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Comparisons in Decentralised Bargaining: towards new relations between trade unions and works councils?

The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced labour Studies–Hugo Sinzheimer institute (AIAS-HSI) coordinates the international research project CODEBAR: Comparisons in decentralised bargaining: towards new relations between trade unions and works councils? This project addresses from an interdisciplinary and multi-level governance perspective, the social partners’ responses to downward pressures on the locus of collective bargaining and the subsequent increasing involvement of workers’ representation at the company level. CODEBAR analyses the backgrounds, practises and effects of decentralised bargaining at the company level in eight EU Member States: France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden.

Background of the project

Social partners' strategies and the effects of decentralisation in collective bargaining depend highly on the national legal frameworks in the EU countries in the areas of collective bargaining and employee representation at company level. In countries characterised by a single non-union based channel of employee representation at company level, employers tend to bargain with works councils (or other bodies of worker representation) over terms and conditions of employment, thus reaching agreements whose content might be at odds with trade unions’ sectoral bargaining. Even in countries characterised by a single union based channel of employee representation at workplace level, the issue of vertical coordination is far from being irrelevant, as local trade union representatives and employers may negotiate, and sign decentralised collective agreements that are not always coherent with coordination rules established at the central level. Finally, interesting observations in decentralised bargaining result from the analysis of the more complex dual-channel systems of employee representation, where union and non-union bodies are provided with different jurisdictions, powers and tasks. Trade unions can cooperate and can make coalitions with works councils, but there can also exist conflicts between the two bodies.

Focus in research

CODEBAR focuses on three questions in the 8 countries, in comparative and interdisciplinary perspectives:

1. What are the (new) opportunities and limits in legal systems and collective bargaining structures for company level bargaining?
2. What are the (new) strategies and practises of employers, trade unions and bodies of employee representation in decentralised bargaining on terms and conditions of employment? 
3. What are the effects and results of these (new) decentralised bargaining practices? What are the legal results, how is the power balance in bargaining processes, and how is the quality of regulations in collective agreements? Do partnerships or conflicts emerge in the relationships between employers and workers’ representatives and between the different  representative bodies at the workers’ side (between trade unions on the one hand, and works councils or other firm level bodies in employee representation on the other side)?

Deliverables of the project

CODEBAR will produce the following deliverables:

  • 8 national reports, including 3-5 case studies in decentralised bargaining in each country
  • An overview report comparing the findings of the 8 country studies
  • An open access eBook
  • Video-blogs with non-technical summaries of the results and lessons learned in decentralized bargaining strategies and practices in the 8 countries.
  • 8 national workshops with social partners
  • Final Conference in Brussels

Project consortium

The research partners in the consortium are University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands, coordinator), ADAPT (Italy), Institute for social and economic research, IRES (France), University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany), Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Spain), University College Dublin, UCD (Ireland),  SGH Warsaw School of Economics (Poland), Lund University (Sweden).CODEBAR cooperates in its dissemination activities with 15 social partner organisations in the 8 countries and at EU-level (a.o. industriAll, European Trade Union Institute, FNV, AWVN).



AIAS-HSI, University of Amsterdam

Dr. F.H. (Frank) Tros

Coordination and research

Dr N. (Niels) Jansen


Duration Apri 2020 - Sept 2022
Co-finance European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Contractnumber VS/2020/0111
Budget € 390,493
Partners AIAS-HSI, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands (coordinator)
  ADAPT, Italy -
  Institute for social and economic research (IRES), France -
  University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany -
  Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain -
  University College Dublin, Ireland -
  SGH Warsaw School of Economics, Poland -
  Lund University, Sweden -

Disclaimer excluding Commission responsibility

This communication related to the action CODEBAR is made by the beneficiaries and its reports reflects only the authors’ views. The Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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