Employers


signs“We want the mines, canals, railways handed over to democratically organized workers’ associations… We want these associations to be models for agriculture, industry and trade…”

So declared the anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in his 1848 election manifesto. Prior to this, demands for workplace democracy had been largely the preserve of liberal democrats such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Dewey. Then, soon afterwards, this became a key platform for many socialists. Then syndicalists and trade unionists chimed in, supported by various left intellectuals. Endless variations were developed upon the basic theme, until: “Taken together, the socialist tradition of workers’ democracy was one of the driving forces of political developments in the nineteenth and twentieth century.” This is the view of network member Markus Pausch, a lecturer in Political Science and Sociology based in Austria, in his recent paper “Workplace Democracy: From a Democratic Ideal to a Managerial Tool and Back” (2014).

Then something kind of weird happened. As Pausch describes it: “In the 1990s, the idea was co-opted by organizational development and management studies and underwent a change: Workplace democracy, then mostly operationalized as limited participation, became a managerial tool that should help to increase employees’ motivation and efficiency and thereby contribute to entrepreneurial success”. (more…)

Network member Conor Cradden argues that ILO workers’ representatives have employers on the back foot on the thorny issue of the right to strike.

ILO_snapEmployers’ representatives at the International Labour Organization (ILO) have recently started to worry that freedom of association and collective bargaining rights might mean something more than offering workers a seat at the table and then proceeding to ignore them. They seem finally to have realised what the rest of the world has always known: the point of freedom of association rights is to allow workers to challenge unilateral managerial control over business costs and organization. For the last couple of years the employers have been desperately battling to make sure that freedom of association rights mean as little as possible in practice. However, the 2014 report of the ILO’s independent legal advisory body, the Committee of Experts, suggests that this particular battle is not going their way. (more…)