Our findings reveal a number of problems in the field of human resource management which clearly exist in both firms and which, given obliging external circumstances, could lead to a decline in the loyalty of employee to employer, to the destabilisation of pro-firm attitudes among employees, or to a reduction in professional reliability and an increase in turnover of qualified employees. Some 12 per cent of employees in Firm A and 17 per cent in Firm B were (definitely or possibly) considering a change of job at the time of the research in 2000, with 63 per cent in A and 46 per cent in B (definitely or probably) ruling out this option. One of the complicating factors, however, when considering the causes of the level of potential personnel turnover, is the differing level of unemployment within the districts where each firm is situated: Firm A lies in a district with about average unemployment of 9.5 per cent in 2000, 6 whereas the prospects for finding alternative work appeared to be better near Firm B, where unemployment was only 5.6 per cent.
The introduction of team work for manual workers does not resemble its text-book version in either firm. In some respects the measures introduced by their managements have had the opposite effect, limiting some of the key attributes of team work, such as greater independence in determining work content and job design, interdependence of workers' performance or opportunities to acquire new skills. Innovations in the organisation of work involving more complicated work patterns have seemingly influenced the relation of blue-collar workers to managers, co-workers and trade unions. The subdivision of the work collective into small work groups with greater autonomy has often led to greater solidarity both within the group and with management, but weakened ties to unions. Employees take care of their own needs and demands through their immediate bosses and have less recourse to their union organisation. Where good communication between management and workers is combined with a stable production programme and thus job stability, people have lower expectations of unions and feel less need to take part in their activities. Nevertheless it was possible to detect a certain improvement in employees' attitudes to unions in keeping with a generalised trend in Czech society during the late 1990s. As trade unions adapted to a democratic system and a market economy at national, sectoral and local levels, our findings, notwithstanding differences between the two firms, indicate a partial recovery in their relevance to employees' needs.