Home  |  Search  |  Events
 Conferencing | My Home Page | FAQ


School of Business









University of Alberta

Printer friendly page

HIGH-PERFORMANCE WORK SYSTEMS:
DIFFUSION DIFFICULTIES

Yonatan Reshef
School of Business
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta

  1. ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS -- LOWER COSTS ARE MORE DESIRABLE THAN INVESTING UN HUMAN RESOURCES (E.G., USE OF PART-TIME WORKERS)
  2. APPLYING DIFFERENT BUNDLES OF HRM PRACTICES TO DIFFERENT SEGMENTS OF THE WORKFORCE IN DIFFERENT ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS
  3. LEGAL OBSTACLES [E.G., SECTIONS 2(5) AND 8(A)(2) OF THE U.S. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS ACT*]
  4. MANAGEMENT, UNION, EMPLOYEE RESISTANCE
  5. SHAREHOLDER DEMANDS FOR QUICK DIVIDENDS
  6. IMPLEMENTATION/LACK OF INTERNAL CONSISTENCY (E.G., EMPOWERMENT TOGETHER WITH REDUCING TRAINING BUDGET)

 

*Section 2(5)

The term "labor organization" means any organization of any kind, or any agency or employee representation committee or plan, in which employees participate and which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or conditions of work.

Section 8(a)(2) -- Unfair labor practices by employer

It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it...

In a paper entitled "Nonunion Employee Representation: A Legal/Policy Perspective", Samuel Estreicher (Professor of Law, New York University School of Law) explains that, virtually alone among the developed countries, the United States prohibits employers from forming committees of employees and managers to discuss in a bilateral fashion matters of mutual interest, including pay and working conditions. The prohibition found in 8(a)(2) of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA or Act), by means of the broad definition of "labor organization" in 2(5) of the Act, goes well beyond conventional rules found in other countries that bar employer-supported organizations from access to the representation ballot or government agency certification. The 8(a)(2) prohibition was enacted to address abuses that occurred in connection with the spate of company unions that emerged in reaction to the National Industrial Recovery Act (1933-1935). However, the NLRA's proponents, notably Senator Wagner from New York, crafted a provision that was considerably broader than necessary to address those evils -- ostensibly in the interest of protecting the preconditions for "employee free choice," with a subtext also of seeking to entrench the position of independent, multiemployer unions.

For decades the U.S. employer community could live with 8(a)(2) because its premises fit well traditional Taylorist workplaces. Changes in technology and competitive markets, however, have forced a change in the organization of work that requires committed, "smart" line workers and calls in question the continued viability of traditional unilateral management styles contemplated by 8(a)(2).

NLRB decisions, while attempting to clarify the law of employee involvement, continue to cast a pall of legal uncertainty over many programs, particularly of the "off-line" variety, where employees and managers meet in vehicles that are separate from actual work processes. Although the legal status of "on-line" processes, such as self-directed work teams, is on a firmer footing, legal risks attend these systems as well.



All rights reserved 2000 University of Alberta
Contact Webmaster