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July 1985, Vol. 108, No. 7
Should works councils be used
as industrial relations policy?
The traditional model of adversarial labor-management relations used in the United States and Canada has been the subject of much reflection during the past decade. The high number of industrial conflicts coupled with sagging productivity growth have given rise to a search for new models of labor-management interaction. That search has led to discussions on the appropriateness and desirability of the use of Japanese managerial techniques.1 However, little attention has been given to the European institution of statutory works councils in which workers participate in the decision making process at both the plant and enterprise levels.2
Because of the decentralized nature of collective bargaining in Canada and the United States, experts in these two countries have generally considered works councils to have little relevance. They argue that there is no need for councils because workers are represented by unions at the enterprise level.3 Moreover, the unions generally have regarded works councils as inferior to unions and contrary to free collective bargaining. Also, management generally has viewed statutory works councils as potentially disruptive and an infringement on management rights.4
Despite these formidable impediments, there are several reasons why the works councils concept deserves to be looked at once more. This article explores these reasons. It reviews the various collective bargaining schemes, reports Canada's experience with mandatory committees, and discusses the advantages and disadvantage of works councils and mandatory committees to unions, collective bargaining, management, and the wider public.
This excerpt is from an article published in the July 1985 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 T. Mroczkowski, "Is the American Labour-Management Relationship Changing?" British Journal of Industrial Relations, March 1984; D.V. Nightengale, Workplace Democracy (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1982); C.W. Summers, "Industrial Democracy: America's Unfulfilled Promise," Cleveland State Law Review, 1979, pp. 29-49; and J. Crispo, Industrial Democracy in Western Europe, A North American Perspective (Toronto, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1978).
2 Works councils do not imply participation on governing boards; councils are separate from board participation.
3 D.Q. Mills, "Reforming the U.S. system of collective bargaining," Monthly Labor Review, March 1983, pp. 18-22; D.V. Nightengale, Workplace Democracy, pp. 216; and J. Crispo, Industrial Democracy.
4 D.Q. Mills, "Reforming the U.S. System."
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