The increasing global reach of companies, accompanied by restructuring activities, lead to a greater ability of multinational companies to shift production. Hypermobility of capital is having a progressively direct effect on employees, bodies of employee representation and trade unions. Globalisation is challenging national systems of industrial relations, weakens labour’s bargaining power and encourages a ‘race to the bottom’ in wages, working conditions and management practices (Silver, 2003:4). Therefore, a global strategy is a necessary labour response to match the reach of global capital (Burgmann, 2016).
This paper analyses one such response – creation of global worker bodies in multinational companies. These bodies of indirect collective employee voice take the form of World Works Councils (WWCs), World Union Councils (WUCs) and Global Trade Union networks (GUNs). They are still relatively under-researched and present a gap in the academic literature. Based on three company case studies in the metalworking sector, this paper evaluates the ability of these global worker bodies to provide meaningful employee voice. In doing so, it attempts to provide an understanding of their formation, functioning and, most importantly, outcomes for employees.
This paper begins by providing a brief overview of labour strategies. Following this, it outlines the conceptual framework underpinning the study – the regulatory space. It proceeds by providing the typology of the global worker bodies with definitions suggested by the author. The methodology section, outlining the main characteristics of the three case studies, is then introduced. This is followed by a discussion of the key findings, which is divided into three sections: formation, functioning and effectiveness of the global worker bodies. When analysing effectiveness of the global worker bodies, discussion focuses on five key incidents that took place in the three case studies in Czech Republic, USA, India, Turkey and Argentina. Concluding remarks summarise the paper