Take Home Final Exam : Industrial Sociology Essay

Take Home Final Exam : Industrial Sociology            When it is said that Europeans, particularly Germans, have a voice inside the firm, the reference may very well be to the concept of Works Councils that dominate industrial relations in Germany. As a form of representative body for the employee in an establishment, the council has proven to be very effective for labor relations in this European country. This system differs from that of the U.S. in that it collaborates rather than being in constant confrontation with management whenever an employee issue arises. The council is a form of co-determination method being used in Germany today.            This representative body may have in its membership one person for an establishment of 5-20 employees and up to 35, for an establishment of 15,000 employees (Rogers & Streeck, n.

d.). The important thing is that the works council has numerous and effective participation rights in the running of the company. In a typical scenario, the Council is obligated to co-operate with management in a spirit of mutual trust for the benefit of the company and employees (Works Constitution Act, Section 2(1). Additionally, the council is expected to negotiate with a serious desire to reach agreement.

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This is of course different from the U.S., where the trade unions only negotiate to win, and will resort to industrial action, for example, a labor strike, in order to achieve its ends. These Unions are seen to be arrogant and dominant. In many cases, there is loss of productivity due to strikes, and employment is lost in the unionized sector due to union wage effects (Freeman & Medoff, 1984).

The non-unionized sector is constantly crowded with displaced workers.            In Germany, the Councils are not allowed to engage industrial warfare and are expected to view company information in the strictest of confidence. What really stands out with Works Councils is the co-determination rights they hold within companies.

In social matters, they participate in the determination of renumeration, new payment methods, bonus rates, allocation of working hours, regulation of overtime and reduced working hours. Further, they participate in recruitment, transfers, dismissals and up and down grading. All this is done in an atmosphere of mutual respect, recognizing that it is only when management and employees work together through the Works Councils that solutions are found.            Works Councils are also allowed to have access to company financial information and when new procedures are introduced into a company, they are actively involved Councils are however, prohibited from holding strikes but they use various mechanisms to gain an advantage, strategies which guarantee that no side loses. It is a give and take. For example, Councils can hold up decisions where they have veto rights, or withhold consent where they have co-determination rights, in order to gain concessions elsewhere.            The difference between the U.

S. and Germany is therefore clearly evident. Where in the U.S. strong arm tactics are used in the name of collective bargaining, in Germany, Works Councils negotiate with management, knowing full well the distance they can go. If they ask for too much, the company may afford to pay but retrench employees in order to meet the higher wage bill.

Hence they co-operate.A Rifkin Reader            In an article by Jeremy Rifkin, he claims that blue and white collar workers are being forced out of jobs by sophisticated information and communication technology, new forms of business re-organization and management (Jobsletter, n.d.). The only new jobs being created are in the low paying sector. Additionally, in the last 30 years, factory workers have declined from 33 percent of workforce to under 17 percent.

Computers, robots and telecommunications, are replacing human beings in every sector. The problem is compounded further because the service sector, where all these unemployed could possibly have been absorbed, is also automating. These are the banks, insurance companies, retailers and wholesalers.

            The solutions he offers are quite interesting. Because consumer purchasing power is going down as a result of redundancies and the shorter work week, the companies which have embraced the information age, and which are benefiting from increased productivity, should be taxed further and the money spent within the civil society to create more jobs. A new social economy can therefore be created within the voluntary and social sector.            Jeremy Rifkin raises a few very important issues, solutions for which must be sought.

It is true that millions of people do not have jobs in this information age, and if a means to earn a living is not found for them, many social problems could begin to challenge the world order. Crime, for example, may escalate. It is Rifkin’s type of thinking that critically needs to be addressed, because solutions are necessary in this overcrowded and constantly changing world. Technology is here, but it has come with serious issues.

Three Social Deficits            Three social deficits that have come about as a result of economic and structural changes are Social Security, Medicare and College Tuition. In the last two years, the U.S. economy has faced tremendous challenges because of the global economic crisis. The U.S. congress has found itself in the awkward position of having to pass legislation in order to bail out huge financial institutions that would otherwise have collapsed. This has led to enormous budget deficits, and as usual, congress has targeted the areas of the economy where it would be easiest to cut spending.

            Social security has always been financed by taxes on wages, but since the mid 70’s, wage growth has stagnated (The Washington Post, 2009). Currently, John Spratt, the house budget committee chairman, and senator Kent Conrad, are lobbying for the formation of a bipartisan commission that would impose a freeze on addition spending on social insurance in order to offset current budget deficits. This would seriously affect the elderly.

Additionally, the inefficient and fragment Medicare, faces challenges in this current climate. With no additional funding in sight, coupled with rising costs, beneficiaries of this system, who are in their millions, are hoping for a solution. Many are advocating for a complete overhaul.            College tuition, on the other hand, faces a serious lack of capital, and things do not look rosy, as the government, intent on meeting the budget deficit, is looking at areas to cut spending. College tuition is one of them, and apart from lack of additional funding, it has always been underfinanced. Colleges are the breeding grounds for tomorrow’s leader’s, therefore the government must seriously reconsider it’s priorities.ReferencesFreeman, R. & Medoff, J(1984).

A New Portrait of U.S. Unionism. Retrieved July 24, 2009 from            http://www.uschinalabor.org/docs%5CWhat%20Do%20Unions%20Do_E.

pdfJobsletter (n.d.). A Rifkin Reader.

Retrieved on July 24, 2009 from            http://www.jobsletter.org.nz/art/rifkin02.htmRogers, J & Streeck, W(n.

d.). Works Councils. Retrieved July 24, 2009 fromhttp://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=4k0_A4OMZFUC&oi=fnd&pg=PA53&dq=germany+co-determination+laws+and+work+councils&ots=GJoRINtlAi&sig=GUyOxNmCSTbCCaCMVmGv8ZWmvv8The Washington Post (2009, February).

The Deficit Hawks’ Attack on Our Entitlements.Retrieved on July 24, 2009 fromhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/22/AR2009022202003_pf.html


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