Home » 26-2 ( 1971) » Le syndicalisme est-il la réponse au problème des « cadres »?

Le syndicalisme est-il la réponse au problème des « cadres »?

Roger Chartier


Après avoir souligné la modification relativement récente, en divers milieux québécois, des attitudes traditionnelles à l'endroit des«  cadres » d'entreprise, l'auteur déplore la faiblesse lexicologique du terme«  cadres » dans ce contexte, de même que l'ambiguïté de ce vocable globaliste, eu égard à la grande diversité des agents qu'il recouvre. A partir donc d'une esquisse de typologie des«  cadres », il s'interroge ensuite sur leursproblèmes présumés ou réels— qu'il s'agisse plus largement d'«  aliénation » ou plus spécifiquement de divers malaises concrètement identifiables à partir d'une échelle donnée de besoins. Pour chacun de ces problèmes, l'auteur examine enfin diversessolutions institutionnelles qui sont à la disposition des«  cadres » : action patronale, association de cadres, syndicalisme de cadres et législation élargie


Is Unionization The Answer to Management and Supervision Problems?

In recent years, managerial and supervisory personnel have elicited quite a bit of interest, not only from top managementwithin the business organization — this is, of course, not a new development, since top management has always seen all their levels of management and supervision as one monolithic block—, but also from various quartersoutside the firm proper, namely :

1)university pofessors (and especially sociologists and industrial relations specialists), who have always been sympathetic and sensitive to collective problems and solutions, to proletarian miseries (are we not now talking and writing more and more about the « new proletarians of knowledge » ?) and to democratic values everywhere, respect and freedom for man ; and who easily see in unions of all types and levels of employees an « irreversible » trend, and a good and necessary one at that, which should be fostered by intellectuals and legislation ;

2)union leaders, who used to blast any and all executives or foremen as capitalistic exploiters or technocrats, and who now discover in them a great reservoir, both strategic and numerous, to be tapped in order to multiply union strength tenfold ;

3)government people, who are quite ambivalent about management and. supervision, since they act as both employer and lawmaker ; in the first rote, they are stuck with very difficult problems of an administrative nature : assaults by politicians, a history of nepotism, and an increasingly large bureaucracy spread over a broad territory ; in the second, they are tempted to enact all-embracing legislation (for all employees of all sectors, whether public or private) to solve problems which initially and basically could and should be solved at home.

This newly-oriented interest in management and supervision from outside groups coincides with some aspirations of some levels of management, mainly in the public and para-public sectors, toward some form of unionization, especially in the Province of Quebec.

All this interest, however gratuitous or selfish, should blind no executive to the basic postulate that he, and he alone, should be the one to define his problems and to find appropriate solutions for them, according to the great variety which is evident among his ranks : does he act in a line or a staff capacity, and then, at what level of supervision or management ? Obviously, problems and solutions will differ in kind and intensity according to the nature of the function held by the executive.

And then, if one turns to theproblems of managers or supervisors, one should not « overkill » with such broad diagnoses as « alienation », which today means just about everything and then nothing, not being specific enough and leading nowhere in terms of remedies. What needs are not met by managers and supervisors : are they, or do they feel, relatively powerless, meaningless, normless, isolated, and self-estranged ? Is it a problem of not having enough of the primary needs satisfied : physiological-hygienic or safety (not enough money, not enough security) ? Or does it go deeper and more diffuse in terms of lack of belonging, esteem, and self-achievement ?

And finally, if we now turn to solutions.

Which are the ones most closely adapted to the specific problems diagnosed ? Will it be a new realization by top management, aided by lower levels, of the need for more of the behavioral satisfactions : more communication, more information, more participation in decision-making, more warmth in the day-to-day relation-ships ? Should this fail, will it lead to in-firm managerial or supervisory associations ? Should these appear inadequate, will they be turned into regular unions, with the standard paraphernalia of collective bargaining ? And then, will these affiliate to an outside federation of managerial people exclusively, or rather will this affiliate with a central labour body ?

Before deciding, managerial and supervisory personnel should first evaluate their problems realistically, and then reach first for the means closest to their reach. Unions carry their own brand of bureaucracy and « alienation » ; they are not a dogma or a postulate any more, even among their own membership ; they have not yet made much headway in North America, at the professional and managerial levels ; for the time being, at least, they may seem like a jack-hammer cracking a nut. So, legislation at this level of personnel seems at this time inopportune and would create much ambiguity.