Purpose – This paper aims to present an analysis of the nature and drivers of company‐level concession bargaining during the financial crisis 2008‐10 in Germany. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on five company case studies. Data collection methods include document analysis and semi‐structured interviews. Findings – Using the five cases, it was possible to identify different ways in which companies were affected by the financial crisis itself, by various company‐level adjustment strategies, and by various implications of the crisis and the collective agreements resulting from it. The author found that company‐level social partners, supported by public policies, were able to avoid redundancies and keep employees in work, while helping the company to survive. Practical implications – The findings show that social partners at company level are able to agree on cooperative solutions to reduce labour costs in order to ensure the company's viability. Originality/value – The findings are important for understanding key aspects of the German “job miracle” both during and after the global financial crisis.