Sunday, March 17, 2013

Industrial Conflict in Amiens

Steven Erlanger analyzes the different fates of the Goodyear and Dunlop tire plants in Amiens. Labor conflict in the former has been much in the news, and the contrast between one factory, in which workers were willing to accept more flexible working hours and other concessions on labor discipline, and the other, in which they stood firm and eventually lost, seems to be a ready-made object lesson. Perhaps the story is more complicated than it seems, but this simple morality tale is one that is being told over and over again in France.

Contrast Germany, where BMW just announced that its workers would receive a bonus of €7,630, or about 30% of their average annual wage. VW and Mercedes previously announced similar bonuses. These bonuses can be seen as quid pro quo for worker agreements to wage restraint and tighter workplace discipline. It is interesting to note, however, that BMW workers outside of Germany did not receive the bonuses, suggesting that political, social, and cultural factors shape economic incentives.