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Status of Research Project

Workers' Participation in Management

In 1.1. L S . Bulletin, No. 2, an account was given of the aims of the Institute's international comparative research project on workers' participation in management. 1 The various concepts of workers' participation were reviewed, together with research reporting practical experience of the operation of workers' participation. An outline of the project indicated that it would include studies at three levels : A. An analytical, critical and prospective review of experience and trends (based on previous research). B. Extensive studies involving collection of new data on the extent and working of institutions for workers' participation in management. C. Intensive studies of workers' participation in management in a small number of particular undertakings. In 1.1.LS. Bulletin, No. 3, an account was given of the progress being made in arrangingfor these studies in a numberof countries. 2 A meeting on the research methods being adopted in national studies at level C was held in Geneva from 18 to 22 March 1968. The following members of research teams engaged on C level studies attended the meeting : D. Gorupic (Yugoslavia), Deputy Director, Institute of Economics, Zagreb, and Professor, University of Zagreb. N. I. Ibrahim (United Arab Republic), Head, Managerial Psychology and Behavioural Science Group, National Institute of Management Development, Cairo. Mrs. J . Kulpinska (Poland), Professor of Sociology, University of Lodz. R. Lang (Yugoslavia), Director, Institute of Economics, Zagreb, and Professor, University of Zagreb.
1 2

See I.I.L.S. Bulletin, No. 2, Feb. 1967, pp. 64-125. Ibid., No. 3, Nov. 1967, pp. 141-143.


Miss M. Legendre (France), in Charge of Studies, Development and Promotion Studies Service, Paris. Alexej Mydlik (Czechoslovakia), Head, Labour Legislation Section, Czechoslovak Research Institute, Bratislava. Labour

E. Razga (Czechoslovakia), Head, Foreign Relations Section. Czechoslovak Labour Research Institute, Bratislava. K. N. Vaid (India), Director of Research, Shri Ram Centre for Industrial Relations, New Delhi. A. Sturmthal, Professor of Labor and Industrial Relations, Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, University of I llinois, and Visiting Associate at the International Institute for Labour Studies, also took part, as did E. Rosenstein, Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, and Visitor to the Institute, who is engaged in research into this topic. Institute faculty members who attended the meeting, which was opened by Robert W. Cox, Director of the Institute, included Kenneth F. Walker, Senior Staff Associate, and L. Greyfi de Bellecombe, Staff Associate. In the current issue of the I.I.L.S. Bulletin, two articles based on A level studies are published, and future issues will carry further articles based on A level studies of other countries. They are preceded by an article which describes the conceptual framework which is being adopted in the project and indicates the scope of the various B and C level studies and their relevance to various aspects of the conceptual framework. The Institute would be grateful to receive information about other research relevant to workers' participation in management which may have been carried out or is currently in progress.


Workers' Participation in Management

Conceptual Framework and Scope of National Studies

by Kenneth F. Walker, Senior Staff Associate, International Institute for Labour Studies The widespread interest in workers' participation in management evident in many countries in the world today reveals a great variety of approaches to the problem and of institutional forms intended to solve it. 1 In order to analyse the actual operation and impact of workers' participation, and the factors affecting it, it is necessary for research to probe more deeply than mere institutional and legal descriptions, or ideological statements. While workers' participation in any particular country can only be understood in its economic and social context, the comparative study of the functions and impact of workers' participation in a number of countries, using a common framework of inquiry, will help to identify the strategic factors which influence its operation. A better understanding of the operation of these strategic factors is essential to the effective implementation of programmes designed to increase workers' participation, and for assessing the possibility of adapting the institutions of one country for use in others. In planning this project it was found that the great variety of socio-economic and political systems and of institutions for workers' participation in management made it impossible to standardise the methods of inquiry at the level of data collection. Since similar functions may be performed by quite different institutions in different countries, and since the significance of a particular institution or practice may differ according to the socio-economic and political context in which it is set, completely standardised procedures for the collection of data could be
1 Fora comprehensive review of the situation in a wide variety of countries, see I.L.O. : Participation of Workers in Decisions within Undertakings, Report II, Technical Meeting on the Rights of Trade Union Representatives and Participation of Workers in Decisions within Undertakings (Geneva, November 1967).


misleading. For example the role of trade unions in relation to institutions for workers' participation in the management of undertakings may need to be interpreted quite differently in a country in which trade unions are integrated into national economic policy formulation and implementation at a high level compared with a country in which unions' participation is largely restricted to the undertaking level. For these reasons it was decided that as far as possible the research being carried out as part of the project in various countries would proceed within a general framework indicating the basic issues requiring clarification and investigation. This framework of inquiry was set out in I.I.L.S. Bulletin, No. 2, pages 101 to 125. Owing to limitations of resources, however, it was not possible for the research institutes making these studies to cover the whole range of issues included in this comprehensive framework. The studies in each country therefore select certain aspects of workers' participation for intensive study and concentrate upon the investigation of the variables considered to be most relevant to the selected aspects. Thus the project consists of a " family " of related researches into various aspects of workers' participation in management in a variety of concrete situations, rather than of a set of strictly standardised investigations replicated in a number of countries. The conceptual framework for the project is thus distinct from the research design for any of the national studies. For the purpose of each of these studies certain variables may be assumed to be independent, in order to trace their effects upon other variables assumed to be dependent. The heuristic definition of certain variables as " independent " variables and others as " dependent " variables for the purpose of a particular investigation is not inconsistent with recognising that in a broader conceptual framework the variables defined as " independent " may, in fact, depend on other variables not included in the particular research. Similarly, variables defined as " dependent " for the purpose of a particular research study may be treated in a broader conceptual framework as having effects upon further variables. Another possibility is 139

that the design of a particular research study may define a certain variable as " independent " in order to analyse its effect upon another variable which is defined for the purpose of the study as " d e p e n d e n t " . In practice, however, these two variables may influence each other and this may be taken into account in a broader conceptual framework. Diagram 1 on page 141 shows the general structure of the conceptual framework for the project. It is intended for application to the operation of workers' participation in any country. In the bottom left-hand corner of the framework appear certain social values and beliefs which are taken to be characteristic of the society at a given moment of time. There is rarely complete consensus about these values, which also fluctuate considerably over time ; countries also vary in the degree of consensus on values at any moment. These values are expressed in the form of ideologies, which are more explicit statements about the form which social relationsshould take in the country in question. These ideologies (which, like the prevailing values, may be held with varying degrees of consensus) are expressed in the industrial relations system of the country. This system is pictured as consisting of governments, " managers " and " managed " (workers) interacting in an environment which has economic, technological, political and cultural dimensions. The operation of the industrial relations system interacts with prevailing ideologies, which may be modified in time in the light of the functioning of the industrial relations system. Moving along the lower part of Diagram 1, the aims and expectations in relation to workers' participation in management are shown as dependent upon the prevailing values and ideologies in the country. " Aims " are thought of as what people would like to see occur in connection with workers' participation in management; "expectations" represent what people think will be achieved within a given time interval. For example a government may " aim " at achieving a very high degree of participation by all workers in all types of managerial decision in all types of undertaking, but it may " expect " that only a moderate degree of 140

Diagram 1. A Gene Part

Values Note. - In the diagram under "Aims for workers' participation", "Expectations for workers' participation" and "Workers' participation in practice" each vertical line represents a field of managerial decision (e.g. pricing, investment, wages). Its height indicates the degree of workers' participation. If it reaches the top of the box, workers have complete control of that type of decision.

participation by some workers in some decisions in some types of undertaking will be achieved within the first two or three years after the initiation of a new institution for workers' participation. In the centre of Diagram 1 the extent of workers' participation in various types of managerial decision is represented. The extent of participation which is aimed at is shown, as well as the extent which is expected. In the upper half of Diagram 1 the actual extent of participation is depicted. The arrows between " aims " and " expectations " and the actual extent of participationin the centre of the top half of the diagramindicate the t w o - w a y relationship between aims and expectations on the one hand and the actual extent of workers' participation on the other. The amount of workers' participation achieved in practice is affected by what is aimed at and what is expected ; what is achieved in practice also affects what is aimed at and what is expected. Note that participation may take three broad forms which may coexistintegrated (a modification of the internal, formal organisation of the undertaking), bargaining (through the interaction of the undertaking with another formal organisation, the union) and informal (for example adoption of a " participative ", decision-sharing style of management by a supervisor). The extent of workers' participation in the various types of managerial decision in various types of undertaking also depends, however, on the propensity to participate on the part of " managers " and " managed ", and on the participation potential in the undertakings in question. Aims and expectations lead to the setting up of certain institutions for workers' participation, but the extent to which participation occurs is determined by the strength and interaction of the parties' propensity to participate and the participation potential in the situation. Diagram 2 on page 143 illustrates the likely outcome of various combinations of these t w o determining factors. On the right-hand side of the upper part of Diagram 1 are depicted t w o sets of variables described as " intervening " variables and " performance " variables. The intervening variables are shown as directly dependent upon the extent and character


Diagram 2. Interaction of the Participation Potential of the Undertaking and the Workers' and Managers' Propensity to Participate
Propensity to participate Participatio n potential ^ v Workers and Managers










of the workers' participation in practice. An arrow is also drawn from these variables to the operation of workers' participation in practice. However, since variations in the intervening variables affect the working of workers' participation institutions, arrows are also drawn to indicate a two-way relationship between aims and expectations on the one hand and intervening variables on the other. Those w h o have aims and expectations for a system of workers' participation in management usually have certain aims and expectations in mind for the factors which are grouped in the conceptual framework as " intervening " variables. The " performance " variables are shown as directly dependent upon the intervening variables, but also as reacting upon them. A similar link between aims and expectations on the one hand and performance variables on the other is also shown. The contents of the various concepts shown in the conceptual framework represented in Diagram 1 were discussed in some detail in 1.1.LS. Bulletin, No. 2. Various ideological concepts giving 143

rise to specific aims in relation to workers' participation in management were listed on pages 108 to 110 of that issue. They included concepts of industrial democracy (of various kinds), concepts of workers' participation as a means of increasing efficiency, concepts based on insistence upon the moral dignity of human beings and their right to participation (" Labour is not a c o m m o d i t y " ) , and the aim of increasing industrial peace by means of workers' participation. The various aspects of workers' participation in practice which can be distinguished were listed on pages 110 to 112 of 1.1.LS. Bulletin, No. 2. They covered the aspects of management in which workers participate, the procedures and practices by which participation takes place, and the extent and nature of participation. On pages 112 to 115 of 1.1.LS. Bulletin, No. 2, various types of impact of workers' participation were listed. These included the impact on productivity and efficiency, on workers' welfare and satisfaction, on nation building, on the characteristics of the undertaking as a social organisation within the community, and on trade unions and political parties. In this list a distinction was made between " intervening " variables and " performance " variables only in respect of the impact of workers' participation on productivity and efficiency. It seems more correct, however, to treat the intervening variables as reflecting the various immediate impacts of the operation of workers' participation in management, which may then have further impacts not only on productivity and efficiency but also on workers' welfare and satisfaction, nation building, the undertaking as a social organisation within the community, and trade unions and political parties. The propensity to participate on the part both of managers and managed was discussed on pages 80 to 89 of I.I.I S. Bulletin, No. 2. It was noted that the propensity to participate depends both on ability to participate and willingness to participate, and various factors which previous research has shown to affect these characteristics were noted. The participation potential of the 144

undertaking was discussed on pages 89 to 91 of 1.1.LS. Bulletin, No. 2, where it was noted that participation potential depends upon four principal factors (1) (2) (3) (4) The autonomy of the undertaking. Technological limits. The dimensions of the undertaking. The limits set by the form of workers' participation.

It will be seen from Diagram 1 that the conceptual framework assumes that each element in the framework interacts with various other elements. A mutual interaction is usually depicted. While it is conceivable that a situation in a particular country may be static for a period of time, it is more likely that the situation will be in a state of continuous evolution, the speed of which may be considerable. Scope of National Studies

One of the studies made by the Shri Ram Centre for Industrial Relations in India investigates certain aspects of the participation potential of the undertaking for the effective functioning of a joint management council, one of the institutions for workers' participation in management fostered by the Government of India. This research seeks to find out how far factors such as the product market, technology, the workforce, management and the history of unionism in a plant have affected the working of the council. Among the general hypotheses examined in the study are (a) a public sector unit may have a more effective council than one in the private sector, as the former is supposed to be less oriented to profits and more to public service ; (b) the council is likely to function more effectively in a plant operating in a near-monopoly product market than in a competitive market. 145

This research also investigates certain aspects of the propensity to participate. One hypothesis is that a firm with predominantly skilled and educated labour will probably have a more effective council than one where labour is largely unskilled and uneducated. A further hypothesis is that an undertaking with a strong trade union and a tradition of successful collective bargaining will have a more viable council. The research consists of case studies of the functioning of the joint management councils in six undertakings. In addition to documentary data about the undertaking unions and industrial relations as well as the joint management councils themselves, data were collected by means of interviews with the various levels of management, workers, union members, members of the joint management councils, etc. The Shri Ram Centre is also making studies in two textile plants, one in the north and one in the south of India. In each plant approximately 300 workers are being interviewed, 150 being rank and file workers selected at random, and 150 being " activists " w h o have held office in one of the joint workermanagement bodies in 1965-66. Management personnel are also being interviewed. The interviews will indicate what aspects of management various types of worker want to participate in, to what extent and by what means. The views of " activists " will be compared with those of other workers, and comparisons will also be made between the views of workers of different social and educational backgrounds. The views of workers w h o have shown evidence of improving their position in the previous ten years will be compared with those of other workers. Data will also be collected on respondents' opinions on the impact of trade unions and on trade union leadership, as well as on their participation in unions and their attitudes to their jobs and their companies. The relations between these variables and respondents' evaluations of various aspects of workers' participation will be explored. While the two companies are very similar in many ways, workers' participation appears to have been much more successful in one plant than in the other and the investigation may indicate the reasons for this. 146

The studies in these textile plants will thus throw some light on the factors affecting Indian workers' propensity to participate, and which influence their evaluation of the operation of Indian institutions for workers' participation. They form a complement to the other Indian studies being made by the Shri Ram Centre, which concern the impact of various aspects of the participation potential of the undertaking. The French study being made for the project is a sociological study in three plants, in which a total of 150 intensive interviews are being held with samples of rank and file workers who play some role in the workers' participation institutions. Briefer interviews are also being held with personnel and production executives, and union officials. The interviews explore the respondents' concepts of workers' participation, and their evaluation of the effectiveness of various means of such participation. These assessments will be interpreted in the context of respondents' attitudes to unions, management and the organisation of the undertakings in which they work. Certain aspects of the propensity to participate will thus be explored by this study. In Czechoslovakia a B level study for the project has collected considerable information on 121 plants from documentary records of the workers' participation bodies and interviews with a sample of the personnel at all levels. This study explores the operation of the system of workers' participation, with particular reference to its role in the fixing of material and other benefits for workers, training, and manpower planning within the undertaking. The range of attitudes and ideas among various groups of workers and managerial personnel on institutions for workers' participation is also reviewed. The C level study in Czechoslovakia covers 15 plants more intensively. Interviews are being held with 300 members of managerial personnel to get a comprehensive view of the functioning of workers' participation from the standpoint of various levels of management, which will be compared with workers' impressions. A survey is being made of the views on the workers' participation system held by participants in trade union education programmes. 147

The interaction of managers and workers will be studied in order to see what styles of management exist, and an attempt will be made to relate differences in style of management to variations in the education, training and outlook of the managers, foremen, technicians and rank and file workers in the particular undertaking. Thus the Czechoslovak studies will not only indicate the nature and extent of participation of workers in management but review many practical aspects of its operation and their implications for the organisation of the undertaking under the Czechoslovak system. Light will be thrown on the strength and basis of the propensity to participate among workers of different types and at various levels of management. In Spain a questionnaire survey of 100 firms employing more than 500 employees is being made for a B level study. The survey will supply data on managements' and workers' views on the operation and impact of works councils, on the state of industrial relations in their undertakings, and on the value and impact of participation through collective agreements. Interviews with 50 managers and 50 representatives of workers will go more deeply into these matters. The B level study in the United Arab Republic involves a questionnaire survey of a large sample of workers qualified to vote for the elected members of the governing boards of undertakings in the public sector. It will provide data on the aims and expectations which the workers have of their representatives on these boards, and will relate these to the workers' attitudes to their work and to the style of management and organisation in the undertaking in which they work. The C level study in the United Arab Republic will focus on the role of elected representatives of the workers in the governing boards of public undertakings. Possible effects on the boardroom interaction of the elected and other board members of the hierarchical relationship between them in the formal organisation of the undertaking will be nvestigated. Attempts will be made to observe board meetings in progress, but it is expected that most of the data will be obtained


by interviewing board members. Questionnaire surveys will be made of workers' attitudes, particularly as regards the differences which introduction of the system had made. Records of the boards and of the undertakings will be examined in this connection. The elections of board members will also be studied to clarify the aims and expectations which may be established during the election process, and the groups of workers whom elected board members actually represent. The studies in the United Arab Republic thus focus on the extent to which the system of workers' representation on the board of management fits the expectations of workers, and the factors which influence the operation of the system. The workers' propensity to participate will be compared with the participation potential available to their representatives. In Yugoslavia a study combining levels A and B will review the development of workers' self-management in that country, the evolution of the concept and of the legal and administrative forms which embody it. It will also review research into and experience of certain specific problems, including the significance of workers' self-management for technical progress, economic development and living standards, experience with the education of workers for workers' self-management, and the educational and professional qualifications of managerial personnel and the members of managing boards under the Yugoslav system of self-management. The C level study in Yugoslavia covers six plants of over 5,000 workers each, and 14 smaller undertakings. These 20 undertakings include a variety of situations in terms of technology, industrial relations, organisation and economic results. In each undertaking the types and forms of self-management will be investigated, together with the distribution of power within the undertaking, the relations between workers and " experts ", the information flow and the process whereby decisions are made on matters such as production, development, distribution, wages, adoption of new techniques, etc. The inquiry will explore the attitudes of personnel at all levels to their work and its organisation, including the self-management machinery, and will study informal i n 149

fluences upon the working of self-management. The implications of workers' self-management for efficiency, for the introduction of economic and technological change, and for the motivation of managers, will also be studied. These comprehensive studies will thus analyse many practical aspects of the functioning of workers' self-management and indicate how various factors affect managers' and workers' propensity to participate in a self-management system. The participation potential in various types of undertaking under various conditions will also be clarified. In Poland a B level study covers various facets of sociological research into the concepts of workers' participation held by various categories of workers, and into the nature and extent of participation in the system by workers in these categories. Various aspects of the practical operation of the system of workers' participation are reviewed, and the social functions of the industrial undertaking as a form of human organisation are analysed. The significance of certain characteristics of the undertaking, such as size and technology, for the operation of workers' participation is considered. The evolution of concepts of workers' participation and attitudes to it are also reviewed. The C level study in Poland investigates intensively the practical functioning of the organs for workers' participation in six undertakings which have been studied in detail for some time. The propensity of various types of Polish worker to participate in management under various conditions of participation potential will thus be studied, and the interaction of these factors will be examined in detail in a few cases. In the United Kingdom a B level study is making an extensive questionnaire survey of the methods of negotiation, joint consultation and communications within a sample of undertakings, and of the processes whereby managerial decisions of various types are influenced by workers. The nature and extent of such i n fluence will be related to information on the state of industrial relations in the undertaking, as well as to characteristics of the undertaking and the management's approach to the sharing of


decision making. A more limited interview survey will be made of workers' attitudes to participation in management. A C level study will assess the experience of the British Steel Corporation with employee directors, particularly the relations of the employee directors' functions to the negotiating and consultative machinery, and the interaction with managerial and other personnel and with trade unions. The studies in the United Kingdom will thus add to knowledge of the actual extent and nature of workers' participation ; they will also assess the propensity to participate of various groups, and will analyse the most ambitious recent attempt at " integrated " workers' participation.

Impact of the Project The studies described in the previous section will clearly supply much information on the expectations held by various groups concerning workers' participation, on the propensity to participate and the participation potential of workers in the countries concerned, on the practical operation of workers' participation and on factors influencing this. They will obtain assessments of workers' participation in practice from various groups in the countries covered. The information supplied by these studies will be of considerable value for the understanding of the functions performed by workers' participation in a variety of circumstances. It is important to be clear, however, on three points. The first is that relatively little information will be provided on the impact of workers' participation, which is not surprising in view of the methodological difficulties in separating the effects of workers' participation from the effects of other factors in the situation. The second point is that the results of this research will need to be related not only to previous research, but also to the results of other research being carried out in the field of workers' participation in these and other countries. Thirdly, even when this is done, it will not be possible to draw a set of general conclusions making 151

a final judgment on the value of workers' participation. On the one hand, the research does not cover all the aspects deserving investigation. On the other hand, even if it did, judgments as to the value of workers' participation would still vary because of differences in values and ideologies. The studies should, however, help to clarify the basis of such judgments by increasing our knowledge of the actual operation of workers' participation. From the point of view of practical policy, the value of the research will lie in the extent to which it succeeds in specifying the strategic factors which affect workers' participation, and in indicating how they exert their influence. The problem of workers' participation seems likely to test the wisdom of policy makers and the skill and good faith of protagonists for the rest of the twentieth century.