Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom
Remarkably, the core element of labour relations¿wage determination¿has been excluded from the European social dialogue about harmonisation of working conditions and national systems of social security. The present study responds by analysing the prospects of building up structures of wage formation in Europe through a reevaluation of collective bargaining and collective agreements as they exist under the law of the most industrialized Member States. The impetus for the study is the widely debated crisis of the system of concluding regional collective agreements on wages. Social partners seem to have been trapped in fruitless conflicts on how the system must be reformed. It has become obvious that no party concerned employers, trade unions, the state has the capacity to resolve the growing difficulties of collective wage formation. In an introductory essay by the distinguished editors, this important study takes the situation in Germany, the most prominent manifestation of this European crisis, as its starting point. Then, academic experts from France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Sweden describe comparable problems in their own countries, detail approaches to dealing with them, and provide a critical commentary, including judgements and suggestions in relation to the German case. Then follows a reexamination of the situation in Germany in the light of the experience of the other countries. A final chapter outlines some preliminary interpretations of European prospects. Salient issues investigated include the following: the erosion of such ideological and legal categories and concepts as `dependent work, `solidarity', `subsidiarity' and `social self-regulation' as preconditions of traditional collective bargaining structures at national level; the decreasing membership of the bargaining partners on both sides; the shrinking rate of employees covered by collective agreements; attempts to establish a national social pact; increasing competition on global markets; decentralizing management strategies, including the abandonment of collective bargaining; and, individualized employees. The authors examine the various state structures to determine if the legal and institutional developments of the different national systems of collective bargaining constitute starting points for mutual learning in order to meet the new challenges. This leads to a discussion of which practices are successful in their original environment, and how these practices might adapt to other systems in other countries.
Remarkably, the core element of labour relations wage determination has been excluded from the European social dialogue about harmonisation of working conditions and national systems of social security.