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Growing periphery in core sectors and the challenges for labour representation. A case study of the German manufacturing sector

Benassi, Chiara (2014) Growing periphery in core sectors and the challenges for labour representation. A case study of the German manufacturing sector. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis investigates the causes of the growth of contingent work and its implications for labour. It focuses on German core manufacturing sectors, where contingent work recently increased to a great extent and the metal union started organising agency workers and bargaining on their behalf. In contrast, existing literature expects the German core manufacturing to rely on a stable specific-skilled workforce and on labour management coalitions while contingent work affects the service periphery. The thesis contends that the literature has overestimated employers’ interests in retaining their skilled workforce as well as the stability of cross-class coalitions, which are supposed to support the equilibrium between core and peripheral labour market segments. The main argument is that labour will include contingent workers in its representation domain when employers’ segmentation strategies start developing competition between contingent and permanent workers and threatening the existence of the core workforce. Institutional change undermining labour cohesiveness and increasing employer discretion is found to trigger this process. The first paper examines how weakening negotiated and legal employment protections have affected the association between specific skills and stable employment. It finds that the whole manufacturing workforce –including specific-skilled workers- have become more likely to be on a temporary contract since the eighties, also thanks to the routine nature of work. The second paper examines how labour influenced the workplace arrangements for agency workers in four automotive plants. It finds that inclusive arrangements are the outcome of the combination of labour power –rooted in workplace industrial relations and conditions external to the plant - and labour commitment to a homogeneous workforce. The third paper explains the union campaign for agency workers started in 2007. By analysing the union’s strategies towards agency workers from the seventies until 2012, it shows that the union adopted an inclusive strategy because growing agency work threatened the collectively agreed standards for core workers.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Chiara Benassi
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Sets: Departments > Management
Supervisor: Doellgast, Virginia

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