A study of industrial relations in the insurance industry
The thesis examines the links between the changes in office work (in the insurance industry) caused by computerisotion and rationalisation, and their impact on white-collar employees' work expectations. It is hypothesised that such employees have been turning to unions as a way of retrieving their unfulfilled expectations either by gaining bargaining power over such matters as promotion prospects and work content or by achieve compensatory higher salaries. it is farther hypothesised that managements can be expected to resist all attempts by unions to extend their bargaining into spheres traditionally considered as managerial prerogative. The bureaucratic organisational context of insurance employees is described, with particular reference to the way in which tho employer's control over career prospects and work performance is strengthened by increased bureaucratisation. Consideration is then given to one group of employees - professionals - whose possession of professional expertise minimises the impact of bureaucratic control. The First empirical study (a questionnaire attitude survey and interviews) compares work expectations and achievements and attitudes to the employer and trade union of professional and non-professional employees. It was found that the non-professionals perceive a higher level of bureaucratisation in their jobs and also a more pronounced failure of expectations in relation to their work content and career achievements. This influenced their attitude to their employer but was reflected in union membership and their preferred areas of union activity rather than an intention to leave the company. The process by which a union was recognized for collective bargaining in another insurance company is the subject of the second empirical study. The case-study highlights the strategy by which the management of that company sought to preserve its authority and to maintain control over the conduct of decision-making, particularly in areas such as work content and promotion prospects which have been identified as, the core of employees' unfulfilled expectations. The thesis concludes that pressure by white-collar employees through their union for greater influence on matters such as work content and promotion can be anticipated, and that these matters will be the focus of bargaining in the future.