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The problem of identity and trust in European works councils

Andrew R. Timming (Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 1 January 2006




The purpose of this paper is to look analytically at the relationship between identity and trust in the context of European industrial relations.


Drawing from a case study of a European works council from a large, multinational firm in the traditional manufacturing sector, the problem of exclusionary identity choices along the lines of national cultures and industrial relations is examined via ethnographic methods.


In the light of the delegates' assumed identities, it was found that trust relations in the European Works Council case study were characteristically sub‐optimal both between worker and employers' representatives and also among the workers themselves. The extensive lack of trust in the forum was thought to be problematic with respect to the prospects for co‐operation. As a result, employers' representatives are able to use the European works council as a self‐serving tool of human resource management.

Practical implications

The implications for improving cross‐national industrial relations action are spelled out in the conclusion.


The paper offers a unique approach to studying the obstacles to co‐operation in European industrial relations settings.



Timming, A.R. (2006), "The problem of identity and trust in European works councils", Employee Relations, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 9-25.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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