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German works councils under pressure - institutional learning as a pathway to enhance their capacities of action

[working paper]

Becke, Guido

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Corporate Editor Universität Bremen, Forschungszentrum Nachhaltigkeit (artec)
Abstract "This paper deals with institutional challenges German works councils face currently. These challenges consist of structural economic change from industrial to service sectors accompanied by an extension of 'co-determination-free-zones', an enhanced labour force diversity beyond the image of the male blue collar worker as the 'normal employee' works councils represent, the transformation of companies into network companies splitting up established works councils, co-management in times of competitive restructuring of firms and the emergence of new postfordistic production models with ambivalent impacts on working conditions. Moreover, works councils are challenged by a partial decentralisation of collective bargaining towards the establishment level dissolving the established division of labour between works councils and trade unions. These new challenges confront works councils with risks of structural overcharge endangering their institutional stability. Institutional learning may increase the institutional capabilities and competences required to works councils in order to meet new challenges. It could focus on a critical reflection of established practises in interest representation, utilising workforce diversity as a social resource of interest representation and promote co-operation between works councils in network companies or multinationals. However, works councils are not capable of meeting new challenges self-destined, rather they still depend on a supportive infrastructure of advice and consultancy provided by trade unions. In order to offer support tailored to the needs of works councils and to overcome their crisis in respect to social legitimacy trade unions will as well have to undergo processes of institutional learning to enhance their regional capacities of action, to promote innovative ideas or social issues and to utilise the increased workforce diversity as a starting point to attract new target groups of potential union members. The recognition of workforce diversity proves to be a significant prerequisite to draw on diversity as a social resource of institutional learning by works councils and unions." (author's remark)
Keywords works council; Federal Republic of Germany; industrial relations; codetermination; trade union; learning organization; institution; learning; capacity; work; management
Classification Sociology of Work, Industrial Sociology, Industrial Relations
Document language English
Publication Year 2004
City Bremen
Page/Pages 66 p.
Series artec-paper, 117
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications
data provider This metadata entry was indexed by the Special Subject Collection Social Sciences, USB Cologne