Workplace relations in East Germany after unification : explaining worker participation in trade unions and works councils
The East German industrial relations system was completely replaced by the transfer of the West German dual system of industrial relations after political Unification in 1990. Works councils emerged, the former socialist trade unions were taken over by their western counterparts, and West German labour law and regulations were implemented. The thesis focuses on the transformation of workplace relations, with special reference to the viewpoint of the workforce. It is argued that this approach, which has been so far neglected in the German literature, is necessary for a full understanding of the transformation processes. The study examines firstly workers' (both union and non-union members) perceptions of organisational changes and management, of their workfellows and their new collective representative machinery (works councils, union). Secondly, it analyses workers' reactions towards the establishment and functioning of the new interest institutions. This is done more specifically with regard to workers' inclination to participate in collective activities. By testing a selection of social psychological theories associated with the willingness to participate (theories of rational choice, of social identity, of frustration- aggression and of micro-mobilization), the core end product should be an understanding of who engages in collective activities in this specific cultural context and why. Furthermore, both dimensions, perceptions and reactions, are used to test the hypotheses of the literature that East German workers are strongly individualistic, instrumental and passive with regard to participation in collective activities; and that the newly established works councils and unions have not been successfully "institutionalised" from the viewpoint of the workforce. The empirical study is based on a case study of a privatised textile company (including qualitative and quantitative methods) and on a questionnaire survey of a sample of members of the textile union in East Germany in more than 50 companies. The main findings are that most workers seemed highly dissatisfied with the changes at their workplaces, had strong them-us feelings toward the management, believed in the value of unions and collectivism, and expressed a considerable willingness to participate in collective activities. The new interest institutions were accepted as being necessary, even though their current work was more critically evaluated. This supports the argument that works councils and union have been successfully "institutionalised" from the workers' perspective. The major result however is that workers were not characterized by a strong individualism in contrast to the widespread hypothesis of the literature. Yet, they were difficult to be classified as pure collectivists or pure individualists because many displayed mixed responses regarding different issues. They were equally difficult to classify as purely instrumental, identity- oriented or otherwise regarding collective activities. Thus, the perceived instrumentality of collective action and institutions, union identity, the perception of collective interests and the attribution of workplace problems all contributed to the prediction of individual participation in collective activities. No single examined theory provided a sufficient explanation on its own and they seemed to offer complementary rather than alternative explanations.