Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany
Codetermination, pp. 39-41 PDF (1.5 MB)
- 40 - 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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