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5.11 Participatory management

Participative management and libraries

Ana Maria Rezende Cabral

1. INTRODUCTION

A type of social system that predominates in modern society is the bureaucracy, whose main characteristics are a hierarchy of command and subordination, highly centralized authority and control and the need to possess specialized technical knowledge in order to discharge one's duties.

With the increasing bureaucratization of the various areas of social life, including culture and leisure, even libraries could not escape the bureaucratic model of organization and automatically adopt it, without much deliberation, in the middle of the twentieth century.

With the proliferation of publication and the ever-growing importance accorded to information nowadays, many libraries have increased in size and complexity. In view of the library's function as a social institution and the sort of activities it undertakes, the adopted model which often produces an authoritarian style of management, impedes the attainment of its objectives, which requires more flexible management methods.

This paper attempts to examine the theory of participative management as an alternative form of administration, which might facilitate the settlement of problems and conflicts created in libraries because of the non-involvement of staff in decision-making.

However, a more democratic type of management would necessitate a change of attitude on the part of those library administrators and librarians who have already grown accustomed to the bureaucratic style of management.

2. BUREAUCRATIC PATTERNS OF MANAGEMENT

Bureaucratic organizations or bureaucracies are structured in the form of a pyramid with several levels, in which each employee has his or her own clearly-defined functions, rights and duties, and is accountable to an immediate superior.

This model admits of greater concentration of power, authority and control. However, while more or less democratic management systems can exist within such a structure, this depends on the manager's personality and his or her willingness to share authority and responsibility.

Libraries have by and large adopted the bureaucratic style of management, which means that decisions are handed down vertically, without prior consultation of staff at the lower levels.

According to Fischer, 'A bureaucracy maximizes security for individuals within the structure, but is often felt to be oppressive and unresponsive to those at the bottom of the organization'(4).

The typical bureaucratic structure is an inflexible hierarchy that inhibits the flow of innovative ideas and ignores informal groupings within the organization. In fact, every attempt is made to develop a conformist spirit in individuals in order to make them more susceptible and amenable to organization.

Furthermore, bureaucracies give rise to two forms of alienation: firstly, that of the employee in relation to the job, which involves an activity that is not innate to the person; social alienation which describes a situation where people do not speak for themselves, do not control their own destiny and are excluded from decision-making while those in authority speak on their behalf (14).

The type of professional occupation that predominates nowadays, is by its very nature hostile to bureaucratic authority. Whereas professionalism calls for autonomy and places emphasis on individual responsibility and the need for individuals to relate to their work, bureaucracy requires compliance with the organization's rules and regulations.

As far as libraries and librarians are concerned, this model has frequently imposed serious constraints on professionals within the institution. Whereas librarians should enjoy a considerable degree of autonomy in taking decisions regarding the library's policies and directives, and in setting objectives, targets, priorities and so on, more often than not they are merely expected to carry out orders and report to their superiors.

It may well be the role of staff associations to settle the conflicts and tensions caused in libraries by the prevalence of that very style of management. But the increasingly bureaucratic natures of those very bodies often stands in the way of more effective action of that kind.

A new approach to the problem is emerging among librarians, who are beginning to press for changes and demand greater autonomy and participation in decision-making and more freedom of action.

In Smith's opinion 'The only answer is significant organizational change in our libraries'(19), which, in his view, may be achieved through a more democratic type of management involving extensive staff participation.

In our view such a change can only be achieved by the adoption of a decentralized organizational structure or some other alternative arrangement as far as the vertical hierarchical structure goes, whereby the staff can play a greater role in decision-making in an atmosphere of trust and co-operation.

3. BEHAVIOURAL THEORIES AND THE PARTICIPATIVE SCHOOL

Behavioural scientists consider that, in order to attain emotional maturity, the individual must satisfy his or her basic needs as well as those imposed by society. Maslow has established a hierarchy of human needs, ranging from the most basic (sex, hunger, etc.) to those of self -actualization. Herzberg, another behavioural scientist, identified factors of job satisfaction and frustration, placing the former at the top of Maslow's hierarchy and the latter much lower down.

Shaughnessy states that to a certain extent all employees hold in common certain objectives and needs. But professionals are best distinguished from other workers by the intensity with which they seek to satisfy certain of these needs (18). He quotes Kleingartner, who distinguishes between two levels of goals:

  1. Level I: short-term job rewards such as wages or salaries, working conditions, fair treatment, fringe benefits, job security, etc.
  2. Level II: longer-term goals related to the content and mission of the functions performed by the various professions. These goals rarely become concrete issues or objectives until Level I goals are adequately met.

These goals can only be attained if professionals enjoy autonomy and are given a real voice in determining the policies of the organizations in which they work, through greater participation and involvement in administrative matters.

But what exactly does participation mean?

According to Kaplan 'participation can be conceived as a process in which power or influence is shared'(8). This is accomplished through the making of decisions in which both management and employees engage. Participation is not incompatible with a hierarchical structure, as is generally assumed. There is merely a shift in the focus of decisions in the organizational segment, and a 'diffusion' of authority in which everybody plays a part, but each according to his or her capacity. Basically it will depend on the management's willingness to modify its style with the existing structural constraints.

In Dutton's view, 'participation is essentially an active co-operation between manager and subordinates in the setting up and pursuit of agreed job-related objectives... Participation is not synonymous with downward consultation. Downward consultation is motivational only to the manager who is trying to make the right decision and get it accepted by the group... Participation demands real commitment by everyone involved'(3).

The concept of participation can be traced back to the eighteenth-century social philosophers and political. thinkers, especially Rousseau, who developed the basic concepts of democratic participation. Subsequently, John Stuart Mill and, later, G.D.H. Cole applied Rousseau's ideas to a modern industrial slate and extended democratic decision-making to the work place.

Likert, proponent of the new theory of participative management, maintains that staff involvement in decision-making yields a high degree of professional commitment, high morale, job satisfaction and increased productivity(10).

Participation can also take the form of management by objectives, 'the process whereby both the higher and lower echelons of an organization identify common objectives, define areas of responsibility and use those yardsticks as guidelines for making the various services work'(17).

The participative school believes that every organization should be a storehouse of ideas and talents that can only be reorganized if employees are allowed to participate In decisions directly affecting their own future, which means that communication must expand in all directions; this can be achieved by the setting up of committees or boards with clearly defined powers.

In participative management the methods of control employed in bureaucratic organizations are replaced by a self-evaluation system in which each group establishes and periodically reviews its own performance criteria.

4. GROUP DECISION-MAKING

As organizations grow in size and complexity, the need for co-operation increases proportionately, since It is difficult for directors to take the best decisions when they are not fully aware of the various factors and the views of others. If managers realize that their subordinates possess valuable and useful information, they will very probably adopt the participative style of management, in which better decisions can be reached though group discussion with specialists.

In Likert's opinion 'better results are obtained when an organization uses its manpower as members of... effectively-functioning work groups with high performance goals than when its members are supervised on an individual basis'(10).

Bennis, quoted by Smith, says that professionally-dominated organizations must shift from the individual to co-operative effort, from delegated to shared responsibility, from centralized to decentralized authority, from obedience to confidence, from antagonistic arbitration to problem-solving [and] groups will be conducted on organic rather than mechanical models'(19).

The advocates of the participative school claim several advantages for group-decision-making; for example:

  1. it allows all group members to air their views, thereby stimulating original and creative ideas;
  2. the decisions are of a higher quality since the group includes specialists in different fields;
  3. the decisions are more readily accepted by the group, since they were worked out by the group itself with a common objective in view;
  4. mediocre ideas can be weeded out and suggestions and criticism used to help correct mistakes;
  5. collective sharing of rewards for good work, in which co-operation replaces competition;
  6. it provides staff with opportunities for professional growth, encourages individuals to develop the capacity to take decisions and so on.

In addition to these advantages, well-integrated groups make for a feeling of esprit de corps; recent studies have shown that the more cohesive the group, the greater the incentive for genuine communication. As a result, there is a perfect flow of both vertical and horizontal. communication in integrated groups.

In Fischer's view, 'Because of the importance of status in a bureaucracy, social interaction among different levels is usually minimal and individuals easily adopt the practice of listening to those in higher positions [and] telling superiors what they want to hear, which usually means minimizing problems and emphasizing success'(4).

Libraries' first concern must be to improve communications since information must be available if interaction between departments is to be perfect. Participative management can make a positive contribution here because it encourages greater staff integration which, in turn, leads to the smooth flow of information when decisions are being taken and to the most effective solutions to existing problems.

5. THE LEADER'S ROLE

Likert stresses the fact that freedom for groups to set their own work pace produces a high degree of professional commitment, so long as there is a great deal of interaction between the individual, his colleagues, and his superior. He states that 'the individual must be part of an active social system where there is frequent contact and interaction. This interaction motivates the individual'(10).

This is why participative management requires a 'linking pin' function whereby the group's attitudes are represented and communicated in both directions within the hierarchy. This 'link pin' assumes a leadership role and helps to create an atmosphere of co-operation among group members, prompting them to interact with one another and with other groups.

Likert describes the leader's role as follows: 'The leader fully reflects and effectively represents the views, goals, values and decisions of his group in those other groups where he is performing the function of linking his group to the rest of the organization. He brings to the group of which he is the leader the views, goals and decisions of those other groups'(10).

However, it is worth while noting that the qualities essential to leadership in participative management are quite different from those required in a bureaucracy; the leader, instead of taking decisions for his or her subordinates, expresses and communicates one group's view to the other.

Library directors generally adopt an authoritarian attitude, appropriate to their own bureaucratic organization, but totally unsuited to the aspirations of those librarians who are more and more eager to enjoy responsible participation.

When this is the case, their influence and leadership skills should be used in the role of library representative to other institutions and for mobilizing the resources required for meeting the targets set by the staff. Their leadership should take the form of 'co-ordinating' or 'linking', while delegating some of their authority and putting their leadership skills to different uses.

6. PARTICIPATIVE MANAGEMENT AND LIBRARIES

Participative library management calls for a change in the manager's style and personality and for greater dynamism on the part of staff. In an atmosphere that is conducive to dialogue and democratic participation new leaders will emerge naturally.

Attempts to introduce participative management in organizations in which the bureaucratic style of management is firmly established usually have to face a series of problems.

Participative management is expensive to introduce in libraries particularly, because it requires a certain amount of training to equip the staff for group work, an uncommon practice among librarians. Although they may be bursting with the competitiveness appropriate to bureaucratic organizations, this attitude can be altered by the use of certain techniques, e.g. group problem-solving, inter-group relations, settlement of conflicts and so on.

At the same time, managers are not over-enthusiastic about the idea of participation, believing that much time is wasted in training the inexperienced when there are already others more qualified to make better and more rapid decisions.

In addition to all these problems, the introduction of a system of participative management confronts the challenge of generating a climate and system of communication that would encourage the staff to play an effective part and to voice the contributions they have to make.

Despite all these difficulties, it should be said that librarians especially the younger ones - are increasingly keen to participate. They believe that contact and interaction with experienced librarians constitute the most likely route to professional growth and the development of their decision-making capacities.

Several authors have identified areas that are particularly suitable for the participation of library staff; they include planning, co-ordination, job organization, budget preparation, drafting of reports, public relations and so on.

In the specific case of planning, it is vital for librarians at all levels of the process to be involved not only in discussing the implementation of future library policies, but also in assessing the services rendered and suggesting the setting-up and/or maintenance of services for library users.

7. CONCLUSIONS

Participative management has been considered as an alternative method of administration in which the central authority, characteristic of bureaucratic organizations, is replaced by staff involvement in decision-making.

Management in which power and authority are vested in a single individual no longer has a place, especially in libraries, whose function in society has expanded considerably. On the contrary, what is needed is that librarians who enjoy sufficient freedom of action and are willing to collaborate should work together and exchange ideas and experience with a view to recommending appropriate solutions to problems in the area and improving the services provided for library users.

The staff's desire to participate calls for a radical change in existing management patterns, whose bureaucratic structure sustains the status quo and inhibits innovation and change.

One possible obstacle to change might be the conformist spirit of some librarians who have reconciled themselves to routine jobs; this is when the rejected technique takes over and precludes originality, innovation and inventiveness.

On the other hand, one encouraging feature is that the emphasis that librarians previously placed on technology is gradually giving way to a critical attitude that focuses more on the political and social aspects of the profession.

Schools of librarianship should be producing librarians with a capacity for decision-making and criticism and a democratic approach to management and planning operations. Sound academic training and the opportunity for self-expression will naturally produce leaders who are ready to oversee significant changes in the field of library administration. In this way, the conditions will be created for staff involvement and participation in decision-making.

If democracy and participation are the watchwords of politics today, let us use them to democratize our libraries while there is still time!

BIBLIOGRAPHY

(1) BLAU, Peter, & SCOTT, Richard. Formal Organizations, A Comparative Approach, London, RKP, 1963.

(2) CASTAGNA, Edwin, Democratic administration. Lib. Journal, 82 (22):3138-44, December 1957.

(3) DUTTON, B.G. Staff management and staff participation. Aslib Proc., 25 (3):111-25, March 1973.

(4) FISCHER, Russel G. Worker's self-management and libraries. Can Lib Journal, 34 (4): 165-73, June 1977.

(5) FLENER, Jane G. Staff participation in management in large university libraries. Coll. & Res. Lib., 34 (4):275-9, July 1973.

(6) HICKS, Herbert G. The Participative School. In ...... The Management of organizations: a system and human resources approach. 2 ed. McGraw Hill. 1972. Ch. 24, p. 380.

(7) KAPLAN, Louis. On decision sharing in libraries: how much do we know? Coll. & Res. Lib., 38 (1):25-31, November 1975.

(8) ______, The literature of participation: from optimism to realism. Coll. & Res. Lib., 36 (6):473-9, November 1975.

(9) ______, Participation. Some basic considerations on the theme of academe. Coll. & Res. Lib., 34 (5):235-41, September 1973.

(10) LIKERT, Rensis, New patterns of management, New York, McGraw Hill, 1961, 239 p.

(11) LYNCH, Beverly. Participative management in relation to library effectiveness. Coll. & Res. Lib., 33(5): 382-90, September 1972.

(12) McANALLY, Arthur & DOWNS, Robert B. The changing role of directors of university library. Coll. & Res. Lib., 34(2): 103-25, March 1973.

(13) MARCHANT, Maurice. Participative management as related to personnel development. Lib. Trends 20(1): 48-59, July 1971.

(14) MOTTA, Fernando C.P.O. que e burocracie. Sao Paulo, Brasiliense, 1981.

(15) ______& BRESSER PEREIRA, L.C. Introducao a organizacao burocratica. 2. ed. Sao Paulo Brasiliense, 1981.

(16) NYREN, Karl. Participatory management in libraries: what is its future. Lib. Journal, 101 (10): 1186-7, May 1976.

(17) ODIORNE, George. La direccion por objetivos. Barcelona, Labor, 1972.

(18) SHAUGHNESSY. Thomas W. Participative management, collective bargaining and professionalism. Coll. & Res. Lib., 38(2): 140-6, March 1977.

(19) SMITH, Eldred. Do libraries need managers? Lib. Journal, 94(3): 502-6, February 1969.

5.12 Workers' councils and trade unions

An open forum for staff representatives
Unions and the public library
Trade unions and automation: a case study from Denmark

An open forum for staff representatives

The National Association of Works Councils and Co-management Committees in Public Libraries

Theo de Ruiter
Lieuwe de Vries

The National Association of Works Councils and Co-management Committees in Public Libraries was established in May 1983. This article describes how and why it developed, what it has concerned itself with up to now, and what the aims and methods of work are. An attempt is also made to formulate a few ideas as to the future of the Association.

Background to the Association

Works councils or co-management committees were set up from 1979 onwards in most large libraries. The early days of most works councils were characterized by a number of infantile disorders such as:

In most cases, these difficulties have since been overcome.

In its third year of existence, the works council of the PBC-Noord (North Holland provincial interlibrary lending centre) reached a number of important conclusions during the annual training course:

(1) As a works council, you will be confronted by your management with a number of policy proposals on which your advice or agreement is requested. These matters are often very complicated and concerned not with your profession alone but with the library as a whole, e.g., automation or arrangements in the field of social policy within the establishment. Works council members often lack expertise in such fields.

(2) As an individual works council you are confronted by national developments such as the Enabling Law on Individual Welfare (then still in force!) and cuts - developments affecting not only the staff in your own organization but which, because they were initiated by the authorities, will undoubtedly affect libraries throughout the country. Of course there are differences as between different local authorities and different provinces, but the majority of staff come under a single collective agreement, a single library law, a single system of subsidies. All managements and works councils are bound by the rules of one and the same collective agreement. In this type of national question, as an individual works council, you can do no more than take up parts of the problem and consider ad hoc solutions.

(3) Works councils operate within undertakings and rarely, if ever, outside them. There is no single consultation mechanism for works councils in public libraries in which common problems can be discussed, but such mechanisms do exist for managements - Werkgeversvereniging Openbare Bibliotheken (WOB) (Employers' Association for Public Libraries), Regionale Steun Bibliotheek (RSB) (Regional Support Library), Direktie-Overleg Stedelijke Bibliotheken (DOS) (Consultative Body for Municipal Libraries), etc. - and e.g. for personnel officers, who can exchange ideas with one another, improve their skills, and take up positions within the Nederlands Bibliotheek en Lektuur Centrum (NBLC) (Dutch Centre for Public Libraries and Literature).

The only thing that works councils can do, through a trade union member, is to consult a trade union on certain problems and questions relating to labour legislation. Nothing else is possible.

Establishment of the Association

On the basis of the foregoing, the works council of the PBC-Noord Holland reached the final conclusion that it was necessary to establish some type of consultation mechanism for works councils and co-management committees in public libraries so as to try and provide common answers to a number of questions. An attempt to set up such a mechanism was made some years ago but never got beyond a single meeting.

This time the works council of the PBC-Noord Holland first put forward its idea to a few other works councils in the province, which were immediately enthusiastic about it. At the beginning of 1983, therefore, a circular was sent out by the works councils of the PBC-Noord Holland and the Amsterdam Public Library to all the works councils and co-management committees in the country.

This appeal (published, inter alia, in Infobulletin) aroused a great deal of interest and was therefore not an unnecessary luxury. The result was an initial meeting on 2-4 May 1983 in the Oisterwijk People's College, attended by 18 works councils and co-management committees. It became clear at this meeting that a great need existed for regular national consultations among works councils, independently of trade unions and the NBLC. It was therefore decided to establish a National Association of Works Councils and Co-management Committees in Public Libraries, with the following aims:

  1. to exchange information and experience;
  2. to provide mutual support;
  3. to provide training and collect information;
  4. to develop common ideas, standpoints and initiatives.

Since this first meeting, two further meetings have been held (the fourth is scheduled for May 1984), and 30 works councils and co-management committees have joined so far.

Achieving the Association's aims

How can we support one another?

If we take the cuts as an example, we can easily see how works councils can help one another. One the basis of an inventory of bottlenecks encountered by a works council (co-management committee), a list of questions, ambiguities, uncertainties, etc., can be drawn up, which vary widely in both nature and scope, and which arise everywhere in the work of the council and are linked directly with the way you, as a works council, can and must concern yourself in the best and most appropriate way with the demands of the staff. This is after all the one thing that you have in common. After such a list has been drawn up, the role that the Association can play in looking for answers and solutions to the problems reported is then clear. This is how we worked at the last study day of the Association at the beginning of October. A small group from the Association first drew up a comprehensive inventory of the precise situation of each works council or co-management committee with regard to plans for cuts and reorganization. From this inventory, the following subjects emerged as the most important:

  1. There is a great lack of clarity as to the application and interpretation of the article in the collective agreement governing the procedure for redundancies (Article 28).
  2. How should plans for cuts and reorganization be co-ordinated with one another in terms of content; how and when must you, as a works council, intervene; how can you, as a works council, assess them?

We then decided that we would have to refer the first question to the trade union, and the second one therefore became the subject of the study day. On the basis of the inventory, a number of key questions in this field had emerged, which we first tried to answer in smaller groups, in which a wide variety of experience was presented. From these discussions and experiences, a number of agreed joint conclusions were reached as to the way in which you, as a works council, should be able to take a stand against management plans, which criteria you can apply in assessing those plans, how you can react to secrecy., and how you can involve your rank and file in this.

A study day of this type can be an important back-up for an individual works council or co-management committee in assessing management plans or in taking up its own positions. Mutual support is anyway not provided solely in the official part of a meeting. The informal part ('the lobby') is also of great importance in this connection. Mutual support within the Association has been rapidly put into practice and been seen to be useful, not least because of the problem of the cuts, as also shown by the fact that there are already plans and agreements to keep one another better informed and, within the Association, to hold a separate meeting of works councils of PBCs on the complicated problems of PBCs with regard to the cuts.

How can we obtain information from one another and learn from each other's experience?

Works councils appear to have all kinds of experience with regard to various matters coming within the competence of works councils and co-management committees in public libraries. We are thinking in this connection of matters such as the structure of the organization, automation, part-time work, social policy, government policy documents, contacts between works councils and management, contacts between works councils and the rank and file, works consultations, etc. A number of these matters will be suitable for future Association study days, but works councils are often faced by concrete questions that have to be answered quickly. A works council information bank would be a possible solution here, in which know-how in the form of reports and the like would be collected and be directly available to works councils throughout the country. Such a solution, however, will not be easy to achieve as long as facilities (e.g. official support) are not available in public libraries for such an activity on the part of the Association. However, a beginning has been made in meeting this need by drawing up a list of problems with which works councils have been deeply involved. This means that one works council can consult another one on the telephone (or in some other way) as to its experience or the arrangements made. By systematically keeping the list and the problems up to date, subjects/matters will emerge in the future that call for a common approach. How and when can we formulate common points of view and put them forward?

In certain cases, the Association can also put forward common points of view. Thus the cuts provided an occasion for the immediate formulation of a common point of view and for putting it forward. This was done by means of a letter to the Committee for Welfare and Culture of the Second Chamber and in the speech made by Judith Kortland at the initial meeting of the NBLC action at Amersfoort. In both cases, acting together as works councils and co-management committees, we emphasized the personnel aspects of the cuts problem and drew them to the attention of politicians, the press and all those connected with libraries. As we did so by stressing that, apart from the particularly serious consequences for users and for the quality of the services provided, the personnel were faced by a whole range of problems affecting them alone. We made it possible for everyone to hear and read about this.

So much for the aims and methods of work of the Association.

The Association is independent of other organizations, such as the NBLC and the trade unions

The relationship of the Association to the trade unions in question, the Union of Public Employees AbvaKabo, and to the NBLC was exhaustively discussed at the meeting at which the Association was established. It was finally decided to set up an independent association of works councils and co-management committees, for the reasons discussed below.

What is the attitude of the Association towards trade unions?

First of all, it is in no way the intention of the Association to take the place of the trade union. On the contrary, the Association, wherever possible, will co-operate with the trade union, and this was communicated to it, by letter, after the meeting at which the Association was set up.

Why, then, is the Association nevertheless independent? Trade unions are primarily concerned with working conditions, wages and negotiations about collective agreements (as became clear at the time of the numerous industrial actions, strikes, etc., in November). All matters in this field will be referred by the Association to the trade union.

But, as already pointed out in this article (with reference to the problems of the cuts) the problems confronting works councils are not concerned solely with matters of pure labour legislation and problems of collective agreements. As a works council, you have to deal with the policy of the undertaking, in which choices are made and priorities assigned. Take, for example, a subject such as automation.

The majority of works councils will not reject automation on principle, but will hardly be satisfied in the only condition made is that there should be no redundancies (this is the condition laid down by AbvaKabo in its policy plan). For, once you have said yes, a whole range of other changes will be introduced (even if there are no redundancies) in which people will be involved who see their tasks and functions, in a word, their work, being fundamentally changed.

What is your attitude, as a works council, towards automation and in the negotiations about automation with the management (e.g. what conditions you make, what guarantees you demand, how you follow up the implementation) is an obvious example of a matter that is not solely a question of working conditions and negotiations about collective agreements, and will undoubtedly be considered as one to be given further consideration by the Association.

A second reason for wanting the Association to function independently is the regrettably low level of union membership among library staff. Practically every works council or co-management committee will be aware that a number of staff do not belong to a union. The trade union - correctly - refuses to talk to and consult non-members, while the Association can consult all works councils and co-management committees, knowing that it represents all the staff, both union members and non-members.

Independent status for the Association then, but as much co-operation as possible. It is thus particularly gratifying that, in recent months, within the trade union, there have been a number of meaningful conversations with trade union members of works councils on the implementation and interpretation of the collection agreement (inter alia, in the depressing light of the cuts).

What is the relationship between the Association and the NBLC?

In the discussion on the relationship with the NBLC (as a union), the conclusion was rapidly reached that the NBLC's status is more that of an association of employers. The informal groups and the close links with the WOB (the official employers' organization) are examples of this. In addition, within the NBLC, there are various kinds of consultative mechanism (e.g. working groups) having quality control and improvement as their aim. There is no such consultative link or anything like it in the field of works council activities. (You may wonder whether this was considered to be undesirably or was simply overlooked).

Method of work of the Association

Thus the Association has independent status at present but will, where possible, gladly co-operate both with trade unions and/or the NBLC. The Association will meet, in principle, two to three times a year, the meetings lasting one to three days. The meetings will be prepared, secretarial duties, etc., undertaken by a group of volunteers under the aegis of their own works council. The secretariat is located at the works council of the Amsterdam Public Library. For the meetings, use will often be made of the Oisterwijk People's College, where support will also be provided in the person of Clemens Gilberts.

The future of the Association

The Association has quickly demonstrated its usefulness, as shown by the large number of works councils and co-management committees that have joined up to the present and taken part in the meetings. This rapid growth is unfortunately probably due not I-east to the problem of the cuts, but at the same time experience shows that you, as works councils and co-management committees, can teach and support one another a great deal in other matters as well.

The Association also represents a welcome combination of forces which, at national level, can constitute a power base to serve as a counterbalance to an already old established national management mechanism. The opposing demands of management and staff within a particular undertaking thus take on a national character, provided that the staff's demands are expressed through the intermediary of the works council. Through the Association, works councils and co-management committees can adopt common standpoints, put them forward, and oppose managements at the national level. The importance of the Association may be obvious but its continued existence and functioning will depend in the future above all on whether every participating works council finds that the subjects which are dealt with and which we are ready to study and discuss together fully reflect its concerns. This condition is of decisive importance in view of the fact that many works councils are already very short of time and will therefore have very little time and energy left to devote to anything that is not absolutely essential - and rightly so. Thus the Association will have repeatedly to demonstrate its value to every member co-management committee and works council. The Association is the instrument of and for works councils and co-management committees, supported by works councils and co-management committees. The first steps have been taken.


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