This study analyses recent changes in collective bargaining institutions and their implications for employer strategies in the French and German telecommunications industries, drawing on case studies and survey data from call centre workplaces. Findings demonstrate that differences in both formal institutions and past logics of action influenced actor responses to changing markets and ownership structures. French trade unions were more successful in establishing encompassing bargaining structures and reducing pressures for pay differentiation, due to state support for the mandatory extension of agreements and unions’ strategic focus on centralizing bargaining. In contrast, bargaining in Germany has become increasingly fragmented and decentralized as unions and works councils focused on company-level bargaining at major employers. This focus allowed worker representatives to preserve their strong influence over employment practices in core workplaces but has contributed to declining bargaining coverage and growing wage inequality.