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EDITOR'S NOTE.-The two articles which follow are related in the sense that both had a
common genesis—the trade union seminar program of the European Productivity Agency (EPA)-although the conference discussed in the second article was sponsored by another organization. The EPA was established in May 1953, within the Organization for European Economic Cooperation, to assist in raising productivity levels, to study the problems involved, and to serve as a clearinghouse for the national productivity centers of the 17 member countries. Its trade union program provides, for unions which desire to participate, technical assistance in training (including the trade union seminars), information services, and study missions in the European countries as well as the United States and Canada.
European Union Research and Engineering Services
EVERETT M. KASSALOW*
NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION and productivity drives in Western Europe have led to the establishment since 1946 of many new trade union departments conducting basic research and providing technical services. A seminar sponsored by the Trade
. Union Section of the European Productivity Agency (EPA)," held in Vienna, December 9-12, 1958, offered an unusual opportunity to appraise the development of the research and engineering services in the trade union centers of Western Europe. This article provides a report on the seminar and some anticipated followup measures.
and documentation section of the (Belgian) Confederation of Christian Trade Unions, which dates from 1919.
In Denmark, the closely related needs of the trade union movement, the cooperative movement, and the Socialist Party led to the creation of a joint research board for these three bodies somewhat earlier in Copenhagen (1936). (The productivity service of the Federation of Danish Trade Unions, however, dates from 1952.) Such a joint economic bureau for the Socialist Party and the central labor federation is unique in Western Europe, although there are, of course, close
Origins of Departments
For the most part, the various research and engineering departments of western European unions, like those of American unions, are of relatively recent origin, dating from the period of World War II and later. Notable exceptions are the research and economic department of the British Trades Union Congress (TUC), established in 1928, economic departments servicing the Austrian Federation of Trade Unions especially in the period around World War I—and the research
•Director of Research, Industrial Union Department, AFLCIO.
1 The seminar was attended by specialists from union centers in 14 European countries-Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom-the United States and Canada, along with observers from the International Labor Organization, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the International Metalworkers Federation, the European Economic Community, and the U.S. mission to the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC).
Prior to the meeting, the Trade Union Section sent a questionnaire to all European union research and study departments seeking information on their structure, studies in progress, personnel, etc. The European union research department is the counterpart of the research department of U.S. unions. The 80called European study department or service is roughly equivalent to the union engineering department or service in the United States. The replies were summarized by J. R. Jouffret, secretary of the French Joint Union Center for Study and Research on Productivity, and published by the OEEC : Trade Union Research and Study Departments, Introductory Reports to the International Trade Union Conference at Vienna, December 912, 1958.
relationships between the two movements in a number of countries. (Prior to 1928, the British Labor Party and the British TUC were served by a joint economic bureau.)
Economic Departments. The advent of the Marshall Plan in postwar Europe created a whole new range of national economic and collective bargaining problems. In some countries, the labor movement was called upon to participate in many aspects of economic planning involved in reconstruction. Economic imbalances arising out of the loss of overseas possessions led some unions to accept new policies and institutions designed to insure strict public control of wages and prices. Added to these was the necessity to participate in the work of the many new intra-European agencies that had been created to deal with critical social and economic problems. Confronted with these problems, the unions found themselves in greater need than ever before of trained technical advisers. A number of unions established research departments for the first time.
The outstanding research department of the General Federation of Swedish Trade Unions (LO), for example, was established in 1943 and has grown rapidly since then. Difficult trade balances, limited resources, and almost continuous inflationary pressures in the wartime and postwar periods made economic planning a virtual necessity, so a research section was established to help develop a wage and general economic program at the national level for this highly centralized labor movement.
In most countries, the economic research work is confined to the federation level. These central federation research departments concentrate their attention upon broad economic questions relating to full employment, tax policy, international trade, the Common Market and free trade area, regional planning, and so forth. In Great Britain, Sweden, and Germany, research departments have also been created in a substantial number of the key national affiliated unions, but most of the other European union movements lag behind the United States where the volume of research work is much greater at the national union level as distinguished from the central federation. (Of course, the very size, diversity, and geographic
dispersion of labor and industry in the United States help to account for the relatively large number of American labor union research departments.) One difference may be that most Euro pean union research bureaus, unlike the American counterparts, rarely become directly involved in collective bargaining. Their studies tend to be more general and advisory in character.
All but a few of the economists working for the European labor movement come from a university background; many of them are drawn to the labor movement by their political orientation. They were hired as professionals and, so to speak, did not come up from the ranks. In general, this is also true of research specialists in the United States labor movement. Most of the research departments, again like those in the United States, are quite modest in size, with generally no more than a handful of professional employees.
Research work is generally carried on as one of the regular functioning departments of the central labor federations, but the Austrian and German labor movements are interesting exceptions. In Austria, a Chamber of Labor, including an economic department, was created in 1920 on the initiative of unions. It must be consulted by the Government “on all questions concerning the interests of wage earners.” Although the chamber works closely with the trade union movement, and its key officials are for the most part trade unionists, it is financed by public funds and is formally independent of the labor movement. The Chamber of Labor has very broad functions, as it seeks the advancement of the social, economic, professional, and cultural interests of all Austrian employees. The economic department of the chamber engages in basic research, which in some ways comes closer to the type of work performed by a bureau of labor statistics, rather than the service type of research usually carried on by union research departments.
The Austrian Federation of Trade Unions also has its own economic department which gives “advice on economic problems to the leaders" of national unions and their affiliates. This depart
: In Austria, as in a number of other European countries, the Chamber of Commerce, contrary to the situation in the United States, is also a semipublic institution financed by the Government.
erally workers with a relatively high level of education. Workers employed in engineering-type work in industry were among those recruited as union engineering trainees. In the United States, although it is also fairly common practice for unions to draw "engineering” specialists from the ranks, a number recruit them from the engineering profession.
ment, founded in 1915, cooperates in some projects with the economic department of the Chamber of Labor.
In Germany, the central labor federationTrade Union Federation for the Area of the Federal Republic and Berlin (DGB)-maintains its own economics department which works as a direct service and policy counseling office. The DGB also finances a special Institute of Economic and Social Science which conducts a very broad and basic type of research, “either at the request of the unions or on its own initiative.” Studies of the latter type probably best distinguish this institute from the typical union research office: The Institute has published its own studies even when the findings were not particularly pleasing to some of the DGB unions.
Engineering Services in Collective Bargaining
Engineering Departments. The productivity drive launched in 1951 as part of the European recovery program helped to stimulate the formation of engineering departments or services in the European labor movement. The need for rising productivity as an element in economic recovery was quickly appreciated by the unions; at the same time, however, there was considerable fear that workers would face speedup or that they would not share adequately in the new fruits of industry. Moreover, the emphasis upon productivity gains compelled the unions to pay closer attention to the financial operations, workloads, and wage levels of individual companies and plants. The resulting bargaining on these problems at the plant level was somewhat in contrast with the previous pattern of almost exclusively nationwide, regionwide, or industrywide bargaining in most European countries.
These new pressures, as well as the advice and counsel of American unionists who had been recruited to serve in the technical assistance phases of the mutual security program in several European countries, were instrumental in the establishment of technical or industrial engineering services at the national union as well as the federation level.
In a few countries, the training of personnel for union industrial engineering work was carried out with the help of U.S. technical assistance funds and American labor specialists. The trainees, often drawn directly from union ranks, were gen
The engineering departments have been operating only a short time, but one can make some tentative comments upon this new emphasis on technical questions in European collective bargaining. The unions' engineering services in a number of countries have encountered some special difficulties which to date have limited their effectiveness. For example, in cases where plural unionism is practiced (that is, countries where different international federations exist, as for example, Socialist, Communist, or Christian) and several labor organizations share the bargaining responsibility in a given plant or firm, it has been difficult for any one of these organizations to draw an engineering service directly into the bargaining process. Moreover, in a number of European countries, the right of the union as such to bargain on working conditions at the plant or shop-floor level is not well established, as works councils, employees' delegates, and other bodies created by public law have historically assumed this function. Here, too, it is difficult for the unions to bring about the entry of their technical specialists into the bargaining process. As one French engineering bureau stated, many firms “follow the employers' associations' instructions; they do not recognize the union's right to act in the firm, and oppose any technical work the union tries to do."
In a few countries, however, the strength of the labor movement and the special competence of a new technical bureau have already had a marked impact upon bargaining procedures. In these instances, unions are turning increasingly to their technical departments for help with day-to-day collective bargaining problems.
Given the nature of the new problems being thrust upon the European unions, one can almost surely predict a significant increase in their emphasis upon plant or shop-level problems in the next decade. Such a development would bring increased responsibilities for both research and engineering bureaus.
Program of the EPA Trade Union Section
To provide a center for an overall exchange of methods and techniques, the EPA Trade Union Section is developing a many-faceted program. Under its auspices, seminars are conducted to find solutions for many of the technical and social problems confronting European workers and their unions. Seminars have been held on such subjects as automation, productivity problems on the docks, and sharing the fruits of productivity.
The meeting in Vienna was another such seminar. In addition to reviewing the overall status of union research and engineering, specific case studies were examined as examples of the type of work currently being undertaken by European unions. Some of these studies concerned wage drift and wage policy, by the Swedish LO Research Bureau; strain in foundry work, by the German Metalworkers Research Department; the reduction of working hours in the iron and steel industry in Italy, by the Italian Confederation of Labor Unions; problems raised by incentive systems in the Dutch metal industry, by the Netherlands Trade Union Federation; and utility of the trade union technical and productivity service, by the Belgian Confederation of Christian Trade
Unions. Also, a top official of the British TUC discussed the status and position of union research specialists and their work in the general structure of the labor movement.
The Trade Union Section envisages keeping up to date the material prepared for the conference on the status of projects under way by the various trade union research and engineering bureaus. To accomplish this, questionnaires will be sent out once or twice a year. Additional meetings on a smaller scale are also being planned to enable union research and engineering specialists to undertake a more intensive examination of technical and economic questions. The EPA will continue its team visit program (which operates on an intraEuropean basis, as well as between the United States and Europe) as a means of furthering the exchange of experience on technical problems. The section also hopes to organize special study groups, which will cut across country lines, for a more extended discussion of some of the subjects raised in the seminar. More generally, the section hopes to expand its work in the documentation field.5
* Curiously enough, while this development is taking place in Europe, the pressures of changing technology, inflation, and full employment seem to be driving many American unions deeper into the area of national economic policy and action.
6 Trade Union Information, published monthly by the Trade Union Section of the EPA, already provides a valuable service in this area.
The Textile Union
THE CONFERENCE of Technical Experts on Work Study Methods, conducted by the International Federation of Textile Workers' Associations (IFTWA) in Amsterdam, January 14-15, 1959, marked a considerable advance by Western European unions in their analysis of common collective bargaining problems such as time study and wage incentive systems. This meeting was unique in that it was arranged by the IFTWA, included trade union technical experts from 10 countries accompanied in most cases by union officers, and dealt with one area of bargaining problems encountered in a specific industry. This meeting was the culmination of a series of changes in European trade union policy which have been significantly altering the traditional range of attitudes and policies of these unions.
This industry and its unions perceived that increased efficiency, larger imports, and shrinking exports would not be sufficiently offset by a marked rise in consumption, and consequently, large numbers of textile workers would be displaced and many mills would be closed. Western Europe, with a population of 260 million, boasted of a textile industry employing over 3.5 million persons in 1958 at 45–48 hours a week and an apparel fiber consumption of 18 pounds per capita. By comparison, 850,000 textile production workers in the United States worked 40 hours a week for a population of 175 million and a consumption of 37 pounds per capita.
To help textile trade unionists analyze these problems and develop a common policy, the EPA arranged an International Trade Union Seminar on the European Textile Industry, which was held in Milan, May 13–17, 1957. Textile unionists from 12 countries, including the United States, attended. The participants approved a series of bargaining goals for the European constituents, such as "a maximum of 40 hours per week for daywork” and a proposal that the EPA "consider convening a European conference of employers and trade unions with the aim of preparing the way for the realization of a European collective agreement.” The importance of national full employment was underscored.
A steering committee of textile unionists was organized to advise the EPA on further steps. It reported an urgent need for comparative data on wage levels and labor costs per hour in the various countries. With the completion of such a study by the International Labor Office, the committee's interest focused on actual work assignments, wage systems, and work effort levels. It recommended that an experimental study of those subjects be made for cotton automatic weavers in the various countries. To supplement the ILO study, the committee initiated an inquiry into the detailed social benefits paid in the respective countries.
Since the end of World War II, the trade unions have taken an active part in the improvement of national productivity levels with membership in national agencies established for this purpose. One agency which has done much to crystallize the new approach has been the European Productivity Agency (EPA). The EPA's Trade Union Section has helped in the training of trade union leaders, particularly of specialists dealing with problems of plant management and job assignment and evaluation.
With the achievement of economic recovery in Western Europe, individual industries renewed their interest in competitive problems and began to assess their future problems. Concurrently, the agreements on the establishment of the European Common Market 1 and the negotiations on a free trade area focused interest on the likely impact of intensive European competition. Questions necessarily arose as to cost levels, consumption trends, and the probable effect of the lower levels of duties. In no industry was the interest in these problems as keen as in the textile industry.
*Director of Research, Textile Workers Union of America.
1 See Free Labor and the European Economic Community (in Monthly Labor Review, August 1958, pp. 877–879).
2 See Wages and Related Elements of Labor Cost in European Industry, 1955: A Preliminary Report (in International Labor Review, Geneva, December 1957, pp. 558–587), or Monthly Labor Review, May 1958 (pp. 510-517), for an excerpted article based on that report.