Structural change and restructuring
The structural change in both countries and regions as well as branches and sectors, triggered by competition with a growing impact at international level, continuously confronts companies with the challenge of securing and safeguarding their competitiveness now and in the future. Companies then increasingly respond to the consequences of globalisation, which manifest themselves as structural change, with operational restructuring measures when the company’s innovative potential has been exhausted.
The term “restructuring” initially means altering and reshaping existing structures. As a rule, however, restructuring measures have considerable impact on employment and the adaptability of workforces. In addition, restructuring embraces a wide range of forms with differing operational objectives, such as:
- Mergers with or takeovers by European or international companies
- Moving company units abroad
- Outsourcing and insourcing individual company functions
As restructuring measures are subject to entrepreneurial freedom of decision, the European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs, is now searching for ideas and concepts on how companies affected by structural change can succeed in organising restructuring measures in good time and in cooperative processes with their workforces in a foresighted manner.
Are there good examples of the negative effects of restructuring measures on employment and the local economic structure being kept to a minimum where the companies’ economic aims and the interests of the employees are weighed up together on an equal footing? What options for action do other groups involved in economic life have if they are to go along with the restructuring process and cushion the negative consequences for employment?
With the Community Programme PROGRESS, the European Commission is pursuing the aim of recognising possibilities for all those involved in economic life to adapt to the changes taking place and spreading these possibilities throughout Europe.
Restructuring in Europe – The ANCOBEST project
The European Commission has requested the RKW Competence Centre, together with its partner organisations namely; RKW (Germany), Think tank europeen Pour la Solidarite Asbl (Belgium), CEFAMOL (Portugal), Fagligt Faelles Forbund 3F (Denmark), Diputacion Provincial A Coruna (Spain), Agence Nationale pour Amelioration des Conditions de Travail (France), Fondazione G. Rumor – Centro Produttivita Veneto (Italy), TNOIK (Poland), AccountAbility (UK) and of course the MIM (Malta) to identify examples in the ANCOBEST project for coping with operational restructuring measures in an anticipative manner.
The main emphasis of the project is placed on:
- Restructuring measures triggered by structural change in the countries or regions involved or in individual branches or sectors, where examination of these can therefore possibly be re-applied to other regions or sectors,
- Restructuring measures with a European or international orientation in the companies examined, which can make it clear what European developments can be expected in the future,
- Restructuring measures that take place in small and medium-sized companies and which are so far much less well known than in large companies and international concerns and receive less public attention.
At the operational level, it needs to be analysed at this juncture what objectives are to be achieved with restructuring measures. The ANCOBEST project takes account of both business management and strategic objectives. In both cases, however, emphasis is placed on restructuring measures that display considerable effects on the workforce and its ability to adapt to change. The restructuring measures to be examined can be internal sector or industry-wide measures.
Measures in the ANCOBEST project
Examples of restructuring measures and their employment consequences for sectors and regions are identified in each European partner country involved. The examples are presented at the transnational level of all project partners and discussed with regard to their meaningfulness for structural change in Europe.
The examples are discussed at national level with the stakeholders of the companies affected, i.e. with all those involved in economic life who could have a constructive influence on the restructuring process. These include the social partners as well as the local and regional players involved in the labour market and the promotion of economic development. It needs to be found out what influence these groups exert, what potential for improvement they see and how foresighted assistance of restructuring measures could be achieved.
Alternatives for action
Examples and discussion results in the individual countries are analysed and conveyed into options for actions for company management, staff and stakeholders. It is hoped that exchanges on options for action in restructuring processes will help create new findings and knowledge at European level. A selection of 30 examples from 10 European countries gives an overview of operational restructuring processes in the structural change of regions and sectors in Europe.
The First Transnational Meeting – 15th February 2008, Frankfurt
“The first meeting on the Ancobest Project was held in Frankfurt on the 15th February which was attended by all the project partners namely; Think tank europeen Pour la Solidarite Asbl (Belgium), CEFAMOL (Portugal), RKW (Germany), Fagligt Faelles Forbund 3F (Denmark), Diputacion Provincial A Coruna (Spain), Agence Nationale pour Amelioration des Conditions de Travail (France), Fondazione G. Rumor – Centro Produttivita Veneto (Italy), TNOIK (Poland), AccountAbility (UK) and of course the MIM. The meeting was hosted by RKW, the German partner.
At the meeting, RKW first made a presentation on the treatment of the topic of restructuring and employment within the framework of different organisations in the European Union.
The project partners then presented their own organisations to familiarise each other with their individual activities.
The partners then proceeded to discuss the approach to be taken in the research on the topic of restructuring and they agreed to carry out qualitative interviews with three organisations which had engaged in the restructuring process in their respective countries. They agreed to hold interviews with entrepreneurs and also with the other internal and external stakeholders involved.
In the discussion, it was also agreed that the research should take into account the decision-making process before restructuring and also take in consideration options other than restructuring and the different types of restructuring. While discussing the various forms of restructuring, focus was placed on the consequences of restructuring for external stakeholders and the employees involved.
The next meeting between the project partners is planned to be held in Vicenza, Italy in July.”
The 2nd Transnational Meeting – 7th & 8th June 2008, Vicenza
Representatives from all the partner organisations, including of course MIM, met in Vicenza, Italy to report on their progress vis-à-vis the case studies under examination, and to draft the final stages of the project. The meeting served also as a forum to discuss the various difficulties being met by the various partners.
The 3rd and Final transnational meeting is being held in November 2008 in Brussels.
ANCOBEST is a project co-funded by the European Union
The final document is presented at the members area.