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Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany

Works council- employer relations,   pp. 36-38 PDF (1.4 MB)

Page 37

- 37 -
potential malingerers to check on their ability to return to work.
Another works council chairman consented to the discharge of his
brother for petty larceny.   There management had taken the works
council into the confidence - a practice which is far less widespread,
particularly in middle size and small scale enterprises, than would
be possible and desirable from management's viewpoint - the council
assisted greatly in the introduction of new piece-rates and working
methods. One KFD works council chairman defended the reputation of
the company in a letter to a communist daily which had attacked the
firm's labor practices.
In view of these achievements, no company objected to the cost
of the works council. The direct costs are estimated at not above
1/3 to 1/2 of 1 percent of the payroll. These costs arise in law
which compels the employer to free, according to the number of
employed persons, a number of works council members from their work
obligations, provides for payment for time lost by other works council
members at council meetings and on works council business, and for
reimbursement for time spent by all workers in the quarterly general
plant assemblies held during working hours. loreover, the company
provides office space, secretarial assistance, etc. The indirect
costs arising in connection with the works council, and which may be
considerable, defy measurement. Some managers reasoned that these
costs would have to be borne by the company in any event. They
represent outlays for activities which, were there no works council,
would devolve upon a personnel department.
Employers are also aware that the works council is of great
value as a means of communication. "Ks such, it was utilized more
often as a source of information on workers' attitude, i.e. in the
direction from the bench to management, than in reverse. Few
companies took advantage of the chance for immediate contact with
their employees which management participation in works assemblies
affords. In a few cases the works council received space in the
house organ. This had the advantage of making this institution which,
in Germany, still carries a Nazi flavor more palatable to the workers.
The conclusion is justified that the works council, far from impeding
management - labor contact, actually increased and regularized the
channels of communication. A small number of firms had acted upon
a recommendation made in the "Visiting Expert Series" by C. E.
and had issued together with the works council regular reports of
joint meetings. Unfortunately, some reports remained rather formalistic.
Not all were made available to all employees individually.

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