The transformation of joint regulation and labour market policy during the economic crisis and its negative impact on labour relations and employment issues
A recent research project led by academics at Alliance Manchester Business School and the School of Law at the University of Manchester (Dr Aristea Koukiadaki, Dr Isabel Tavora and Professor Miguel Martinez Lucio) sought to understand how crisis-driven policy measures, implemented across Europe, have reformed aspects of collective bargaining in manufacturing firms providing greater flexibility to employers in the way they set the terms and conditions of employment.
The research was funded by the European Commission and coordinated by academics in the University of Manchester with the collaboration of teams from various European universities.
Labour market measures are radically transforming national systems of collective bargaining in a number of EU Member States including those countries examined and compared in the research: Greece; Ireland; Italy; Portugal; Romania; Slovenia; and Spain.
In each of these countries, research teams carried out interviews with government officials, trade unions and employer associations to conclude the following findings.
- Excessive focus on reducing wages may over the long term undermine real productivity gains and potentially reduce competiveness and sustainable economic growth.
- The measures weakened trade unions and constrained joint regulation, leaving many employees receiving below-acceptable rates of pay or losing their jobs.
- The measures are being used in many cases to undermine and change the role of joint regulation as in collective bargaining which can undermine more organised and settled HRM systems.
- Reforms led to divisions and inequities in the workforce, such as differences in pay and working conditions between existing and new employees; along gender and age lines; and between those in permanent contracts and those in atypical employment.
- In some countries such as Greece and Romania, the measures led to unintended negative outcomes, such as the growth of the grey market and undeclared payments that reduce the state’s revenue from taxes and social security contributions.
Labour relations impact
- Employers and HR managers are concerned with the ability of local management to cope with greater decentralisation and change with greater decentralisation. The pressure of local and site level management and Human Resource specialists appears to be growing as they have to engage with issues more directly in competition with other firms and their workers.
- Trade unions have been increasingly constrained in their ability to regulate and monitor agreements, although they have begun to formulate strategies to sustain their role - raising the awareness around low pay issues, and sustaining a combination of mobilisation and negotiation strategies.
- Austerity measures have had a great impact on areas such as labour inspection, judicial processes and state mediation services, which are undermining the state’s ability to respond to legal and monitoring issues.
Dr Aristea Koukiadaki in the Law School commented: “Based on the research and the three core impact themes, eventually there must be a greater co-ordination of pay setting and working conditions if we are to support the reduction of inequalities and the development of productive and efficient workplaces.
Dr Isabel Tavora of the Alliance Manchester Business School commented: “Our research highlighted how employers in many cases value the role of collective bargaining in terms of social peace, good dialogue with workers and the limiting of low wage competition that produces unfair outcomes for both employer and workers.”
Professor Miguel Martinez Lucio of the Alliance Manchester Business School commented: “In southern Europe the pressure of austerity and public sector cuts are undermining the role of the judiciary and labour enforcement mechanisms in terms of labour rights and the application of labour law leaving workers more vulnerable than ever in recent times”.
Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.