Queen's University IRC

Worker Cooperation and Technical Change


H. Lorne Carmichael
Queen’s University School of Business

January 1, 1995

This paper explores the relationship between worker cooperation with technical change and international competitiveness. It outlines the reasons why worker cooperation is important, how it is (and is not) obtained, and assesses the likelihood that Canadian companies can achieve it. The conclusions are not entirely pessimistic. While it is often very hard to create a cooperative attitude where there was none before, there have been some remarkable success stories. New companies are also in a position to get it right from the very beginning, and many are doing so. However, there are also some aspects of the Canadian labour market, in particular its high turnover rates, that will ultimately make worker cooperation more difficult to achieve here than in some other countries.

The paper will cover first of all some of the history and history of thought about worker cooperation. It then covers some economic concepts which are useful for the subsequent discussion. In particular, economics has a rather precise way of talking about `trust’, something that is clearly necessary for cooperation. We will then build some simple theoretical models to help understand the ways in which worker cooperation can be fostered. Finally, we will study some case histories and other data in an attempt to evaluate the models, and assess their relevance for the Canadian economy.

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