Is Industrial Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe possible after the Soviet regime?

Monday 13 November 2023, 2:30 pm
PhD student
H.W.J. Moerel drs.
prof. dr. I.L. Bleijenbergh
dr. F. Poutsma, prof. dr. W.F. de Nijs

The subject of this literature review is the development of employment relations between governments, trade unions, and employers' organisations in three Central Eastern European countries: Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia. The aim is to examine the extent to which employment relations became democratic after the fall of the Soviet regime. Theoretically, democratic employment relations are distinguished into stages of ascending democracy, i.e. from discussion to consultation, negotiation, and joint policy-making in the social and economic field. The results of the study indicate the following. There is no unified system of national employment relations in the three countries examined. Tripartite councils have over time taken on varying functions, from discussion to consultation and negotiation, and sometimes joint policy-making. On the other hand, the actual behaviour of the three parties has frequently led to conflict, withdrawal from consultations, lobbying activities, intervention, and unilateral policy setting by governments. However, a characteristic phenomenon is that in the wake of each of the situations that threatened tripartite policy-making, the three parties still returned to a situation in which they interacted with each other. This phenomenon suggests that an underlying practice can be observed of ultimately reaching agreement on economic and social policy-making. With respect to the democratic content of employment relations, we can conclude that between 1990 and 2015, none of the three countries displayed a consistently rising level of democratisation, but rather a recognisably stable basic level of national industrial democracy. 

Hans Moerel studied Sociology of Work and Business and Social and Political Philosophy at Radboud University in Nijmegen. As a researcher, he worked at the former Institute for Applied Social Sciences (ITS) in Nijmegen on national and international research and education projects in the European Union and former Soviet countries. From 2001 onwards, he taught subjects such as globalisation of organisation and management in Central and Eastern European countries at the Nijmegen School of Management. He published Nieuwe Arbeidsverhoudingen in Hongarije (New Employment Relations in Hungary) (1991), In Search of Central and East European Labour Relations (1994), and Östliche und Westliche Arbeitsbeziehungen (1997), and he co-directed Working it Out? The Labour Process and Employment Relations in the New Economy (2007). Since 2011, he worked on his PhD thesis, entitled Industrial Democracy at National Level in Hungary, Poland and Slovenia between 1990 and 2015 (2023).