Recently, company unions in Japan have increasingly coordinated their activities, leading to some lengthy strikes. Industrial labor relations systems across countries can only be understood in influence of religious organisations.
Basic processes or concepts of labor unions, therefore, may vary across countries, depending on where and how the parties have their power and achieve their objectives, such as through parliamentary action in Sweden. For example, collective bargaining in the United States and Canada refers to negotiations between a labor union local and management. However, in Europe collective bargaining takes place between the employer’s organisation and a trade union at the industry level.
North America’s decentralised, collective agreements and plant-level are more detailed than Europe’s industry-wide agreements because of the complexity of negotiating myriad details in multi-employer bargaining. In Germany and Austria, such details are delegated to works councils by legal mandate.
The resulting agreements from bargaining also vary around the world. A written, legally binding agreement for a specific period, common in Northern Europe and North America, is less prevalent in Southern Europe and Britain. In Britain, France, and Italy, bargaining is frequently informal and results in a verbal agreement valid only until one party wishes to renegotiate.
Other variables of the collective bargaining process are the objectives of the bargaining and the enforceability of collective agreements. Because of these differences, managers in multinational enterprises (MNEs) overseas realise that they must adapt their labor relations policies to local conditions and regulations. It should be kept in mind that while U.S. union membership has declined by about 50 percent in the last 20 years, in Europe, overall, membership is still quite high, particularly in Italy and the United Kingdom, though it has been falling, but from much higher levels.
Most Europeans are covered by collective agreements, while most Americans are not. Unions in Europe are part of a national cooperative culture between government, unions, and management, and they hold more power than in the U.S. Increasing privatisation will make governments less vulnerable to this kind of pressure. It is also interesting to note that some labor courts in Europe deal separately with employment matters from unions and works councils.