Labour Dynamics and Plant Centrality in Multinational Corporations
The changing spatial distribution of employment which has resulted from the restructuring of large business organisations at regional, national and international levels in the 1970s and 1980s has attracted a substantial amount of interest in industrial geography (e.g. Massey and Meegan, 1979; 1982; Watts, 1980; Townsend, 1982b; Taylor and Thrift, 1982a). Much of this debate has been couched within the loose framework of the 'new international division of labour' as espoused by Frobel, Heinrichs and Kreye (1980), attributing changes in this division of labour to the geographical reorganisation of individual multinational-corporations. However, a major problem frequently associated with this work is that it implies a direct causal relationship between changes in the employment fortunes of otherwise separate geographical areas. For example, the search by business organisations for cheap labour havens at a global level is often cited as a prime cause of deindustrialisation in developed economies. While such spatial comparative advantages do exist, and are utilised by multinational corporations, it is argued in this chapter that such an explanation of the emerging new international division of labour has been considerably overplayed. Anecdotal and often unrelated evidence of plant rationalisation or expansion resulting in employment change has been used to support the proposition that business organisations are responding to the spatially differentiated qualities of labour, thereby invoking a direct causal link between what are otherwise only net shifts in the geographical pattern of labour use. Rather than providing another study of the employment effects of plant dynamics at an international level, this chapter concentrates on evaluating in situ labour dynamics resulting from changes made inside the establishment, in an attempt to reveal the nature of processes which have otherwise gone uninvestigated. Using survey data for plants belonging to one product division of a single multi-
national corporation, ICI, this chapter seeks to evaluate labour dynamics within a more rigorous analytical framework.