Labor Industrial Relations

Alternative Work Organizations by Maurizio Atzeni (eds.)

By Maurizio Atzeni (eds.)

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While the existence of these structures is evidence of the workers’ self-organizing power and of the continuing possibility of organizing social and economic lives under different principles, the development of self-help groups is limited in many ways by cultural, political and economic factors. The chapter has been intentionally left till the end of the book since it somehow represents – with its focus on alternative forms of work and association in the informal economy – a deviation from traditional studies on workers’ control and self-management, which have historically focused on the formal sector.

With the increased significance of multi-plant conglomerates, shop stewards were increasingly establishing cross-site combines for communication and to coordinate strategy. While appearing as the promoters of conflict within the workplace in popular imagery, the shop steward system had, in reality, minimized open dispute by bargaining a plethora of ‘plus payments’. However, such developments were essentially informal arrangements outside of formal trade union and collective bargaining, and opposed by trade union officialdom as much as by employers.

If closure was resisted, and this tended to be the action of a small proportion of the redundant workforce, they were drawn into formulating their own case. Some sought a new owner for the enterprise, attempting to present a going concern with perhaps a reduced workforce. The reduced workforce usually equated to the number engaged in occupation. In some larger and often strategic enterprises there were sometimes arguments for nationalization. However, the experience of nationalized industries and of the state engagement in the rationalization of industry was increasingly being challenged by arguments from socialists as well as neo-liberals.

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