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Guide for global employers: Industrial relations

Authors: Matthew Howse, Sarah Stock and Lee Harding, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP


  • Global employers will need to interact with employee representatives, such as trade unions and works councils, on industrial/labour relations issues. (See Employee representative bodies)
  • The concept of industrial/labour relations relates to employer-employee relations when the employees are represented by an employee representative body (such as a trade union or works council), regarding issues that may affect their terms of employment, and the employer must negotiate with these representatives. (See Fundamental principles of industrial relations)
  • Since collective rights are so varied, it may be difficult for a multinational employer to create a harmonised global policy on industrial/labour relations issues. However, it can still establish general principles when creating other policies, such as those affecting pay and benefits, contracts of employment and the termination of employment. (See Global strategy)
  • In many countries, employers are required to inform and consult with employee representative bodies in specified circumstances, for example redundancies/reductions in force or where they are acquiring or selling a business. (See Information and consultation)
  • In many countries, employee representative bodies, such as recognised trade unions, will have the power to enter into collective bargaining agreements with employers. (See Collective bargaining agreements)
  • It is important for global employers to understand the extent to which employee bodies are able to take industrial action, such as strikes, and what defences are available to them. Employers should also be aware of the increasing potential for industrial/labour relations issues to resonate on a global scale, for example through the use of social media. (See Industrial action)