Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 1 2004, page 8-28.
Jørgen Steen Madsen
What will happen to a centralised bargaining system when major parts of the bargaining competence shift from the social partners at central level to local partners? Will the balance of power between the partners be maintained or will there be shifts, which will radically change the foundation of the system? In the light of the new pay system in the county/municipal sector, these are some of the issues discussed in the article. The article concludes that a bargaining system characterised by co-ordinated or centralised decentralisation seems to develop in the direction of a form of multi-level regulation without any co-ordinating or controlling centre. The qualitative analysis of eight selected counties and municipalities clearly shows a trend in the direction of individualisation of the wage formation. This is clear in the use of such instruments as wage and appraisal interviews. The pressure to move in the direction of individualisation comes not only from the side of the employers, but also from many employees in the county/municipal sector. There is thus a double pressure on the trade unions and the local employee representatives. It seems that the most important cornerstone of the bargaining system, i.e. the right to collective bargaining is being undermined. However, at the same opposite trends can be seen in some municipalities where local employee representatives obtain a higher degree of influence - coming close to actual powers to conclude agreements - in matters concerning wage policy and staff policy which have so far been a domain of the management prerogatives. It is premature to ascertain which of these two trends will prevail, but in any case it seems that we will see a system characterised by differences from one county/municipality to another and with a different balance between the right to conclude agreements and the management prerogatives.