Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 3 2005, page 12-33.
English resume

Between participation and co-determination

New forms of co-operation in municipalities and counties

Steen Navrbjerg

During the last 20 years the public sector has undergone a process of decentralisation. Managers as well as employees are faced with new challenges, and existing systems for co-operation are continuously evaluated and adjusted. In 1996, the central representatives of labour market parties on the municipality level and county level in Denmark agreed to make a framework agreement for a renewed system of cooperation in municipalities and counties – called the MED-agreement. The idea was to replace the existing work councils (called SU-councils) with a more dynamic MED-council. The purpose of the MED-council is to integrate health and safety issues in the discussions on personnel policies and to enhance employee participation and co-determination. The paper presents the most important results of an evaluation of the co-operations system in municipalities and counties. Firstly, the paper briefly presents the research design. Secondly, one of the main barriers for implementation of a new co-determination system, namely different expectations of management and employees, are discussed – along with other barriers for implementation of the new system. Thirdly, the paper shows that though participation and co-determination are enhanced in the traditional as well as the new system, they are more pronounced in the new system. Fourthly, it is shown how management’s experience improved decision-making by involving employee representatives, the point here being that maybe the most important changes regarding co-determinations (and management prerogative) is taking place in informal discussion locally. Fifthly, the role of the health and safety representatives in a new combined system is discussed, since not least their enhanced co-influence has been an important factor for all parties in implementing a new system. Finally, the paper discusses management’s mixed feeling about union representatives in co-operative councils. On one side, management principally finds it wrong that ‘outsiders’ should attend co-operative councils. On the other side, quite a few managers perceive union representatives not only as useful information channels, but also committed decision makers that can act on behalf of the majority of employees.


Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv

(Journal for Working Life)


 

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