Industrial relations & trade union strategies

CPS publishes a working paper series on trade union strategies in the automotive sector focusing on four CEE countries: Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.


The studies were prepared in the larger framework of "The Changing Nature of Employment in Europe in the Context of Challenges, Threats, and Opportunities for Employees and Employers" initiative (

Trade Union Strategies in a Time of Economic Crisis: the Case of a Car Assembly Plant in Poland (Download)

Focusing on the case of the subsidiary of the transnational corporation with headquarters in Italy, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Poland (FCA Poland), this paper explores the consequences of the 2008+ crisis for the perpetuation and transformation of trade union strategies in the automotive sector in Poland. The case study is situated in a broader context of industrial relations at the sectoral, national and transnational levels. The empirical data include expert interviews with trade union leaders on the company (17) and sectoral (5) levels carried out in 2009-16. In the context of ill-developed sectoral level social dialogue, the study provides some evidence of the development of innovative union strategies at the plant level, including, inter-alia, the periodic mobilization of workers which helped to maintain trade union organizing potential, the rejection of concession bargaining and the upholding of ties and solidarity between core assembler and supplier companies. Simultaneously, it pointed to the shortcomings of company-centered trade union approaches in the case studied, such as difficulties in counteracting the precarization of work, the increased use of temporary work agencies and, finally, mass lay-offs. These shortcomings are explained both by the company-specific factors, such as conflict-oriented management, unions’ inability to overcome historical trade union rivalry and limited transnational union cooperation, and supra-company factors reflecting the features of the industrial relations and political economy in Poland.

Tensions in the Periphery: Dependence and the Trajectory of a Low-Cost Productive Model in the Central and Eastern European Automotive Industry (Download)

This article analyzes the low-cost strategy adopted by Renault for its Dacia plant in Romania. After identifying the factors that have contributed to making Central and Eastern Europe into an automotive powerhouse, it proposes a detailed analysis of the conditions for the success of the Logan project—Renault’s radical approach to the concept of the low-cost automobile. We look into both market- and production-related aspects that have made the Logan work and highlight the tensions sparked by Renault’s drive to capitalize on its favorable market situation as well as labor’s success in defending its interests. Finally, we discuss the strategic dilemmas facing management and labor, their possible resolutions, as well as the relevance of the Dacia case for understanding the future of CEE as a peripheral region attracting automotive FDI.

Union Organizing in the Automotive Industry in Slovakia in Times of Crisis: Do They Help Workers or Protect Themselves? (Download)

In the mid-2000s Slovakia has become the country with the highest production of cars per capita in the world. The impressive growth of the automotive industry led to labor market pressures, with trade unions facing the question of whom to protect: core workers or the increasing pool of flexible employees? This question became even more urgent during the crisis 2008-2009. In this paper we investigate how these labor market challenges have been addressed by the newly established trade union at the KIA plant in Zilina. Based on interviews and descriptive statistics we show that local factors, mostly the high level of unemployment in the region, but also employer's initial unwillingness to participate in social dialogue, contributed to the weakness of the local trade unions. The plant level social dialogue remains rather limited and leads to few gains for the labor force, as the trade union does not have direct access on the plant’s premises.

Industrial Relations in Car-manufacturing Industry: a Comparative Case Study of Audi Hungaria, Gyor and Mercedes Benz, Kecskemet (Download)

This comparative study is based on fieldwork conducted at two German automobile factories in Hungary between end of 2015 and beginning of 2016. It examines the changing position and role of trade unions at both the plants, comparing their style of unionism in everyday practices (recruitment, daily involvement of members, expansion; bargaining with senior plant management). The study points out the similarities between the two cases emerging from their historic context of Hungarian trade unionism and current political-legal realities, but also highlights some of the differences stemming from the specific plant history and the socio-geographic context of the region. It seems that a more advantageous socio-geographic parameters lead to a stronger bargaining power of unions, while a more precarious labour situation urges trade unions to enter into less open conflicts with the employer and act in a more consensual manner.