This article reports on the union recognition dispute that took place at the MacDonald's food-processing plant in Moscow. It examines this dispute in the context of McDonald's employment practices worldwide, the interventions made by international and local unions, and Russian government bodies. Despite these interventions it became impossible to either organise the workforce or establish a collective agreement. The case illustrates the difficulties facing both local unions and global union federations when confronted by intransigent multinational companies, especially in low-skilled sectors in transitional economies.
This paper examines the problem of effectively regulating the labour relations practices of multinational corporations. It focuses on the activities of the McDonald's Corporation in a number of European countries. The findings suggest that public and private codes of conduct have a very limited effect and that determined and well-resourced corporations can not only undermine regional forms of regulation - such as that provided by the European Union - but also, and to a considerable extent, national-level regulation. This is particularly evident in the area of independent trade union representation. Although its aim of avoiding collective bargaining and union recognition wherever possible is only partially successful, McDonald's appears to have developed a number of highly effective strategies for limiting the presence of trade unions at restaurant level, particularly in avoiding or undermining statutory works councils and union representation rights.
This article analyses the establishment and subsequent meetings of the McDonald's European Works Council and raises a number of questions. Who is an `employee representative' for the purposes of the EU Directive? How are such representatives elected in practice and what roles do existing national sub-structures play? Can employee representatives adequately coordinate their roles in the absence of significant unionisation? The experience of the McDonald's EWC suggests that where workforces have low levels of unionisation and employers are opposed in principle to the prescribed arrangements, a non-union firm can frustrate even the limited aims of the Directive. Furthermore, legally underpinned national-level sub-structures, which are often assumed to make such European-level bodies accountable, may fail to do so in practice.
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