Framing the Crisis in Industrial Relations. Contrasting the “Fiat Case” and FCA-UAW Agreement


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to establish a new theoretical framework for analyzing communication in industrial relations, by describing framing theory from a new rhetorical perspective. To this end, the paper analyses and compares corporate and trade union communication in the Fiat Case, by also making reference to collective bargaining that took place in the US automotive industry in autumn 2015.

Design/methodology/approach - After putting forward a theoretical framework that combines framing theory with new rhetoric, the paper analyzes the communication strategies adopted by Fiat Chrysler and trade unions both in Italy and the USA.

Findings - The findings reveal that different national cultural contexts and industrial relations systems, and different public communication practices in collective negotiations has led to divergent dynamics, given way to different kinds of argumentation, even when the same company operating globally is involved. The findings also suggest that such a controversial strategy may fail to build both immediate and long-lasting consensus.

Research limitations/implications - This research proposes an analytical framework, which calls for future empirical investigation.

Originality/value - The paper adopts an unusual perspective for the analysis of industrial relations dynamics and draws scholarly attention to public communication practices, not just as a tool for gaining consensus but as a fundamental dimension in negotiations in the current social and industrial scenario.

Paper type - Case study paper.

Keywords: Communication, Rhetoric, Framing, Industrial Relations, Automotive, FCA, UAW, Fim, Fiom, Italy, USA.

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