Unions in Europe are alternately bemused and ashamed at how companies they work closely with at home behave so badly abroad. Like a happily married corporate executive on a booze and sex-fuelled business trip, European companies in Africa and Asia abuse and harass the very unions they treat with respect back home.
And they behave especially badly when they’re in the USA, using ‘local culture’ as an excuse for union busting, discrimination and refusing to bargain collectively. German car companies, who provide some of the best examples of social partnership in their own backyard, have been particularly egregious offenders: such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen. But developments at the VW plant at Chattanooga, Tennessee, could see that change.
US and European trade unions are looking to the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – the EU-US trade deal currently being negotiated – as a catalyst that could bring more European-style industrial relations into the anti-union environment of the USA. If it doesn’t, union support for the deal is likely to be lost. So what happens in Chattanooga could be a game-changer.
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