The construction of solidarity in a German Central Works Council : implications for European Works Councils
This thesis takes as its starting point the question whether European Works Councils (EWCs) can overcome the divisive pressures of cross-border competition for jobs and investment between sites. A review of the body of literature on EWCs yields that with respect to this question, opinion is divided and examples are contradictory. The central works council (CWC) established according to the German Betriebsverfassungsgesetz is identified as a close analogue to an EWC. In the absence of a body of literature on the internal functioning of CWCs, this research undertook to examine in depth the experience of a single CWC as a lead case. As an analytical framework, the contributions of theories of federalism as a means of reconciling unity and diversity were applied to the multi-level system of employee interest representation. A conceptualisation of solidarity as it might be generated among the members of a central and/or European works council is developed. It is concluded that a discursive/participative structure is most likely to enable the generation of solidarity across and within a multi-level, essentially federalist system. Key analytical factors are identified which are applied to the experience of the Central Works Council at DaimlerChrysler, and to EWCs more generally. Applying the methods of participant observation, semi-structured interviews with the CWC members, documentary analysis, and a postal survey of the local works council members, the operation of the central works council at DaimlerChrysler is explored in detail, covering its day-to-day functioning, its articulation with local works councils, and the values and expectations underlying its work. With reference to the conceptual framework, the findings from the case study are compared with EWC law and practice more generally. It is concluded that the EWC can be considered a nascent federalist system at most. Despite the existence of important gaps, however, this research concludes that solidarity within EWCs is possible if it can be built upon a participative and transparent set of institutions and processes which are seen by EWC members, national and local employee representatives, and trade unions to be fair and legitimate. The final chapter explores the implications of this research for policy, practice and further research.