International Trends in Work Organization in the Auto Industry: National-Level vs. Company-Level Perspectives
Author(s)MacDuffie, John Paul
Changes in shop-floor work organization are a central part of broader changes in industrial relations in many industries around the world. In the automotive industry, the focus of this paper, international competition, new technological capabilities, and production system innovations have prompted many companies to move away from the dominant mass production model and to adopt new, flexible principles for organizing work that have demonstrable advantages in terms of economic performance. It is clear that these principles are often adopted selectively (and incompletely) and modified as they diffuse. What is less clear is how much variation in adoption occurs (and how extensive the modifications), whether the patterns of diffusion are driven more by national-level or company-level factors, and how closely work organization changes are related to the overall industrial relations system, which does vary considerably at the national level. I will argue in this paper that the emergence of a new set of dominant organizing principles in the auto industry has created the conditions for more convergence across countries and divergence within countries in work organization. These conditions affect the organization of work far more directly than they affect the broader industrial relations system, with the latter more likely to retain many country-specific characteristics despite the pressures for decentralization and responsiveness to local circumstances (Katz, 1993; Locke, 1992). But whereas national differences in industrial relations were likely, in the past, to dominate changes in work organization and create clear national patterns, I will argue that the forces for convergence across and divergence within countries are now more likely to overwhelm national differences.
Draft Version for 1996 IMVP Sponsors Meeting. Some tables not included.
IRRA 1995 Research Volume, The Comparative Political Economy of Industrial Relations;