Industrial relations in an organization are perceived as a major function of the personnel department, and this function covers wide area of interaction between the management and employees of an organization. It covers negotiations of trade unions and the entire system of communications between the workers and the management.
In the course of making workers in an organization to have a say in decision making process in their workplace, the concept’ industrial democracy’ is introduce to empower the workers and make them take control of their conditions of work and ways of achieving the organization’s objectives and the objectives of the workers.
CONCEPTUALIZATION OF TERMS
The concept industrial democracy means the empowerment of workers in an organization, making them partake in decision making in a their place of work.
According to Terry (2005), industrial democracy is a scheme that gives workers or their representatives power to negotiate and deliberate. It is an instance of real democracy.
To him, industrial democracy can be contrasted from the real democracy, which empowers workers to negotiate and deliberate, and the phony ones which workers are merely consulte3d in the organization’s deliberations.(ibid)
In this same vain, Strauss (1979), classified three typologies of industrial democracy: consultative participation; where workers or their representatives are given the right to be informed, but they don’t partake in the decision making process. Co-management; here, both the employees and management shares the right to partake in the organization’s decision-making process. Self- management; here, workers alone or their representatives have the role of decision makers in the organization.
Workers’ control, according to Schweik (1997), is “ when workers themselves decide what tasks they will do and how they will carry them out. This is also called Self management.”
Eurofound (2005), has it that, it is argued by some people, that any system short of full workers,’ control is a denial of industrial democracy”. Thus, here, workers’ control is conceived as synonymous to industrial democracy.
But looking deeply at the two concepts, it is seen that workers’ control is the full developmental stage of industrial democracy. Under the workers’ control stage, the workers take complete control of the decision making process in the organization, but under industrial democracy, the workers have a say in the decision making process but not a complete highjacking of the decision making process of the organization.
According to Takver (2001) “Real workers’ control can only come about when the working class collectively take all the fundamental decisions in production. Not only in the individual factories but also in relation to the entire economy. It must do this directly, through institutions of its own choice with which it ran identify completely, which it can dominate completely. Such bodies are the workers’ councils”
HOW INDUSTRIAL DEMOCRACY WILL LEAD TO WORKERS CONTROL.
Industrial democracy gives workers the opportunity to make decisions on those conditions and terms of service that affects their functioning in the organization. Since this power is bequeathed to the workers, in the long run the workers tend to mould and structure these terms and conditions to their own desire and interests. A weak management tend to loose its grips on the terms and conditions of the workers, as time goes by. This will eventually get to a stage where the workers will take control of the decision regarding the terms and conditions of their work.
A very strong Trade Union that operates under an industrial democratic setting the tendency of transforming the decision into a self- management structure (i.e. workers’ control) is very high. This become more achievable when the management is weak in maintaining its’ stand in the decision making process.
Another factor that can lead to workers’ control is when over a long period of time the workers or its representatives are the innovators of feasible and effective decisions that has being sustaining the organization for a long time. And if the management contributes little to effective decisions to better the lot of the organization, over a period of time, this will result to workers’ control.
Government policies on labor that is greatly in favor of industrial democracy, this will tend to encourage workers’ control at the long run. And it will also weaken the stand of the management of the organization in its decision-making. Here, the principle of political democracy can be applied, where, “ all governments are asserted to originally derive their powers from the consent of the governed, and all rulers were merely representatives or trustees of the people, clothed with only such authority as had been granted by the people, and for the exercise of which they were accounted to the people. (Lauck, 1926:1). Under workers’ control, the rights of decision making is taken over by the workers from the management. The management is made to hold decision making as a trustee to the workers.
Also, closely related to the above point, is the laws that prevent the improper termination of workers employment contract, this tend to empower the workers and place them in a better position to strengthen their grips on decision making in the organization, since the fear of improper termination of their employment contract will not be a threat to them. Hence, this encourages their move towards workers’ control in the organization.
In an industrial democratic setting the welfare of the workers decisions on this, is jointly taken by the workers and the management in the organization. When there is a clash of interest regarding the workers’ welfare, management tend to succumb to the workers’ control of their interest, so as to make peace reign and to prevent the outcome of strike in the organization.
Workers’ control is perceived as the total control of the decision making process in an organization by the workers, and this comes to be, if the management is weak in its aspect of decision making, under the industrial democratic setting. And government policies on labor go a long way to create workers’ control; if these policies greatly favor the workers in the industrial democratic setting. The management also tends to let peace reign in the organization by given to workers’ control over issues that directly affects them.
Eurofound (2005), “Industrial Democracy” http://www.eurofound.eu.int/emire/UNITED%2520KINGDOM/INDUSTRIALDEMOCRACY-EN.html (20 May, 2005)
Joseph, A. McCartin (1997) Labor’s Great War: The struggle for industrial Democracy and the origins of Modern American Labor Relations, 1912-1921. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
Lauck, W. Jett (1926) Political and Industrial Democracy, 1776-1926. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. P1.
Schweik, A. Wollongon (1997) “ Workers’ control: Alternatives to bureaucracy” in Schweik, A. Wollongon, et al, Challenging Bureaucratic Elites. http://www..uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/dissert/documents/schweik_cbe (20 May, 2005)
Takver (1972) “ Workers’ control or Self Management” http://www.takver.com/history/melb/maa58.htm (24th May, 2005)
Terry Irving (2005) Early View of Industrial Democracy: Australia, 1914- 1921. http://www.econ.usyd.edu.au/wos/worksite/early_views.html (20th May, 2005)