Quality of Work Life in the Knitwear Sector of the Canadian Textile Industry

Article excerpt

The quality of work life activities which exist in a sample of knitwear companies in Southwestern Ontario were described. Three levels of activity were identified: (1) active companies were largely non-unionized, with high annual sales, high levels of technology and an articulated corporate responsibility toward employees, (2) midrange companies were privately owned, unionized, with a medium level of technology; and (3) inactive companies were young, privately-owned companies with low technology levels and were attempting to establish corporate stability. Employees of midrange companies were more satisfied with "working conditions", "social integration", "constitutionalism" and "work and life components than were employees of the active companies. The discrepancy theory of satisfaction was used to explain this result.

Anne Wilcock is currently an Associate Professor with the University of Guelph College of Family and Consumer Studies, Department of Consumer Studies in Guelph, Ontario Canada.

In recent years, the Canadian textile industry has suffered from changing domestic economic conditions and increasing foreign competition. Rationalization of organizations, greater productivity through increased efficiency, refined marketing practices and improved product quality have occurred in order to meet the demands of the marketplace. As a result, changes in technology and the structure of the industry have been initiated which have led to changes in the work force. Despite these changes, there has been no research reported form the perspective of the employee, either in the broad framework of the employee's quality of work life or the more specific domain of job satisfaction.

Quality of work life (QWL) consists of opportunities for active involvement in group working arrangements or problem solving that are of mutual benefit to employees and employers (Johnston et al. 1978; Mills 1981). It requires employee commitment to the organization and an environment in which this commitment can flourish (Walton 1985). Part of the commitment to the organization are the various attitudes or value judgements of people to their jobs and to their total work environment (Kolodny et al. 1979; Skinner 1979).

A dominant theme of much of the QWL research is the assumption that an individual's satisfaction or dissatisfaction experiences define the quality of his/her work life. Associated with this paradigm are the ideas that objective job characteristics induce satisfaction or dissatisfaction attitudes and that the association between working conditions is moderated by an individual's abilities, values and expectations (Seashore 1975). Satisfaction has often been used as a measure of the quality of work life although there are limitation to its use as such. Satisfaction is only one of the many aspects of QWL (White 1981; Davis and Cherns 1975). As with many attitudinal measures, it can be regarded as a self-fulfilfing prophecy where expectations adapt to what the work realistically provides (Davis and Cherns 1975). It has been stated that "for some time it win probably prove necessary and desirable to give a prominent place to satisfaction in both theory development and in research plans [for OWL]" (Seashore 1975:111). The assumption in using job satisfaction in this research was not that it would be an all encompassing measure of the quality of work life, but rather that it served as a motivator through which employees change and accommodate to their jobs and environment.

The most commonly used theory of job satisfaction is the discrepancy theory Porter 1961; Thierry and Koopman-tweman 1984) or, as it is also called, the value-percept disparity model (Locke 1969; Westbrook and Reilly 1983; Woodruff et al. 1983). This model hypothesizes that satisfaction depends on the extent to which outcomes which an individual thinks he/she derives from work correspond to the outcomes pursued in work. The model has three essential elements: 1) the perception of some aspect of the job, 2) an implicit or explicit value standard, and 3) a conscious or subconscious judgement of the gap (discrepancy) between one's perceptions and one's values. …


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