Academic journal article Indian Journal of Industrial Relations

International Comparative Trends in Collective Bargaining

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Industrial Relations

International Comparative Trends in Collective Bargaining

Article excerpt

Collective Representation, Coverage & Scope

As Figure 1 shows, trade union membership has declined in many countries. There are a number of reasons for this. First, structural changes in labour markets, involving a decline in the share of manufacturing in total employment and increase in the share of services, eroded the traditional membership base of trade unions. In some regions, the dramatic decline in public sector employment as a result of structural adjustment and privatization had a detrimental effect on union membership. Second, legal reforms introduced in some countries prohibited compulsory unionisation ("closed shops") and encouraged individual contracts. Third, the increase in international competition as a result of globalization undermined the bargaining power of trade unions and strengthened the hand of management. Finally, the growth of non-standard forms of employment, for example part-time or fixed-term contracts put a brake on union recruitment of these workers or at least made it more difficult. (1)


Despite a general decline in collective representation, the number of workers covered by collective agreements remained relatively stable in some countries but fell in others, particularly in countries which deregulated labour markets and removed support for collective bargaining (Fig. 2). The data also shows a significant difference in the role that collective bargaining plays in regulating terms and conditions of work in high income and developing countries. In high income countries, the proportion of workers covered by collective agreements is either equal to or higher than trade union density. In developing countries, industrial relations institutions are weak and the proportion of workers engaged in and covered by the terms of collective agreements remains very low, particularly when those in informal employment are included (Hayter 2010).


The scope of collective bargaining expanded in many countries. Collective agreements now include a wide range of issues such as training, demographic change and parental rights. This broadening of the collective bargaining agenda, which often includes many of the issues outlined in Box 1, enables the social partners to negotiate agreements that seek to address the needs of enterprises for increased flexibility in order to remain competitive, as well as those of workers for employment security, better working conditions and fair treatment.

Box I

Flexible work practices:

* Wage flexibility (e.g. variable
pay systems, pay incentives
linked to productivity)

* Working time (e.g. annualized working
hours limiting or abolishing overtime,
flexi-time, working-time account)

* Work organization, quality control and

* Job evalution systems/categories

Employment security:

* Continuity of service

* Regularizing employment

* Restructuring (e.g. skills upgrading,
voluntary retirement, severance pay)

* Pensions


* Vocational training
* Leave and financing
Gender and equal treatment:

* HIV/AIDS and disability

* Parental leave and family responsibilities

* Sexual harassment

* Wage improvements or wage parity for
atypical workers

* Gender and racial equality

Occupational safety and health

Developments in Different Regions

Turning to trends in different parts of the world, there continues to be great diversity in how collective bargaining is organized in different countries. This section highlights some key developments in specific regions.


There are significant developments in the legal and institutional frameworks for collective bargaining in many countries in the African region. Some countries strengthened organizational rights (for example, allowing trade union pluralism in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mauritania and Nigeria), while others introduced and/or elaborated on the rules and procedures governing collective bargaining processes (for example, Kenya and Namibia introduced a right to information). …

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