Accueil » 35-1 ( 1980) » Relations professionnelles et vie politique. Quelques réflexions à partir de la crise de relations professionnelles en Europe occidentale

Relations professionnelles et vie politique. Quelques réflexions à partir de la crise de relations professionnelles en Europe occidentale

Jean-Daniel Reynaud


À la lumière des événements depuis dix ans, l'auteur passe en revue ce que l'on pensait des tendances prof ondes dans le système des relations professionnelles, alors que beaucoup étaient convaincus de l'existence d'un modèle de portée suffisamment générale pour que l'on puisse expliquer les cas déviants. Il se demande que vaut aujourd'hui ce modèle, quelles critiques il soulève, quelles corrections il faut lui apporter et quelles leçons de méthode on peut en tirer.


Industrial Relations and Politics. Some Reflections on the Crisis in Industrial Relations in Western Europe.

In the last ten years industrial relations in the industrialised countries of Western Europe have gone through two crises. The effects have been very variable and the relative importance very unequal from country to country but they have common features. First, a wave of strikes and disputes from 1968 to 1973, seriously affecting existing procedures and rules, backed by a renewal of militancy, bringing new and wider demands, introducing new actors. Then, from 1974, a new economic situation developed in which a combination of high inflation and unemployment imposed new restrictions (and perhaps new approaches to bargaining). What has been the result of these two consecutive shocks?

This paper does not attempt to analyse the economic and social situation but rather to see it in a broader perspective: to ask what has changed, not in the circumstances, but in the balance of the System. Of course, the outcome of present changes is still uncertain but this is all the more a reason to consider the underlying trends rather than the present situation. In order to discover these, it seemed useful to re-examine what the underlying trends were thought to be around 1960 in the light of events over the past years.

During the previous decade many specialists became convinced that a "model" existed for industrial relations, based on long-term trends in economic growth and social structures, a model that was not perhaps universal but at least of sufficiently general scope to permit deviations from it to be explained. What is this model worth today? Can we learn any lessons as to method from the criticisms to which it has given rise and the corrections suggested? Needless to say, this critical examination does not aim to demonstrate our present insights as compared with past mistakes: it is very easy to make correct predictions after the event. And above all, our concern is not to show the gap between the predictions which could be made from the model and the results - even though this gap (as we will try to show) does not totally in-validate it. It is rather to force us to reflect on the validity and coverage of the explanations it offered and to encourage us to revise them.

The complete English version of this article is beeing currently published in theBritish Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. XVIII, no. 1, March 1980.