Increased worker autonomy and participation are being proclaimed as the foundation for economic competitiveness in the 1990s (Reich, 1991). Management has been generally favorable towards such strategies and surveys of workers also indicate widespread support (Hackman, 1990). However, trade unionists fear that these new organizations of work are, at least in part, being sponsored by management in an attempt to undermine unions and manipulate workers (Grenier, 1988; Parker, 1985). More cautious forms of this argument propose that participation schemes are initiated to extract from workers the important “working knowledge” (Kusterer, 1978) and “tricks of the trade” (Thomas, 1991; Hodson, 1991) that are often workers' resource in bargaining with management over wages and conditions. Participation schemes may also lead to the unraveling of “informal agreements” between workers and front line supervisors concerning work effort and work procedures that both labor and management would prefer to keep hidden (Thomas, 1991:8).
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