T3-WS2: Workshop: Workers’ participation at plant level – a European and global perspective

6 September 2019, 11:00–12:30


  • Ludger Pries, Ruhr University Bochum


Workshop: Workers‘ participation at plant level – a European and global perspective

Organiser: Ludger Pries, Ruhr University Bochum

General theme

Most people in the world spend the greater part of their life at their workplace. Globalization brings employees and workers from all over the world closer together—through direct value chains or indirect competition. Considering the very different regions of the world of labor, there are great varieties of labor regulation and labor conditions. Therefore, it becomes increas-ingly important to develop an overview of the extent and mechanisms of workers’ participation at plant level. It is crucial to understand and analyze the conditions under which people around the world are able to participate in the day-to-day working process and strategic decision mak-ing of the companies that employ them. This is still a neglected topic in the area of industrial and labor relations that requires further research, especially from a global perspective. The ses-sion will be based on a comprehensive recent publication on the topic.

The session will focus on the analysis of the mechanisms and practice of workers’ participation in the definition, control and enforcement of their working and employment conditions as well as their participation in work-related and company-strategic decisions. It aims at comparing different formal regulations and practices of workers’ participation at the workplace level in a carefully chosen selection of country case studies, first at the European level and second at the international level. Some guiding questions are: Does workers’ participation hinder manage-ment flexibility and introduce rigidity in times of increasing needs of companies to cope with more volatile and changing economic environments? Or is workers’ participation not only an indispensable precondition for democracy in society but also a way of facilitating workers’ inte-gration, motivation and participation in production? Is legally regulated workers’ participation as standing in stark opposition to any direct, individual and practical participation in work pro-cesses? Or should strategies and mechanisms like ‘Innovative Human Resource Management Strategies’ not be seen as contradictory to formal ways of workers’ participation and collective representation at plant level? Is workers’ participation and collective representation by unions a contradiction to direct democracy and participation of individuals at the workplace? Or are mechanisms of collective representation by unions and by alternative mechanisms of direct and indirect participation at the workplace, plant and company levels not mutually exclusive but reinforcing? Are the specific cultural contexts and institutional traditions of workers’ participa-tion in the EU converging or diverging? What are the main functions of workers’ participation at plant level (e.g. channelling inter- and intra-group conflicts in the working area; giving workers a voice and especially protect weaker groups in a given plant; stabilizing the development of es-tablishments and companies, triggering long-term perspectives; increasing motivation and commitment of workers at the workplace level; harmonizing the conditions of competition by controlling the compliance of legal, legitimate, collective bargaining and tacit norms; controlling and delimiting economic power; combining economic efficiency with democracy in economic life).

Papers to be presented

Workers’ participation: Concepts and evidence for Europe

Thomas Haipeter, Institute for Work, Skills and Training, University of Duisburg-Essen

Mondragon: Cooperatives in global capitalism

Joseba Azkarraga, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)
George Cheney, University of Colorado

Workers’ participation in Czechia and Slovakia

Jan Drahokoupil, European Trade Union Institute (ETUI)
Marta Kahancová, Central European Labour Studies Institute (CELSI)

Workers‘ participation at plant level: France

Udo Rehfeldt, IRES

Workers’ participation at plant level: The case of Italy

Volker Telljohann, IRES Emilia-Romagna

Workers’ participation in Spain

Holm-Detlev Köhler, University of Oviedo

Workers’ participation at plant level in a global comparative perspective

Ludger Pries, Ruhr University Bochum

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