The fast food industry has been experiencing a tremendous growth. According to Royle and Towers (2002), this rapid expansion of fast food industry over the last 30 years has led to about 70 per cent of the employment in United Kingdom, Canada and United States. Also, the larger fast food operators in the European Union have well employed over half a million workers.
While the fast food industry continues to generate sales globally, its employment relations remain a much-debated issue. A job in a fast food industry will simply mean low wages, low benefits, simplified jobs and routine work (Leidner 2002; Pereira 2002; Royle & Towers 2002).
This essay will attempt to examine the similarities and differences of employment relations between Singapore and two other countries, the United States and Germany. These three countries have enjoyed economic growth throughout the years, yet the different levels of government intervention have much affected the employment relations in fast food industry.
It will start with the comparison of different approaches, unitarist or pluralist, used by United States and Germany in the fast food industry, how Singapore apply these approaches which may be similar or different from the other two countries, Next, it examines the demographic structure and the comparison between each countries on their adaption to the changes. Finally, there is the comparison of each countries approach to the issue of high turnover rates before it ends of with the conclusion. McDonald’s, the fast-food giant and well-known brand, will mostly be used as an example throughout.
Unitarist vs Pluralist
The United States has a unitarist approach in employment relations (Leidner 2002). The unionization rate is low compared to other countries and statutory work councils in the European forms also do not exist in the United States (Leidner 2002). Due to minimal intervention by the federal and state governments, the United States has much freedom to establish the conditions of employment (Leidner 2002), making the system less rigid. These features are very evident of Human Resource Management, HRM for short.
This unitarist approach fits well into the fast food industry, or rather; the fast food industry is a reflection of the employment practices in the United States. Some features such as low wages and benefits, extreme standardization of work, simplified jobs contribute to the high turnover rates (Leidner 2002). As such, unionization is difficult to establish due to employees choosing to quit rather than putting up the collective effort to improve the work. Additionally, as most major fast food companies do not directly employ workers but through franchisees, this decentralization will also greatly reduce unionization (Leidner, 2002). The United States employment relations are also pro-employer based. It is stated that employers have the right to fire workers ‘at will’, with few exceptions (Leidner, 2002).
On the other hand, the approach by Germany in employment relations is mostly pluralist (Royle 2002). This can be observed by the strong industrial relations in Germany, where trade unions such as IG Metal and work councils play an important role in the workplace. There is the systems approach such as employee representation, collective bargaining system and implementations of laws to regulate the industrial relations. The presence of co-determination in the system allows a share of power between the employers and the employees, preventing a ‘pro-employer’ situation.
As the German system of employment relation translates to the fast-food industry, which has its roots in the United States, there is no doubt that frictions occur. In the case of McDonald’s, the initial...