The Transformation of Labour Relations: Restructuring and Privatization in Eastern Europe and Russia

By J. E. M. Thirkell; K. Petkov et al. | Go to book overview

6
Distribution and Collective Bargaining

The distribution of rewards, their structure, and the mechanisms for implementing them reflect both the economic development of a society and its political and economic values. In the socialist societies the structures and mechanisms of distribution were determined and maintained by conscious political choices and politically expressed values; these included the leading role of the working class, a greater value for physical than mental labour, and a relatively egalitarian structure of differentials. The marketization of the economy in the countries of Eastern Europe and Russia means substantial changes both in the institutions of distribution, and of the values shaping the structures of rewards. A common assumption about the likely trajectory of development in these countries was that the depoliticization of labour relations brought about by privatization would lead to the establishment of 'normal' labour relations, which meant, in effect, collective bargaining between independent employers and trade unions and a structure of differentials dictated by the market.

The first aim of this chapter is to explain the structures and mechanisms shaping distribution and the nature of agreements under the socialist system. Chapter 2 explored the political and economic changes underpinning labour relations developments and showed that, in the countries studied, political transformation was soon followed by laws on trade unions and collective bargaining similar to those found in industrialized market economies. The independence accorded to trade unions and the possibilities for the creation of alternatives to the established unions were seen as examples of the process of democratization involving the representation of interests in a form not permissible under the socialist system. Collective bargaining in Western countries is the product of a long process of institutionalization. In Eastern Europe this foreign import has occurred with only an indirect legacy and no tradition on which to build, and this necessarily raises questions about the speed and extent to which institutionalization can proceed. A common feature of Western market economies is the apparent separation of politics and economics. This contrasts sharply with the legacy of the integration of politics and economics in the Party state and raises questions about the pace and process of separation in Eastern Europe. The first section of the chapter reviews the nature of this legacy.

The second aim of the chapter is to discuss the mechanisms for the implementation of wage policies and the development of collective agreements since the collapse of the Soviet system. The transference of collective bargaining models took place in the context of economic crisis and the

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