1 Despite its centrality. the issue has been curiousouly neglected in British literature, though more widely discussed in America Examples of the American debate include Derber, M., Chalmers. W. E and Stagner, R., “Collective Bargaining and Management Functions: An Empirical Study”, Journal of Business, 1958 pp 107–120; Union Participation in Plant Decision Making”, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 15. 1961; Derber. M. et al Labor—Management Relations in Illini City, University of Illinois. 1953. (2 vols.); Slichter, S. H., Healy, J. J. and Livemash, E. R., The Impact of Collective Bargaining on Management. The Brookins Institute. Washington DC. 1950; Chander, Margaret K., Management Rights and Union Interests, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1964; Chamberlain, N W. The Union Challenge to Management Control. Harper and Row, New York, 1948. . The Question of Managerial Prerogatives”, Industrial and Labor Relations Review. 1963, 16(2). pp. 240–53.et al.
Workplace collective bargaining and managerial prerogatives
Article first published online: 1 JUL 2007
Industrial Relations Journal
Volume 7, Issue 4, pages 40–55, December 1976
How to Cite
Storey, Dr. J. (1976), Workplace collective bargaining and managerial prerogatives. Industrial Relations Journal, 7: 40–55. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2338.1976.tb00197.x
- Issue published online: 1 JUL 2007
- Article first published online: 1 JUL 2007
2 Beynon, H., Working for Ford. Allen Lane. Harmondsworth. 1973, p. 144.
3 Bain, G. S. and Clegg, H. A. “A Strategy for industrial Relations Research in Great Britain”, British Journal of Industrial Relations. March 1974, p. 95.
This definition is, however, rather limited. it reflects the tradition established by Dunlop and then Flanders. The wider perspective more in tune with recent thought is indicated by Hyman's definition: “industrial relations is the study of the processes of control over work relations”. Hyman. R., Industrial Relations A Marxist Introduction, Macmillan. 1975, p. 12.
4 This includes the question of what demands can be made on the employee in terms of speed, job content, efficiency, working conditions, etc. The struggle over one of these issues, the question of speed, has been graphically illustrated: “Some control was obtained by a straightforward refusal to obey …An agreement had to be reached and management conceded to the stewards the right to hold the key that locked the assembly line”. Beynon. H., op cit., p. 139.
5 Industrial Relations in Great Britain: A Critique of Reformism. Politics and Society. Vol. 4, No. 4. 1974, p. 428.
6 Ibid., p. 429
7 For a summary of views from the ‘Tory’, liberal-pluralist and radical perspectives on this point, see Goldthorpe (ibid) pp. 420 and 429. He observes that Workers can now often prevent management from using its power in an entirely arbitrary or summary fashion, they can compel managements to negotiate and bargain with them on a widening range of issues; and in these and other ways thay are able to call into question managerial ‘prerogatives’… (p. 429). The extent of this challenge however, still cries out for empirical analysis
8 Examples of this approach can be found in: Turner. H. A. et al. Labour Relations in the Motor Industry, Allen & Unwin, 1967. p. 334; Coates. K (ed) Democracy in the Motor Industry. Institute for Workers' Control, 1969, p. 6.
9 Goodrich, C. L., The Frontier of Control: A Study in Workshop Politics, Bell & Sons. 1920, p. 16.
10 Even David Silverman accepts of course that, “Only by recognising such contexts do we manage to find more or less stable meanings in human activities… talk is unintelligible without the provision of some context” He does, however, go on to claim that these meanings are only available to us through “Interpretive work by which we remedy the indefinite possibility of interpretations available in any social scene”. (Silverman, People and Organisations, Course Unit 16, p. 56). However, in many circumstances the recognition of what a particular scene represents is surely not so unfathomable as ethnomethodologists wouid sometimes have us believe. There is, perhaps, a sufficient basis of common understanding (this need not imply a consensus of values, the common understanding might equally be one of conflict) as to make elaborate ‘Interpretations’ of some situations a tedious bore. The argument here is that interpretive work most definitely has a place, but its value depends upon the questions to be asked, and upon a recognition that the strategic use of other forms of enquiry, rather than the indiscriminate adoption of the take-nothing-for-granted stance, also has a place.
11 And be mindful, too, of the union structure within which workplace action has to operate, this indeed has been the theme of two recent books, Helding, R., Job Control and Union Structure, Rotterdam University Press, 1972; Boraston, I., Clegg, H. and Rimmer, M., Workplace & Union. Heinemann, London, 1975.
12 McCarthy and Parker found “disagreement between stewards and members about the existence of issues which the stewards want to settle with management but which management regards as its own right to decide” McCarthy. W. E. J. and Parker. S. R., Shop Stewards and Workshop Relations, Research Paper 10, Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Associations. 1968, p. 22. Unsurprisingly, stewards were more aware of such issues than were members.
13 Trade Union Congress. Trade Unionism, London, 1967, 2nd edition, p 101.
14 There is a whole range of fragmentary legislation which is relevant here, for example: The Contracts of Employment Act 1963, The Redundancy Payment Act 1965. The Employment Protection Act 1975 includes measures relating to unfair dismissal, the recognition of trade unions and shop stewards, the provision of shop steward facilities, and the disclosure of information. There are obligations under the Safety and Health at Work Act to establish safety committees if so requested by safety representatives. The new Industry Bill and the proposed Planning Agreements also illustrate the impact of law.
15 Nichols, Theo, Ownership, Control and Ideology, Allen & Unwin, London, 1969. p. 150.
16 Fox, A., Beyond Contract: Work, Power and Trust Relations, Faber, London. 1974, p. 315.
17 ibid., p. 185.
18 One further point is worth noting here, if workers can be said to be ‘legitimising’ the managerial authority system by co-operating in its continued existence, equally, management can be said to be ‘legitimising’ workers' control over workshop practices, by tolerating the continuance of workers' influence in matters not gained by them in formal negotiations.
19 Management sees its power as legitimised by “the expectation that management will be competent and that there will be an identity of interest between managers and other employees in giving management the power it needs to do the job effectively”. Suggestions for a Sociological Approach to the Theory of Organisations”, Administrative Science Quarterly Vol. 1, 1956. p. 234., “
20 Miller, D. C and Form, W. H., Industrial Sociology, Harper and Row, New York, 1964, second edition, p. 186. Bendix too echoes this theme: “Like all others who enjoy advantages over their fellows, men in power want to see their position as ‘legitimate' and their advantages as deserved’… All rulers therefore develop some myth of their natural superiority …” Bendix, R., Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait, London, Methuen, 1966, p. 294.
21 Fox, A., op. cit. p. 180.
22 Bendix, R., Work and Authority in Industry, Harper, New York, 1963, p. 39.
23 Thompson, E. P., Time, “Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism”, Past and Present. No 38. December 1967, p 80.
24 Beynon, H., op. cit., p. 46.
25 Gottschalk, A. W., ‘A Behavioural Analysis of Bargaining’ in Warner. M., (ed). The Sociology of the Workplace, Allen and Unwin, 1973, p. 73
These kind of questions informed the research project reported in Storey, J., “Procedural and Substantive Aspects of Bargaining and their Impact upon Managerial Prerogatives”. Ph.D. thesis. University of Lancaster. 1974.
26 Slichter, S. H., Union Policies and Industrial Management, Brookings Institute. Washington DC, 1941. p. 1
27 This has been well documented by Cliff, Tony, The Employers Offensive. Pluto Press, London, 1970.
28 Beynon. H., op. cit., p. 40.
29 Herding, R. Job Control and Union Structure, op. cit. The theme of this book, the distinction between shopfloor action and official union activity in the USA (no-strike clauses and all) should not be too easily assumed to be transferable to the UK. Thus, assertions such as “more union influence less labour power” (p 121) are less easily squared with workplace action in Britain.
30 Herding. R, Ibid: Beynon, H., op. cit; and Lane, T, and Roberts, K., Strike at Pilkngtons. Fontana, London, 1971.
31 The percentage figures which follow relate to returns from a sample of 93 establishments and 141 shop stewards.
32 The reasoning behind the adoption of these methods is partly reflected in Parker's observation that “the two methods of sample surveys and case studies really complement each other, because each adds a dimension to the possibilities of data analysis afforded by the other”. Parker, S. R., “Research into Workplace Industrial Relations” in Warner. M., (ed). The Sociology of the Workplace, op. cit., p. 25.
33 Flanders. A., Industrial Relations: What is Wrong with the System?. Faber, London, 1965: Collective Bargaining: Prescription for Change, Faber, London 1967.
34 This conventional distinction (outlined by Flanders in What is Wrong with The System, op. cit., p. 11) is not unproblematic. It tends to be even more blurred at the workshop level, the participants here more often viewing matters of contention as “issues” and these often contain elements of both, for example, in the areas of discipline, and workgroup rights in influencing production control, the ‘rights’ and ‘standing’ of the parties can be seen as both a procedural and a substantive question.
35 This second aspect is reflected in Dubin's distinction between ‘fundamental’ and ‘conventional’ issues. The first refers to issues “not yet incorporated in collective bargaining”, whereas the latter are “those which have been included in collective bargaining through past negotiations”. A Theory pf Conflict and Power in Union-Management Relations”, Industrial and Labour Relations Review. 1960, Vol. 13. Part 4, p. 509). This ***nating as to the nature of the issues falling into either category, also it is not clear whether an issue cound be ‘fundamental’ in one workplace and ‘conventional’ in another. Dubin appears to be thinking of the supra workplace situation, but if ‘fundamental’ issues are simply those which happen not to be normally negotiable in a historical situation this does not further our understanding of the nature of these reserved issues but simply provides an alternative term with which to describe them., “
36 Clarke, R O. et al. Workers' Participation in Management in Britain, op. cit., p. 7.
37 This is expounded in: Perlman, S., A Theory of the Labour Movement, Augustus M. Kelley, New York, 1968 (original edition 1928)
38 Collective Bargaining and Management Functions: An Empirical Study”, Journal of Business. Vol. 31. 1958. p. 110., et al, “
39 Perline. M., “Organised Labor and Managerial Prerogatives”, California Management Review, 1971, p. 49
40 Periman, Selig. op. cit., pp. 275–6.
41 Clarke, R. O et al. op. cit, p. 94. emphasis added
42 ibid, p. 96
43 In the case of M. Perline, however, his was a survey of “organised labour's beliefs”, op. cit., p. 47; as such, his respondents were more likety to stress the importance of issues affecting the institutional interests of the union
44 Although in a modest attempt to counter this the TUC has published a working guide “Costs and Profits: Financial Information for Trade Unionists”, 1969.
45 Clarke, R O. et al, op. cit., p. 99.
48 ibid., pp 152–3
49 Boraston. I et al. Workplace and Union. op. cit., p. 179
50 Hyman, R., Social Values and Industrial Relations, Basil Blackwell, Oxord. 1975, p. 238
51 Goldthorpe, J. H., op. cit., p. 427.
52 ibid., p. 429.