What it Means to Take Japan Seriously
Chapter 16 05/12/2000 13:08 Page 1 16. Industrial relations in Japan and elsewhere* [One] part of the ‘late-development effect’ thesis argues that market-oriented patterns of industrial unions and industry-wide wage setting will not get established or if established will lose their importance. [This] would seem to be true (though the law can sometimes ‘fossilize’ such patterns established in the early stages and prevent their disappearance). The other part of the hypothesis - that these will give place to an enterprise union/enterprise bargaining structure - is, however, wrong, or only half true. It overlooks another ‘late-development’ principle: the later deliberate industrialization/ modernization starts, the greater the role of the state. [It has been much greater] in determining the outcomes of bargaining - in the three countries with weaker trade unions than in Britain, where the institutionalized strength of trade unions has destroyed the incomes policies of both major political parties in turn, or in Japan, where the union movement is, according to one’s point of view, strong enough for the government not to have had the courage to try an incomes policy or weak enough for no such policy to have been necessary. But state action and national-level negotiation and agitation are not everything. The bargaining process also shifts in part from the industrial to the plant or enterprise level, and in Sri Lanka and Mexico, where big firm unions can negotiate substantially higher-than-average wages, that part is the bigger part. And in so far as plant bargaining does assume...
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