1.0 General Overview
The decentralization of collective bargaining has been a significant trend in Western labor markets during the 1980s and 1990s, and it has challenged conventional trade union strategies and practices in many ways. The Malaysian auto industry provides an organizational field where the trend towards double decentralization emerged during the 1980s and continued in the 1990s, without becoming a completely decentralized system.
To understand changes in industrial relations systems it is important to consider it as a system of multiple social actors, who interpret, act and interact with other actors in accordance with their position, strategic outlook and perception of the concrete situation. Industrial relations thereby evolve in a contextual and situational frame of political-economic power relations and socio-cultural institutions of meaning and interaction. Taking advantage of this the aims is to explore the industrial relations dynamics behind the trend toward industrial relations decentralization in the Malaysian auto industry in order to explain the forces behind changing industrial relations and especially the role played by industrial and enterprise unions.
Taking one sub-sector (the transport equipment industry and especially the auto sub-industry) as its focus, the analysis will span the period from the late 1960s to the Malaysian crisis at the end of the 1990s, which covers more than two business cycles and a turbulent period of Malaysian political economy and trade union development.
The argument is based on research evidence at the industry and organizational levels of the Malaysian manufacturing sector and auto industry during the 1980s and late 1990s. Most of the material was collected by the author during field research in Malaysia, supplemented with material from earlier research.
The political, economic and social history of the contemporary Malaysian industrial relations system is briefly outlined, providing the background...