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Employee Representation and Workplace High-Performance: The German “Model” in Comparative Perspective (Graduate/Undergraduate - IRE 395 / IRE 1090)

Welcome to IRE 395 / IRE 1090 Systems of Employee Representation and Workplace High-Performance: The German “Model” in Comparative Perspective

This independent reading course looks at how workers can be involved in a more productive and inclusive way in workplace and economic decision making. The focus of the course will be on exposing students to models of employee involvement, co-determination and works councils that have their origins in the German labour market, but which have spread across many European states. The model of co-determination allows German workers in large corporate entities to have a say in board-room decision making. The Works Council model allows workers to self-organize a committee of employees at the workplace level whereby management is mandated to discuss and consult over all matters of relevance to both workers and managers. Sometimes referred to as the dual-system (because it allows workers to make an impact at the highest and lowest levels of the organization), these systems exist in conjunction with more typical systems of collective bargaining that are found in other jurisdictions such as Canada. In addition, German companies have been at the forefront of including employees in day-day workplace decisions , securing a high degree of commitment and loyalty while at the same time generating high rates of labour productivity and labour stability.

Understanding how these systems of employee involvement and representation work in a German context and how (if at all) they could be applied elsewhere is one of the fundamental learning outcomes of the course.

The course also involves a field trip component during reading week 2017 (February 20-25) to Munich, Germany where the University of Munich will host a select group of undergraduate and graduate students from the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources. Students will visit some well-known global German brands (BMW, Faber-Castell) to see how workers are involved in day-today decision making. These field trips will be supplemented with some in-class learning from local Professor Ingo Weller (Director, Institute for Human Capital Management Munich School of Management, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich) on the HRM systems used by German companies that complement the statutory rights that workers are privy in the economy. Finally the course will also expose students to some of the pressures facing the dual-system of employee representation as German companies increasingly compete on a global stage with lower cost importers and cheaper service providers.

Faculty/Instructor: Professor Rafael Gomez