Workers’ Participation is ‘a process which allows employees to exert some influence over their work and the conditions under which they work’ (Strauss 1998).
This concept has various titles, including employee involvement, consultation, industrial democracy and employee voice. The variety of nomenclature indicates subtle differences in emphasis between the main objectives of:
- sharing power between management and workers (industrial citizenship),
- effective cooperation and communication in an organization to improve efficiency, and
- individual employee empowerment, which in turn contributes to efficiency through raising employee morale
and commitment (Walker 1976).
The social partners –employers, trade unions and government – have tended to emphasise different objectives, and to prefer different nomenclature. The nomenclature and dominant objectives of workers’ participation has also changed over time. Workers’ Participation includes various forms:
- direct participation, through teamwork, self-managing teams, quality circles, workers’ assemblies consisting of all employees, and individual and collective exercise of job or task discretion or autonomy;
- indirect or representative participation, through trade unions, works councils, joint consultative committees, occupational health and safety committees, and employee representation on boards;
- self-management, including cooperatives and trade union enterprises;
- financial participation, through profit sharing or employee share ownership; and
- various combinations of these forms.
The Study Group is interested in encouraging research in all these forms of Workers’ Participation, and welcomes proposals for collaborative research, and offers of presentations at ILERA Congresses.
Two books have appeared from past collaborative projects, as well as numerous articles and reports. The books are:
- R. Markey, P. Gollan, A. Hodgkinson, A. Chouraqui and U. Veersma (eds) (2001), Models of Participation in a Changing Global Environment: Diversity and Interaction, Ashgate, Aldershot; and
- R. Markey and J. Monat (eds) (1997), Innovation and Employee Participation Through Works Councils: International Case Studies, Avebury, Aldershot.