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Liberalising the German model: institutional change, organisational restructuring and workplace effects


  • Catherine Casey is Professor at the School of Management, University of Leicester, Antje Fiedler is Ph.D Candidate, at The University of Auckland Business School, and Ljiljana Erakovic is Senior Lecturer at The University of Auckland Business School, The University of Auckland.

Catherine Casey, School of Management, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH; email:


Institutional change at supranational, European Union level affects national and firm level institutions in various ways. This article traces effects of liberalisation measures in the airport industry enacted in two airport firms in Germany. The study, based on qualitative empirical research, found that EU liberalisation facilitated company creation of subsidiaries (subsidiarisation) and elevated shareholder interest in corporate governance. These factors affected institutional practices and cultural norms within the German industrial context that in turn influenced significant alterations in employment and workplace relations. Considerable disruption of the German social partnership model of corporate governance and industrial relations was observed. However, in addition to patterns of convergence towards neoliberal practices and outcomes frequently observed in Anglo-Saxon systems, the study found some elements of effective retention of cultural institutional resources of the German model. Both ‘path departure’ and social embeddedness appear to coexist.