Project Information

Interest Representation of White-Collar Employees

Goal and task

The research project analyzed new forms of interest representation to attract, mobilise or organise white-collar workers in manufacturing firms. With the internal tertiarization of industry, the importance of white-collar workers employees is increasing. Meanwhile, more than 45 percent of the employees in the manufacturing sector are white-collar workers. In the last two decades, the work and working conditions of these employees have changed fundamentally. Globalization and the financial orientation of companies have contributed to this as much as market-oriented forms of management or the subjectivization of labor. At the same time, employees are attributed individualized forms of interest, and their degree of organization is far below that of industrial workers. There is therefore much to suggest that industrial employees represent an important and special group of employees for company-based interest representation whose interests are not the same as those of industrial workers and who cannot be easily integrated into traditional forms of collective interest representation.

The research project focused on two research questions. First, we analyzed how industrial workers typically interpret the change in their work and what work-related interests they associate with it. And secondly, it was examined under which conditions new dovetailings of employee interests and company-based interest representation are possible and on which patterns of action of employees and interest representation they are typically based.

Procedure and result

The study focused on the analysis of company cases in which works councils and trade unions have developed new policy approaches to representing employees' interests. The aim was to uncover the contours of good practices of activating, mobilizing or organizing white-collar workers. The company-based practice of interest representation was examined in methodologically triangular case studies - including four intensive and five short case studies - in companies in the metal and chemical industries in Germany. In addition, evaluations of the Microcensus, the SOEP and the DGB index "Gute Arbeit" (Good Work) provided information on the quantitative importance of the group of industrial employees, how their working hours and pay develop and how they evaluate their working conditions. Expert interviews with representatives of the trade unions and other employee interest groups rounded off the spectrum of methods. The results show that works councils and unions have developed employee initiatives on a large scale. A central common denominator of these initiatives is the involvement of employees in identifying and addressing issues and problems. From the point of view of trade union organization, campaigns that combined workers’ participation with company conflicts over central issues were particularly successful. 


Dr. Tabea Bromberg, Christine Üyük: Changing Patterns of Interests and Interest Representation of White-Collar Employees in German Industry? Work2015 - New Meanings of Work. Turku, Finnland, Turku Centre for Labour Studies, 20.08.2015

Dr. Tabea Bromberg, Christine Üyük: Interessen und Interessenvertretung von Industrieangestellten - Problemlagen, neue Initiativen, Interessenorientierungen. Forum Angestellten-, ITK- und Studierendenarbeit vor Ort. Bad Orb, IG Metall, 10.06.2015

Prof. Dr. Thomas Haipeter, Christine Üyük: Interessenvertretung von Industrieangestellten – Ansatzpunkte der Forschung und statistische Trends. Angestellte in der Industrie: Arbeit, Interessen und Interessenvertretung. In Kooperation mit: Hans Böckler Stiftung, Mülheim an der Ruhr, 24.06.2014

Dr. Tabea Bromberg, Prof. Dr. Thomas Haipeter: Interessenvertretung von Industrieangestellten - Initiativen und Praktiken der Interessenvertretung. Angestellte in der Industrie: Arbeit, Interessen und Interessenvertretung. In Kooperation mit: Hans Böckler Stiftung, Mülheim an der Ruhr, 24.06.2014

Project data

Term of the project:
01.04.2013 - 31.03.2015

Reseach department:
Working-Time and Work Organisation

Project management:
Prof. Dr. Thomas Haipeter

Project team:
Dr. Tabea Bromberg, Christine Üyük