Accueil » 35-1 ( 1980) » La transformation de l’entreprise et du travail dans les sociétés industrialisées

La transformation de l’entreprise et du travail dans les sociétés industrialisées

Yves Delamotte


L'auteur analyse la nature, l'origine, la fragilité et la portée des diverses expériences de modifications dans l'organisation du travail ainsi que le contexte dans lequel ces initiatives se sont développées. Elles présagent des changements sans que l'on puisse les prévoir avec précisions. Une chose est certaine, c'est que certaines formes de travail ne seront plus admises.


Changes in the Organization of Business and Work in Industrialized Countries

This paper deals with European "experiments" in work organisation. Factual date concerning the content and scope of these experiments are presented. It is pointed out that in certain cases, individual jobs are enlarged or enriched in a rather authoritarian way. In others, some power is recognized to groups of workers permetting them to organize and plan their work and support each other in their occupational role. The number of experiments varies greatly from country to country. The fact that in some countries such experiments are either supported financially by the State or deal with minor changes explains the numerical difference; the industrial relations' and socio-cultural context is another factor to be kept in mind.

Many experiments involve only a small proportion of the personnel employed in a given activity, and very few of them permit us to have a comprehensive view of the whole production unit. Several experiments also seem to be vulnerable: a new plant manager or a change in production techniques, for example, could terminate them. The social impact of these experiments would not be assessed only in terms of greater satisfaction or autonomy, but also according to the increase in skills and wages. Many of them however have no or little effect upon skills and wages.

The industrial relations and institutional contact can be more or less favorable. In the Scandinavian countries, employers and unions agree more easily than in France or Italy upon common interests and goals. It is generally accepted that such experiments can jointly contribute to the firm efficiency and workers' satisfaction. In general, the fact that collective bargaining in Europe does not imply a clear and fixed description of jobs, and some kind of job property, makes the unions more willing to accept certain changes in job structure. Relevant too are the training and values of administrators and engineers. Most of them have been accustomed to traditional forms of work organization and strongly believe in their superiority. The employment situation is likewise relevant. With an increase in the level of unemployment everywhere in Europe, unions are more interested in obtaining some kind of "work sharing" by reducing time on the job rather than changes in organisation which might mean higher labour productivity and reduction of employment.

As a result, many factors should be considered in order to explain the present situation and the reasons for the seeming stagnation in the development of such experiments in Europe. In the long term, however, new forms of work organisation should emerge, mainly in relation to new technological developments. Administrators are aware that some flexibility is now required in the production System to better adjust to a turbulent environment. Young people are no longer willing to accept certain jobs that their fathers would have. The idea that there are alternatives in work organisation is becoming more and more accepted.