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Title: A qualitative analysis of the role of European Works Councils in British workplaces
Author: Redfern, D. C.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2670 8269
Awarding Body: University of Salford
Current Institution: University of Salford
Date of Award: 2005
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The establishment of European Works Councils (EWCs) as a formal mechanism to foster the provision of international information and consultation has been well documented in industrial relations literature. The creation of the Single European Market (SEM) led to corporate restructuring amongst multi-national companies but deprived employees of an opportunity to influence decisions, which were invisible. EWCs were intended to contribute to redress that gap through providing information and consultation at a multi-national level. The implementation of the European Works Council Directive (1994) has stimulated considerable research and debate. The mainly quantitative literature has considered the content of agreements, implementation rates, structures and sector distribution. Some academics have seen an opportunity for union and employee representatives and have written in positive terms about the potential of EWCs. However qualitative research with longitudinal comparative studies, which explore the views of managers, trade union representatives and working people, are less evident in the literature. Comparatively little is known of the views of "ordinary" employees who do not attend but are expected to be beneficiaries of activity at a forum. Some forums have now been in operation nearly a decade and it is time those issues were addressed. Through drawing on 43 semi-structured interviews and numerous secondary sources, this thesis examines the impact of EWCs on six British based companies to evaluate the extent of their contribution to industrial relations. Interviews were undertaken in 2001 and 2004 with strategically placed managers, trade unionists, employee representatives and other working people whom they aspire to represent. In particular this thesis is placed within existing theoretical debates concerning the desirability of statutory intervention as a mechanism for employee involvement and its consequences. Forums were carefully selected and a balance was sought in terms of companies that are indicative of the sector distribution of EWCs. In each instance the forum was steeped in the Anglo-Saxon approach to information and consultation, although the ownership of parent companies was more diverse. The aims of this research concern the role of EWCs in industrial relations hi British companies and the evaluation of the: (i) contribution made to industrial relations in case study companies and its impact on the lives of people at work (ii) pattern of representational arrangements for forums and the issues that arise, (iii) methods used by management to exercise control over EWCs. The thesis challenges the prevailing optimistic interpretation of the development of EWCs and the research methods used to arrive at that theoretical view. A detailed insight is provided into how a forum works. An analysis is given of the nature of the limited contribution to industrial relations in British companies and, in the process, the lives of working people. Apparently insurmountable representational issues are revealed, as are an extensive range of methods for ensuring managerial control through manipulation. It is argued that the statutory role and minor input will be enough to ensure that in at least unionised sectors forums survive.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available