Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 4 2001, page 9-26.
Work policy is the conscious policy for the future of work. The agents of work policy are management and employees at the firms, labour market organisations, especially employers’ organisations and trade unions. Consultancy firms can also be agents of work policy. Further, public authorities on local and state level, concerned with training, occupational health and safety, business policy etc., are agents of work policy.
During the last ten years in Denmark there has been a tremendous growth in work policy in respect of political interest and concern, in activities and in spending of money. Both labour and management have been deeply involved in work policy. For management it has been important to develop human resources and to increase flexibility. For labour it has been important to be a part of the change from ‘fordist’ to ‘post-fordist’ conditions to maintain the fundamentals of the Danish industrial relations, especially collective agreements and the strength of the unions.
Work organisation and working life have changed radically during the last ten years. The changes, however, have not followed the same direction. On the contrary: We have seen decentralisation and centralisation, more delegation and more control, development of human resources and restric-tion of human resources at work. The work policy of the firm seems to be essential for which direction work develops.
The work policy of the firm is influenced
by work policies from outside, and in the
period many work policy initiatives have
been taken to influence the work policy of
• Decentralisation of the collective agreements, but under central control
• Action plan against repetitive work
• Public support to ‘The Developmental Work’
• Public programs for organisational development, learning and development of competences.
• Achange in social policy from welfare to workfare.
This work policy has been quite successful as Danish workers have increased their international competitiveness with a high income and a relatively small income differentiation. The unemployment rate has been falling. The fundamentals of industrial relations have been maintained: Still more than 80% of the employees are member of a trade union and an increasing part of the employees are covered by a collective agreement.
The established industrial relations have survived, but the quality of working life has not generally improved. Industrial democracy has almost disappeared from the public agenda, despite employees’ representatives never influenced discussions at firm level more than they do now. There is a need for a public policy for democratisation, which can support and develop the current democratic potentials in working life, and improve living conditions at work.