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The EU Social Charter, the Employment Relationship and Organisation Theory Geoff Wells.

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Presentation on theme: "The EU Social Charter, the Employment Relationship and Organisation Theory Geoff Wells."— Presentation transcript:

1 The EU Social Charter, the Employment Relationship and Organisation Theory Geoff Wells

2 Introduction A central question of managing people in organisations is, What does it mean to employ, and to be employed? The employment relationship is conceived very differently in the European Union, as compared to the Anglo-US world. Outline of the paper: The historical development of the EU Social Charter. Its implications for the conception of the employment relationship. International comparisons: the US, the UK, Australia. Implications for the theory of organisation.

3 The EU Social Charter The current state of the Europe project is fragile, in the light of recent national referenda. History of development of the social charter Social policy is embedded in the origins of the EEC. The 1989 Charter of Social Rights contained core provisions for employment policy. The 1999 Charter of Fundamental Rights incorporate these provisions into an overarching framework: The foundations of the Charter are found in the EU Treaty. Labour policy derives from a number of Chapters of the Charter.

4 Fundamental rights and work The nature of fundamental rights: Negative rights protect the individual from the state; positive rights demand the states action. Fundamental rights act through specific mechanisms to order society. The Charter of Fundamental Rights is explicitly developed on the basis of common values. The labour policy derived from the Charter frames the whole structure of work and working life. The EC Directive on informing and consulting employees illustrates the power and significance of this structure.

5 International comparisons The United States Labour rights are largely unprotected by the Constitution; they are the rights of employers to be left alone. American history presents the development of this principle through: the abolition of slavery; the Lochner era; the New Deal; the Civil Rights era. The modern employment relationship is defined by two primary principles: The primacy of contract Employment at will

6 International comparisons The United Kingdom The historical development of labour law culminated in the Master- Servant conception of the employment relationship. The primary test in the courts of the existence of an employment relationship is that of control. Recent developments have secured some labour rights, but the Thatcher government initiatives returned labour law to a deregulated environment. The principle of contract remains primary, with some implied duties on both sides of the contract.

7 International comparisons Australia Australian labour law has its roots in English law. This has been modified by an early commitment to conciliation and arbitration, which has kept it aligned to ILO approaches to human rights. The 1996 Howard Government initiatives parallel the Thatcher initiatives in returning labour policy to a free-market environment. The employment relationship is defined through a complex and stratified structure, but remains underpinned by English conceptions.

8 Implications for theory and practice Conclusions : There are fundamental differences between EU and Anglo-US conceptions of the employment relationship. These differences are rooted in the history of social development and value systems relating to the nature of the society and the relations of its members. The EU model is different in kind: positively constructed, and relating to the whole of work and working life. It stands in contrast to the Taylorist thrust of modern human resources management. Firms have internal purposes of equal status to external, and which move the employment relationship in the direction of partnership.

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