Year of grant:

Research Area:

Project type:

Project title:
Mentanar- og stovnsávirkan á arbeiðsmarknaðaratferð: Ein samanberandi tvør-mentanarlig greining av Nýfundlandi og Føroyum.
(Cultural and institutional influences on labour relations behaviours: A comparative cross-cultural analysis of N and the FO.)

Grant number:

Project manager:
Búi K. Petersen

Memorial University of Newfoundland

Project period:

Total budget:
1.218.892 DKK

Grant from the FRC in DKK:
770.179 DKK

Project description:
The nature and quality of the relationships between employers, employees and labour unions is an issue of huge importance to society’s economic well-being. Productive and functional labour relations are a common concern for government and stakeholders, and as a result, most countries have institutions, such as labour laws and formalized processes for collective bargaining and dispute resolution, which serve to regulate the interactions and transactions between employers and labour unions. In particular, various measures have been attempted with the aim of decreasing conflict and increasing collaboration. However, even though there has been much similarity in the goals, there is a great variability from country to country in the institutional interventions that have been implemented.

Most research in this field (Industrial Relations) has focussed on the role and effect of the institutions, while only a limited amount of research has included the cultural dimensions, such as people’s tendency to act collectively vs. individually, the tolerance for differences in power, as well as the relative importance of competitiveness vs. relationships. Furthermore, the institutional focus has also resulted in minimal consideration of individual attitudes and behaviour.

The purpose of this project is to examine just this interplay between institutions, culture and individual behaviour. The goal is to eliciting a greater understanding of the relationships between these factors, so that governments and stakeholders will be in a better position to create institutions that have the desired effect.

This project is structured as a comparative study involving the jurisdictions of Newfoundland and the Faroe Islands. These two locations share many characteristics in terms of industrial history (fishing), geographic location (North Atlantic), history of semi-autonomous government, while also being very distinct in terms of cultural history and heritage, as well political and industrial institutions. The combination of these similarities and differences, make the two locations good candidates for a comparative study.

This project will employ a mixed-methods approach – surveys, interviews, institutional analysis – aimed at answering the following research questions: 1) What are the differences in cultural values and beliefs between the two study locations? 2) What differences are there in individuals’ conflict management preferences and to what degree do these correlate with cultural values and beliefs? 3) What are the institutional differences between the two study locations, and to what degree do they represent the industrial relations “norms” of their respective regions, North America and Nordic Europe? 4) How are labour relations behaviours, as experienced by labour relations practitioners, influenced by the cultural and institutional environment?


Thesis title: Structure and agency in bargaining: Practice, routines, truce, and individual differences

The collective bargaining process is a cornerstone in the relationship between employers and employees. It is through this process that the core aspects of employment conditions are negotiated. This process therefore has significant societal implications as it regulates the over 90% of all employment relationship in many countries with high unionization rates (such as in many European countries), and still over 30% in countries with lower unionization rates (such as Canada).

Whereas most studies on labour or other negotiations typically take a macro-level structural approach or a micro-level (predominantly psychological) approach to negotiation, this study uses a practice theory lens (relying primarily on theorists such as Anthony Giddens and Pierre Bourdieu) to try to bridge the structural and individual/behavioural elements of negotiation. This approach allows for a more contextual analysis negotiation, where practices and activities do not necessarily have to be attributed to structural or individual/psychological factors. It therefore helps address the macro-micro level divide that affects much social science research, especially in terms of the long-standing sociological debate around the tension between structure and individual agency.

For this study, I followed multiple cases of collective bargaining in the Faroe Islands in the fall of 2015 and spring of 2016, representing both public and private sector negotiations. I used a qualitative grounded theory approach that included a) observations of bargaining meetings; b) interviews with negotiators; and c) archival sources, such as meeting reports, collective agreements, email correspondence, and news media.

From this inductive research process emerged a theoretical model that suggests that collective bargaining is a highly routinized process that produces a truce. On the one hand, this truce provides stability and reduces volatility in industrial relations; on the other hand, it induces rigidity and inertia, significantly reducing the ability of individual negotiators to influence process and outcomes. However, this model also suggests that individual negotiators do have some individual agency in shaping outcomes, albeit marginally. More importantly, the model shows the critical role negotiators play in enacting and maintaining the routine truce through practice. The findings also demonstrate that individual negotiators’ level of agency to a significant degree is shaped by skills, experience, education, cognition, relationships, as well as the status of the occupation the negotiators represent.

In addition to the theoretical findings, this study highlights the needs for a contextualized understanding of negotiation among practitioners. The literature aimed at negotiation practitioners focuses primarily on the skills, strategies, and tactics negotiators can use to maximize negotiation outcomes. This study shows that the rather rigid structure of a bargaining routine can severely the limit the usefulness of such tactics. However, the study also shows that those negotiators who do manage circumvent some of the constraints of the routine, are those with the highest level of processual awareness. Another particularly practical implication is that while the routinization (especially with a dominant presence of pattern bargaining) has helped establish relative peace in labour relations for an extended period of time, the resulting rigidity and inflexibility makes it extremely difficult to adjust wages to labour market and economic conditions, at the same time as it prevents any attempts to address long-term wage equity issues.

Project status:

Project output:
Ph.d.-ritgerðin varð vard 4. apríl 2018. Kann takast niður her

Refereed Articles

Lee, Y., Park, C., & Petersen, B. K. (in press). The effect of local stakeholder pressures on responsive and strategic CSR activities: Evidence from Korean MNEs. Business & Society.

Cooke, G. B., Hoogensen Gjørv, G., & Petersen, B. K. (forthcoming). Economic security: Employment policy needs in rural and remote North Atlantic jurisdictions. In G. Hoogensen Gjørv, J. Shadian, & R. Gjedssø Bertelsen (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Arctic Security.

Petersen, B. K. (2015). Justice and culture in the perception of compensation fairness. Argumenta Oeconomica Cracoviensia. 11, 9–24.

Conference Presentations

Petersen, B. K. (2017). Bridging the macro-micro divide in industrial relations: Practices, routines, and institutions. Presented at the Atlantic Schools of Business Conference 2017, Wolfville, NS.

Petersen, B. K. (2017). Structure and agency in collective bargaining: A strategy-as-practice and routines approach. Presented at the 45th Annual Conference of the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada, Montreal, QC.

Petersen, B. K. (2016). Collective bargaining behavior: Reconciling macro and micro perspectives. Presented at Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Anaheim, CA.

Petersen, B. K., & Ford, D. P. (2016). Avoiding the Scrooge stereotype: The effect of business education on values and conflict management. Presented at the Atlantic Schools of Business Conference 2016, Halifax, NS.

Petersen, B. K. (2016). Interorganizational conflict: Practices and logics. Presented at the Petrocultures 2016 Conference, St. John’s, NL.

Petersen, B. K. (2016). Contextualizing conflict: The logic and practice of bargaining. Presented at the 18th Annual Aldrich Multidisciplinary Graduate Research Conference, St. John’s, NL.

Petersen, B. K. (2015). Human psychology as actor-networks: A call for ontological flexibility in organizational research. Presented at the 43rd Annual Conference of the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada, Halifax, NS.

Petersen, B. K. (2014). Justice and culture in the perception of compensation fairness. Presented at the 13th International Human Resource Management Conference, Krakow, Poland.

Petersen, B. K. & Cooke, G. B. (2014). The Faroese labour market: The view from Newfoundland and Labrador. Presented at the International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences, Prince George, BC.

Petersen, B. K. & Cooke, G. B. (2013). Is there a future for interest-based bargaining? Presented at the 50th Annual Meeting of the Canadian Industrial Relations Association, Toronto.

Storage and access rights til collected data:
All data has been stored securly to protect the confidentality and anonymity of study participants. This involves the encryption and password protection of all electronic data (text documents and audio files). Data files will only be accissible to the primary researcher and supervisors. All data will be kept for a minimum of five years, as required by Memorial University’s policy on Integrity in Scholarly Research.

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