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HRM and IR in Multinational Corporations: Uneasy Bedfellows

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As multinational corporations operate in multiple countries, headquarters must take into account differences in local settings when seeking the means to coordinate and control subsidiaries. The local system of industrial relations sets the framework for what kind of human resource management a multinational corporation can implement. Yet another question is whether the still stronger multinationals can change the existing systems of industrial relations, directly or indirectly. The paper analyzes four Danish enterprises over a ten-year period. This longitudinal study shows that none of the multinationals directly try to interfere in local industrial relations. However, by exercising their management prerogative in a way that differs from the Northern European tradition of industrial relations, they do influence the cooperation between employers and employees. In particular, the results show that a shift from a stakeholder to a shareholder management style and the increased degree of HQ control have an effect on the whole cooperative atmosphere in each of the companies. In the long run, they may affect the collective bargaining system as such.

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Steen E. Navrbjerg, Dana Minbaeva

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