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RN17_03b: Worker Participation, Industrial Democracy and Labour Relations
4:00pm - 5:30pm
Session Chair: Peter Kerckhofs, Eurofound
Location:UP.1.219 University of Manchester
Building: University Place, First Floor
Works Councils and Firm Specific Forms of Participation in German Establishments
Peter Ellguth, Susanne Kohaut
Institute for Employment Research, Germany
Social dialogue at company level covers a wide range from board level participation to direct forms of employee involvement at the workplace. In cross-country comparisons, Germany is generally discussed as an example of a highly regulated system of industrial relations with institutions provided with far reaching legal rights. Here especially the German works councils are a prime object of (international) research. Far less is known about firm specific forms of interest representation (round tables, spokes persons etc.) without legal backing (also present in German establishments) and the interplay of the two settings.
We use longitudinal data of the IAB establishment panel to answer the following question: Is a distinct legal framework necessary, if an institutionalized social dialogue and employee representation at company level is wanted that has an impact on personnel policy or do firm specific solutions suffice? What role can those institutions play in the future of company level social dialog?
Firstly, we examine the stability of both institutions and possible substitution effects by following the individual establishments over time. Secondly, we identify determinants of the existence of works councils resp. alternative forms of representation. Finally, we ask if firm specific employee representation can be seen as functional equivalents of works councils or rather as part of a strategic personnel policy. Looking at labour turnover, and wages we analyse the effects of those alternative means of employee representation. We adopt a regression approach with instrumental variables to explicitly model selection to the different regimes and control for endogeneity.
Is Italian Social Movement Unionism the effect of a partial Toyotism? The FIAT-Chrysler case
Riccardo Emilio Chesta
Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy
When Sergio Marchionne became the AD of the FIAT Italian automobile industry, he accelerated a managerial revolution that was put in place in the company from the beginning of the 1990s, inspired by the Japanese Toyota's principles. Taking Hajime Yamashina as a consultant from the University of Kyoto, FIAT introduced the World Class Manufacturing, therefore restructuring several plants all along the country. The adaptation of few selected Toyota's principles to the Italian context changed not only the workers conditions but also challenged the Italian system of industrial relations. However, the "team leaders" and the organization through "working teams" are just few aspects of Toyotism that were introduced in this managerial innovation. Participatory practices were only marginal if compared to Toyota's philosophy. Furthermore, the dismissal of the Italian national collective contract and the introduction of the New Co. explicitly tried to challenge the role of trade unions in the Italian manufacturing system. It is possible to state that this Italian way of Toyotism accelerated technological control while marginalizing participation and union power. The restructuring of FCA from 2004 to 2018 is indeed an important unit of analysis to raise few hypothesis on how partial Toyotism or "Top-down Toyotism" produced the rise of a new social movement unionism phase in the Italian industrial relations. The case is relevant also to see the potential effects of globalization pressures on this sector of Italian industry.
Participation in the Norwegian Model
Nord universitet, Norway
In 2013 The Economist hailed the Nordic countries as the future of capitalism. Research has shown that where workers have a high degree of autonomy in problem solving, firms tend to be more innovating. In Norway the national context is characterized by a high degree of cooperation between employers, trade unions and the state. This cooperation has contributed to a proliferation of organizational forms where teams of workers have a relative autonomous status, and a high degree of freedom to solve problems as they see fit.
My research explores what norms and conventions regulate this autonomy, and how the class compromise on the national level affects class compromises on a local level. I draw on Michael Burawoy’s characterization of work as having a political and ideological dimension in addition to the economic dimension. And I aim to understand how worker participation is connected to class at the level of the firm. I am currently in the process of data collection, which is done by a combination of participant observation in two Norwegian industrial firms, as well as interviews.
Preliminary analysis suggests that worker participation takes diverse form, that can be understood both by the framework of Lean-manufacturing or socio-technical systems. At the conference I aim to present a further analysis of how the class compromise on the firm level is connected to the Norwegian neo-corporativist model, and that this has consequences for worker participation.
Radical Democratic Citizenship at Work in an Adverse Economic Environment: The Case of Principled Workers' Co-operatives in Scotland
University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Worker co-operatives generally embrace democracy in their ownership and decision-making structure. However, there is a wide spectrum in the actual realisation of this structure. The variation essentially depends on the political and economic context of the co-operative; the workers’ motivation for joining and working in a co-operative; the sector they operate in; the number of workers; and the principledness of pursuing an ethical agenda. This informs the extent to which workers’ co-operatives can be considered a political undertaking. Only a closer sociological exploration into specific workers’ co-operatives can help to reveal the very political characteristics of some of them. This contribution draws on an ethnographic study of three principled workers’ co-operatives operating in a most adverse economic context, the UK capitalist market economy. The completely flat organisational hierarchy, equal wage policy, and the strong ethical policy position these co-operatives on the radical side of the co-operative landscape in the UK. This study explores the struggle of the co-op members to maintain radically democratic structures, thereby revealing how such worker co-operatives become a political project actualised on a daily basis. Then by recognising politics as practiced at and through radical democratic and strictly ethical work places, the findings of this research provide reasons to rethink citizenship. The political practice of democratic grassroots movements such as radical worker co-operatives becomes a reference framework for understanding active citizenship. Taking the perspective of radical worker co-operatives, this article outlines an urgently needed conceptualisation of radical democratic citizenship at work.