The author analyzes the role played by trade unions in the implementation of the High Performance Work Practices (HPWPs). The analysis takes into account the Italian context, and particularly two medium-sized firms operating in two different areas of the Trentino-Alto Adige region. The empirical evidence shows that trade unions negotiate the quantitative and distributive aspects of the HPWPs. The definition and implementation of the practices related to "how" people work, instead, turns out to be an exclusive managerial prerogative. This limited union action is not able to solve some, although minor, iniquities deriving from the application of these practices and, above all, it can result detrimental for employment conditions in other organizational contexts. The role played by trade unions is explained on the grounds of the interconnections between institutional and normative factors.
Keywords: Trade unions, high performance work practices, institutions, normative orientations