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Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany

Codetermination,   pp. 39-41 PDF (1.5 MB)

Page 40

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contention that a candidate is likely to endanger the social peace
may turn out to be too onerous. This should substantially ease
the awkward situation which those laws create in permitting a veto
against hiring even in the case of a superior, the personnel manager
himself, for instance. In cases of hiring, transfer and promotion,
it was generally felt that skilful employers had no difficulty in
gaining works council agreement to managerial actions. The net effect
was simply to inject between decision and execution a period devoted to
the persuasion of the works council. Discharge cases will therefore
remain the major element in the personnel codetermination sphere.
Social Codetermination
German social codetermination traditionally covers problems which
1) normally find their solution in the shop agreement and 2) works
council participation in the administration of welfare schemes.   The
first group includes works council participation in the determination
of piece rates, working hours, vacation roster, apprenticeship problems,
and in the policing of company compliance with factory and protective
labor legislation, accident prevention, and industrial hygiene.
Welfare institutions are of a considerable importance in the
German industrial picture. Historically they represent voluntary,
unilateral provisions made by a paternalistic management over and
above the legal requirements of an elaborate social security system.
Social codetermination could therefore constitute an attempt to
transform the objects of employer benevolence into co-administrators
by right. It is important to understand that the amount of funds
which the employer contributes to these supplementary welfare schemes
is not made subject to a common decision of works council and management.
This vital decision is reserved to management under legislation.
It is surprising to note that most works councils show no great
desire to terminate reminders of industrial feudalism such as company
housing, company-sponsored emergency cash funds, etc. The employer
attitude in this respect is equally astonishing. Management's main
preoccupation seemed to be to protect such welfare schemes as pension
fund, hostpital, etc., from codetermination by clothing them with
an independent legal personality. Such subterfuges have been very
successful even in Hesse and Wuerttemberg-Baden where legal resistance
had to be overcome. 'Ahere this approach was not feasible, the works
councils were granted not equal but only minority representation in
the administration of the respective schemes. Only some enlightened
companies saw in social codetermination an excellent means of gratifying
a very deeply-felt desire of labor with a chance for diminishing the
administrative cost of such schemes. The effects which a generous
attitude in this respect would have on worker morale were not always
fully recognized.

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