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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg November 1, 2019

Occupational welfare and segmentation: explaining across (and within) sectoral variation in Germany and Belgium

Dorien Frans, Nadja Doerflinger and Valeria Pulignano


The paper uses a qualitative comparative case study design to examine across (and within) sectoral variation in occupational welfare outcomes (i.e. flexible working hours, occupational pensions and health and sickness benefits, fringe benefits complementing wages) for different groups of workers in food and chemical manufacturing in Germany and Belgium. Findings indicate that common national challenges can yield different occupational welfare outcomes across (and within) different sectors, which in turn affect workforce segmentation. The integration between local and sector-level power dynamics explains how, and the extent to which, negotiation on occupational welfare can entail segmentation.


Der vorliegende Artikel nutzt eine vergleichende Fallstudienanalyse, um betriebliche Fürsorgepraktiken (beispielsweise betriebliche Altersvorsorge, flexible Arbeitszeitmodelle und weitere Lohnzusatzleistungen) für verschiedene Arbeitnehmergruppen im Nahrungsmittel- und Chemiesektor in Belgien und Deutschland zu erforschen. Trotz ähnlicher Herausforderungen beobachten wir unterschiedliche Resultate in beiden Sektoren, die mit bestimmten Segmentationskonfigurationen zwischen verschiedenen Arbeitnehmergruppen einhergehen. Machtdynamiken und die Koordinierung von Arbeitnehmerinteressen zwischen der Betriebsebene und dem Sektor sind ausschlaggebend für die identifizierten Segmentationskonfigurationen.


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Semi-structured interview guidelines

  • Introduction (works council/union/manager/expert)

  • (sector-level) Characteristics of the sector (changes over time and main drivers of these changes, union presence and strength)

  • (company level) Characteristics of the company (size, personnel composition, employment contracts, organization of production process, main changes regarding employment, main challenges faced by the company, job security, union presence, representation and strength of trade union/works council)

  • (sector/company level) HR practices and negotiations (on sector/company-level)

    • negotiations between trade union/works council and managers (main level of negotiations, relationship, main topics, occupational welfare benefits, agreements and conflicts)

    • coverage of negotiated agreements, inclusiveness of occupational welfare benefits-

  • (sector/company level) Dynamics between sector and company-level negotiations (role of higher-level agreements, perspective of trade union/works council/manager on these agreements)

  • (sector/company level) Final question: main challenges for union/works council/manager in sector/company – approach to dealing with these challenges

Published Online: 2019-11-01
Published in Print: 2019-10-25

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston