign direct investment (FDI) in central-eastern and southern Europe has played in the post-crisis period, comparing patterns across countries and sectors.
An overarching objective of this publication is to assess the extent to which FDI can still be seen as a key driver of economic development, modernisation and convergence for Europe’s low- and middle-income economies, taking into account also the risks and limiting factors associated with FDI.

The outsourcing challenge: organizing workers across fragmented production networks

Production networks in many sectors have become increasingly fragmented. Cutting labour costs by lowering pay, increasing work intensity and/or shifting flexibility costs to workers are just some of the motivations for outsourcing. But it can also be used to circumvent employee representation and collective bargaining systems within companies, and labour market regulations in general. Though such intentions may not drive the bulk of outsourcing decisions, any change in company boundaries is likely to impact employment, working conditions and industrial relations in the value chain.

This book focuses on the dynamics of outsourcing in Europe from the perspective of employees. In particular, it considers one insufficiently studied aspect: the impact of outsourcing on working conditions and employment relations in companies. The book also collects lessons learned from the efforts of employees and trade unions to shape outsourcing decisions, processes and their impact on employment and working conditions.

‘To face the outsourcing challenges unions need to be very strategic about how we organize – how can we leverage our bargaining power and relationships with clients?How can we reach agreements with the key outsourcing companies on workers’ rights?How can we develop innovative organising and bargaining strategies able to overcome the challenges we face? How can we campaign for improved legislation to protect and enhance decent work in contact centres? The papers presented in this volume help tackle these important questions.’
– Alan Tate, UNI Global Union

Handbuch Transformationsforschung

Springer has published a Handbook of transformation research (in German). This is a remarkable interdisciplinary collection that covers research on economic, political, social, legal, and you name it aspects of transformations in a uniquely holistic way. It was definitely worth the wait. Delighted to find myself in a group of a number of eminent scholars that shaped their respective fields.
Our contribution on economic methods can be found here (in German). The English version is available at SSRN.

The politics of flexibility: Employment practices in automotive multinationals in Central and Eastern Europe

The article in European Journal of Industrial Relations that presents results of a research project on flexibility policies in East European car makers is now available as online first. An earlier version is available for free at SSRN.