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The Role of Cooperative Structures in Workplace Transformation Nicole Blumner, May Cooperative structures have been used in the public and private sector with varying degrees of success for the past 70 years, with a revival of their use in the last two decades.
The overall goals of cooperative structures fall into two major categories: Cooperative programs may take form in several venues: These programs most typically include labor-management committees, productivity sharing plans, and quality of worklife programs.
Although cooperative structures offer many benefits to organizations, there often exist various internal Building block model of tqm external barriers that limit their implementation and effectiveness.
Examples from New York State illustrate the role that these structures can play in improving service delivery in the public sector. Structural Changes Labor-Management Committees The focus of labor-management committees is often on problem-solving activities and building trust.
Committees typically deal with issues including workplace safety, work hours, training, personnel issues, and daily workplace concerns. Although committees may initially focus on less controversial issues, such as safety, over time they may build a level of trust between labor and management that allows them to deal with more complex problems.
Management and labor may use these committees to avoid bringing unnecessary issues to the bargaining table, ultimately simplifying the bargaining process. Furthermore, the trust established in committee meetings can have a positive impact on the relationship between management and labor at the traditionally contentious bargaining table.
When establishing a committee, labor and management often write a letter of understanding to establish the committee's jurisdiction as separate from the basic labor agreement. Unfortunately, the letter of agreement may prevent committees from discussing urgent issues covered in the bargaining agreement that arise between negotiations.
For instance, committees at Xerox are not allowed to discuss vital issues such as: Although this measure protects workers in one sense from losing ground on vital issues during the course of a contract, it limits the ability of committees to solve workplace problems outside of the bargaining table when they may be capable of doing so.
Quality of Worklife Programs Quality of Worklife Programs provide opportunities for workers to participate in organizational decisions that directly affect their jobs. These structures may be known as quality circles, employee-involvement teams, or by other terms. These programs function not only to improve quality of the product, but also to enhance the productivity and work life of employees and to further labor-management relations.
Quality circles may consider implementing initiatives to improve job tasks, job stress, scheduling of work hours, social relations, career development, and control over the work environment. Productivity Gainsharing Plans Gainsharing combines worker participation an incentive plan for productivity gains.
Incentives are provided in the form of cash, a deferred bonus paid into a trust fund for later use, or a combination of the two. However, this form of cooperative structure has had limited use in the public sector, where "profit" is traditionally not the paramount motivation of the organization.
Gainsharing was implemented in New York City after the fiscal crisis ofalthough in a more punitive and unpopular form: Barriers to Cooperative Structures Despite its numerous benefits, worker participation often faces limits and barriers.
First, participation is often limited by the fact that some decisions, such as corporate financial planning, must be made by management alone. In fact, most of the participation that takes place involves the employee's immediate workplace environment.
Management may resist cooperative structures for several reasons. Citing loss of authority and the fact that workers don't have much to offer to improve productivity, managers often believe that workers will bypass and inhibit middle management and slow the decision-making process.
Fundamentally, it is questionable whether labor-management committees actually increase productivity. However, this is partly because it is difficult to isolate and measure committees' role in improving productivity.
The clearest indicators that have been documented are reduced absenteeism, accidents, grievances, improved collective bargaining relationships, and increased overall job satisfaction. Union opposition to cooperative structures may also limit worker participation.
Unions may construe cooperative structures as a management ploy to weaken labor and divert attention from basic issues such as wages, job security, and workplace health and safety.
Other union objections include the argument that the economic benefits go only to management. Furthermore, unions may fear that increasing workplace efficiency can lead to employees putting themselves out of a job. Unions may argue that participation does not give workers any real power and will undermine the union's strength at the bargaining table.
Finally, unions have even argued that the responsibility for increasing productivity lies with only with management, and not with labor. Cooperative structures also raise legal questions.
For instance, do the presence of labor-management committees violate the union's exclusivity to collective bargaining? The National Labor Relations Bureau has on several occasions invalidated labor-management committees as violating U. However, most of these cases also involved charges of unfair labor practices against the corporation.
It therefore appears that the committees have rarely invalidated on a purely categorical basis.Mar 14, · The issue of revision of existing percentage distribution of posts of Track Maintainers has been raised at various fora by both the recognized Federations [AIRF/NFIR].
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