University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany

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

Page 38

- 38 -
Councils and Production
Management had not yet been able to develop a method by which
the influence of the works councils could be brought directly to
bear upon the production function. Sometimes the potentialities
had not been fully recognized. This seems the more surprising since
in many instances the conditions for such a development seemed
unusually favorable.   where workers and managers had spent months
and years in clearing the debris and rebuilding the working place,
worker interest in productivity would seem to have been heightened.
Hovever, in this as in many other respects, tradition, the experiences
of the Nazi period, and the attitudes of the parties towards a works
council which is the result of legal compulsion proved insurmountable
The "Lord of the Manor" ("Herr im Hause") attitude is
by no
means dead. Too many employers seem to think that they and the
experts they can hire have a monopoly of the "know-how". To accept
suggestions from the workers is considered an admission of incompetence
and hence degrading. Such a move, it is feared, may open a dangerous
wedge for workers demands. On the other hand the usual suggestion
boxes are, in the minds of many workers, closely associated with
the production drives and speed-ups of the Nazi period and the DAF.
Another hindrance is that the works council rests on the legal
command, not on voluntary labor-management agreement. This accounts
for a tendency to freeze works council-management relations into the
legal pattern. Each too often, the legal minimum becomes the maxinum
and neither management nor works council is willing to eytend the
mutual relations beyond the provisions of the law. The origin in
legal command has the effect of stressing the area of conflict while
submerging the area of cooperation. If the experiences in the United
States and Great Britain and other countries are taken into account,
a contribution by the works council towards increased productivity
could, however, be expected only on the basis of mutual confidence
and trust. Such attitudes cannot be created by law although, once
they are firmly established, they may be crystallized by legislation.
This is not the case in Germany.
As a consequence, one company desirous of marshalling the specific
technical experience and knowledge of its workers, has simply
superimposed upon the works council a joint works committee of the
British joint consultative committee type. This new venture proved
rather a success and is now about, not merely to by-pass, but actually
to replace the German works council in this particular (British-
administered) enterprise. The Possibility exists, furthermore, that
a joint labor-management committee may prove to be superior in this
respect to the one-sided German works council.

Go up to Top of Page