Historical Studies in Industrial Relations

The Bullock Report and European Experience (1977)

Historical Studies in Industrial Relations (2020), 41, (1), 169–188.

Abstract

Whatever the shortcomings of the Bullock Committee’s terms of reference, the injunction to take account of European experience was not one of them. The volume and scope of the evidence is, however, limited: equal representation for shareholders and workers has been tried only in the German coal and steel industries where it was introduced by the occupation authorities after the Second World War. Most European countries, including France and Italy, have nothing to offer. The Committee relied mainly on West Germany and Sweden, with occasional references to Holland and Denmark. Continental versions of industrial democracy worked where an industrial relations system already existed, developed through workplace and industry institutional practices over decades. Nevertheless, the Committee’s majority report used European evidence to support its three main proposals. Worker directors are irrelevant to the task of reforming British industrial relations. European experience is of limited relevance because Britain is not behind European countries in its problem of industrial relations in the enterprise, but ahead of them in what the late Allan Flanders called ‘the challenge from below’, which is being posed all over the world but more sharply in Britain than anywhere else.

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Author details

Clegg, Hugh