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The Pecularities of the English Pragmatism and Innovation in Management's Approach to Employee Involvement. Some Evidence from UK Industry

The Pecularities of the English Pragmatism and Innovation in Management's Approach to Employee... 36 Management Research News Volume 14 Number 10 1991 forces. It is in such organisations that, in the past at least, The Pecularities of the English: the main European debate over industrial participation Pragmatism and Innovation in has taken place. However, we have also looked at a large Management's Approach to number of other, small and/or private service sector or­ ganisations, often with much more informal traditions of Employee Involvement. Some employee relations, for whom statutory Employee Invol­ Evidence from UK Industry vement (El) may be an even more daunting prospect. Peter Ackers, John Goodman, Mick Marchington and The structure of the paper is straightforward. The first Adrian Wilkinson, Manchester School of Management, section surveys differing UK and continental approaches UMIST to industrial participation, and points to the sizeable con­ tingent of UK companies, albeit a minority tradition, which The progress towards 1992 and the European Social have taken participation seriously. The second section Charter promise to draw UK industry further into the Eu­ compares the general development of management's ap­ ropean pattern of employee relations. For many years In­ proach to El in our diverse sample manufacturing sample. dustrial Relations theory, in particular, has focused on our The third section focuses in more detail on some paired distinctive voluntarist and pragmatic tradition (Clegg, comparisons from it. Finally, we argue that while some or­ Flanders, Kahn-Freund etc), while several Economic and ganisation in our sample would find the Social Charter Political writers (Marquand, Maclnnes etc) have seen the proposals 'an invasion of privacy", others, including some associated patterns of strong trade union workplace or­ of the most dynamic would find it 'nothing to worry about'. ganisation and anarchic, decentralised bargaining as major causes of Britain's economic decline. The UK approach to industrial participation has fol­ lowed this voluntarist tradition, creating, as in other as­ pects of employee relations, great diversity on the ground. This preference for industry-by-industry and, more often, company-by- company solutions over a national statutory framework has continued into the present period. In con­ trast, for example, to the broad-based German support for Co-determination, most employers and a considerable slice of the trade union movement rejected the 1977 Bul­ lock proposals for Industrial Democracy in larger firms. In recent years, an important focus of conflict between the EC and the Thatcher government was the Social Char­ ter proposals for statutory employee participation. In characteristic English tradition, the government cham­ pioned the value of voluntary employer initiative against the grand European blue- print. Our own, Department of Employment funded, re­ search project on Employee Involvement (El) in the UK arose, at least in part, within this context. The objective of this paper is threefold: (i) to compare, using secondary material, UK and con­ tinental attitudes to industrial participation; (ii) to explore in more detail, using our empirical ma­ terial, historical and recent developments in UK management's approach to El; (iii) to ask how far the Social Charter would reshape these, and what problems UK industry would have accommodating them? Our research included 25 case studies, from all sectors, spread over an eighteen month period. About a quarter of these were in well-established, medium to large sized manufacturing companies, with strongly unionised work­ http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Management Research News Emerald Publishing

The Pecularities of the English Pragmatism and Innovation in Management's Approach to Employee Involvement. Some Evidence from UK Industry

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Emerald Publishing
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Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN
0140-9174
DOI
10.1108/eb028187
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Abstract

36 Management Research News Volume 14 Number 10 1991 forces. It is in such organisations that, in the past at least, The Pecularities of the English: the main European debate over industrial participation Pragmatism and Innovation in has taken place. However, we have also looked at a large Management's Approach to number of other, small and/or private service sector or­ ganisations, often with much more informal traditions of Employee Involvement. Some employee relations, for whom statutory Employee Invol­ Evidence from UK Industry vement (El) may be an even more daunting prospect. Peter Ackers, John Goodman, Mick Marchington and The structure of the paper is straightforward. The first Adrian Wilkinson, Manchester School of Management, section surveys differing UK and continental approaches UMIST to industrial participation, and points to the sizeable con­ tingent of UK companies, albeit a minority tradition, which The progress towards 1992 and the European Social have taken participation seriously. The second section Charter promise to draw UK industry further into the Eu­ compares the general development of management's ap­ ropean pattern of employee relations. For many years In­ proach to El in our diverse sample manufacturing sample. dustrial Relations theory, in particular, has focused on our The third section focuses in more detail on some paired distinctive voluntarist and pragmatic tradition (Clegg, comparisons from it. Finally, we argue that while some or­ Flanders, Kahn-Freund etc), while several Economic and ganisation in our sample would find the Social Charter Political writers (Marquand, Maclnnes etc) have seen the proposals 'an invasion of privacy", others, including some associated patterns of strong trade union workplace or­ of the most dynamic would find it 'nothing to worry about'. ganisation and anarchic, decentralised bargaining as major causes of Britain's economic decline. The UK approach to industrial participation has fol­ lowed this voluntarist tradition, creating, as in other as­ pects of employee relations, great diversity on the ground. This preference for industry-by-industry and, more often, company-by- company solutions over a national statutory framework has continued into the present period. In con­ trast, for example, to the broad-based German support for Co-determination, most employers and a considerable slice of the trade union movement rejected the 1977 Bul­ lock proposals for Industrial Democracy in larger firms. In recent years, an important focus of conflict between the EC and the Thatcher government was the Social Char­ ter proposals for statutory employee participation. In characteristic English tradition, the government cham­ pioned the value of voluntary employer initiative against the grand European blue- print. Our own, Department of Employment funded, re­ search project on Employee Involvement (El) in the UK arose, at least in part, within this context. The objective of this paper is threefold: (i) to compare, using secondary material, UK and con­ tinental attitudes to industrial participation; (ii) to explore in more detail, using our empirical ma­ terial, historical and recent developments in UK management's approach to El; (iii) to ask how far the Social Charter would reshape these, and what problems UK industry would have accommodating them? Our research included 25 case studies, from all sectors, spread over an eighteen month period. About a quarter of these were in well-established, medium to large sized manufacturing companies, with strongly unionised work­

Journal

Management Research NewsEmerald Publishing

Published: Oct 1, 1991

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