European Integration and the Disembedding of Labour Market Regulation: Transnational Labour Relations at the European Central Bank Construction Site


  • The authors would like to thank the interviewees and IG Bau. We are grateful to Aleksandra Koch, Anna Grygiel, Mateusz Dymarek and Anna Siwiec-Glab for helping with interpretation and translation, and to Ian Bruff, Matthias Ebenau, Andreas Nölke, Christian May and the other participants at the ‘Critical Perspectives on the Diversity of Contemporary Capitalism(s)’ conference in Wiesbaden, Germany. This research was funded by a Starting Grant (TWES #263782) from the European Research Council.


European integration through mutual recognition has facilitated the growth of a pan-European labour supply system in which transnational subcontractors ‘post’ workers from low-wage areas to higher wage areas. This allows employers to create spaces of exception in which the national industrial relations system of the country where work occurs does not fully apply. Drawing on interviews with managers, workers, unionists and works councillors at the European Central Bank construction site in Frankfurt, Germany, this article shows how transnational subcontracting allows employers to access, and create competition between, sovereign regulatory regimes. It concludes that high-cost, high-collective good national systems such as the German one, which depend on territorial boundedness for their integrity, are likely to be destabilized by this aspect of European integration.