This article compares the process of and outcomes from work reorganization in US and German call centres, based on four matched case studies in the telecommunications industry. Both German cases adopted high-involvement employment systems with broad skills and worker discretion, while the US cases relied on a narrow division of labour, tight discipline and individual incentives. These outcomes are explained by differences in institutional supports for collective voice. Works councils in the German companies used their stronger participation rights to limit monitoring and encourage upskilling at a time when US managers were rationalizing similar jobs. Findings demonstrate that industrial relations institutions can have a substantial influence on employment systems in work settings characterized by decentralized bargaining and strong cost pressures.