Worker Voice

BookOpen AccessWorker Voice

Worker Voice

Employee Representation in the Workplace in Australia, Canada, Germany, the UK and the US 1914-1939

Studies in Labour History, 5


March 31st, 2016


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This book informs debates about worker participation in the workplace or worker voice by analysing comparative historical data relating to these ideas during the inter-war period in Australia, Canada, Germany, the UK and the US. The issue is topical because of the contemporary shift to a workplace focus in many countries without a corresponding development of infrastructure at the workplace level, and because of the growing ‘representation gap’ as union membership declines. Some commentators have called for the introduction of works councils to address these issues. Other scholars have gone back and examined the experiences with the non-union Employee Representation Plans (ERPs) in Canada and the US. This book will test these claims through examining and comparing the historical record of previous efforts of five countries during a rich period of experimentation between the Wars. In addition to ERPs, the book expands the debate will by examining union-management co-operation, Whitley works committees and German works councils.


'A well-researched transnational history with impressive detail.'
Chris Wrigley, University of Nottingham

'Patmore believes that understanding the past can and should influence the present and describing how a similar issue played out across five countries makes the stories he tells in Worker Voice much more important than had he chosen to describe the ERP situation in just one nation. This kind of ambition deserves to be applauded.'
Jonathan Rees, Labour / Le Travail

'Greg Patmore has produced a clear and accessible book, whichprovides the reader with a detailed, yet succinct, account of the different forms ofemployee representation found in the five selected countries. It is a book that I would warmly recommend to anyone interested in this turbulent period of international labour history.'
Ed Blissett, Labour History

Author Information

Greg Patmore is Professor of Business and Labour History, Work and Organisational Studies, The University of Sydney Business School.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Cover 1
1. Introduction17
2. The Context27
Explanations of Historical Patterns of Employee Representation 27
The Economy 32
Industry Scale and Structure 42
The Division of Labour and Technology 48
Trade Unionism and Politics 54
Employers and Managing Labour 59
The Role of the State 65
3. The Concepts76
Employee Representation Plans 76
Whitley Works Committees 84
The German Works Councils 90
Union-Management Cooperation 97
4. The US105
ERP – The Extent 105
ERP – The Impact 111
Cooperative Management – The Extent 125
Cooperative Management – The Impact 128
The Demise of ERPs and Union-Management cooperation during the 1930s130
5. The UK139
The Extent of Whitley Works Committees 139
The Impact of Whitley Works Committees 151
Looking beyond the UK 159
6. Germany165
The Extent of German Works Councils 165
The Impact of German Works Councils 169
The Impact on Unions, Women and Employers 176
The Demise of German Works Councils 183
7. Canada186
ERPs – The Extent and Impact 186
An ERP – The Experience at the Sydney Steelworks, Nova Scotia 192
Union-Management Cooperation 201
8. Australia207
The Impact214
Electrolytic Zinc 217
9. Conclusion224