Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany
Works council- employer relations, pp. 36-38 PDF (1.4 MB)
- 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 obstacles. 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.
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