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The new German model of employee relations: flexible collectivism or Anglo-Saxonisation?

Tüselmann, Heinz (2001) The new German model of employee relations: flexible collectivism or Anglo-Saxonisation? International journal of manpower, 22 (6). pp. 544-559. ISSN 0143-7720

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This paper discusses whether in view of the accumulated contextual pressures the evolving new German employee relations model will resemble a more flexible version of the current one or whether it will emerge as an Anglo-Saxonised German model. It ascertains that despite the current contestation of the German model, erosion tendencies, though not negligible, are not as widespread as is often assumed and that far-reaching reforms along neo-liberal lines are not desirable in the German context. It is suggested that a large proportion of German employers have a vested interest in maintaining the fundamentals of the current system. A path-dependent reform trajectory internal to the system is proposed. This paper shows that the series of reforms carried out so far has been accomplished within the parameters of the existing system, taking the form of regulated flexibility and centrally co-ordinated decentralisation. It ascertains that the German model is more adaptable and more flexible than its reputation suggests, allowing companies to operate with more flexible collective employee relations’ responses. Yet, evidence suggests that firms are already under-utilising the broadened framework. Nevertheless, the author predicts a continuation of the reform process and an emerging new flexible German employee relations model that remains essentially a collective one.

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