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Works Councils as Crucial Social Institutions of Labor Regulation and Participation. Friedrich Fürstenberg’s Concept of Works Councils as ‘Boundary Spanning Institutions’

  • Ludger PriesEmail author
  • Russell D. Lansbury
Chapter

Abstract

One of the most outstanding models of workers’ participation at plant level is the German system of co-determination or Mitbestimmung. Herein, Works Councils are elected every four years by all workers and employees of a single plant, independently of being unionized or not. From an international perspective, the system of Works Councils is difficult to understand and raises many questions. Trade unions often see Works Councils as a competition to the logic of trade unions. Management also is skeptical because of strong legal rights of Works Councils that could slow down management decisions, costs a lot of money, and needs to be fed continuously with information and favors. Workers and employees could suspect that Works Councils turn into bureaucratic ‘worker aristocracy’. This chapter explains the system of Works Councils embedding it in history and society and approaching it as a boundary spanning institution. First, it is a historical development since the beginning of the twentieth century and in the context of struggles of the working class after the First and the Second World War are presented. Second, the legal basis and the practical work of Works Councils as well as their spread and frequency in the German economy are offered. Then the analysis of Friedrich Fürstenberg ‘The Works Council – Structural Analysis of a Boundary Spanning Institution’ of 1958 is sketched out as one of the best scientific concepts to understand the social functions and mechanisms of Works Councils. Finally, some comments on the national and international reception of Fürstenberg’s broader work on Works Councils and the German regime of labor regulation and his role and impact in the international scientific community will be given.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social SciencesRuhr University BochumBochumGermany
  2. 2.Sydney University Business SchoolThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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