Negotiating for Social Justice
Edited by Susan Hayter
Chapter 5: Workplace Change and Productivity: Does Employee Voice Make a Difference?
Fathi Fakhfakh, Virginie Pérotin and Andrew Robinson1 5.1 INTRODUCTION Workplaces have undergone major technological and other changes in many countries in recent decades, as entire industries were being restructured in response to global competition, with industrialization, in the transition from central planning to markets and with the advances of information technologies. The primary purpose of workplace changes involving technology, work organization and/or new products generally is to improve performance. International empirical evidence suggests that performance does improve as a result of introducing this type of change (see, for example, Ogawa 2007, Antoncic et al. 2007, Goedhuys et al. 2008). Such changes are likely to have a substantial impact on employees’ working conditions. Employees may be required to adapt to new methods, learn new skills, or work at a faster pace. Workplace change may be exciting. It may open up new career perspectives and avenues for employees to develop their creativity. It may improve job security if performance is improved. Yet change may also be associated with more intense work, increased stress and the fear of job cuts as certain skills become redundant. Involving employees or their representatives in change processes and providing them with a “voice” (Freeman 1976; Freeman and Medoff 1984) make it possible to take into account the workforce’s interests in the decisions that are made. Change may be facilitated as a result and have a stronger positive impact on performance. However, it is often argued that labour unions promote restrictive practices that cut productivity and resist...
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