Arbeidstidsregulering i et komparativt perspektiv
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AbstractWorking time regulation in a comparative perspective
Working time issues have been at the heart of political and social debates since the Industrial Revolution. This thesis examines the development of working time regulations in banking in Ireland, Norway and Sweden during the last 30 years. Since the early 1980s the ‘flexibility debate’ has dominated much of the activity around working time policies. The decades since 1980 is marked by increased international competition and a liberalist political turn. Moreover, employers in most European countries have demanded more flexible working hours regulated at company level. In this period employee preferences have also shifted towards more freedom in choosing their working hours. Based on these developments it seems reasonable to expect change in traditional working time regulations.
The overall research questions are:
1) What characterizes the development of working time regulations in the banking industry in Ireland, Norway and Sweden?
2) Can the development of national working time regulations be understood in terms of institutional stability and national path dependency?
To enable a systematic discussion and the comparison between the countries this thesis makes several distinctions. The first is the primary level of regulation nationally by law, by sectoral or company collective agreement, or at the individual level. The second is the form of regulation; the balance between substantive and procedural regulations. The third is the actual content of regulations such as definitions of normal hours and unsocial hours, flexibility schemes and the compensatory rates for long or unsocial hours.
The analysis is based on an empirical examination of traditional working time categories: overtime, the normal working day and part-time. Moreover, these categories are examined separately in three articles. The articles on overtime and the normal working day are explicitly set up to test the assumed increase in market adaptation. The article about parttime takes a different perspective as the regulation of part-time work has been oriented towards the equalization of part-time work with full-time work. The article examines whether the regulation, and the enforcement, of part-time work actually are characterized by increased equalization during the last three decades. All the articles start with the expectation that working time regulations in Norway and Sweden should be more worker friendly than in Ireland. The Nordic countries are known for their high quality employment regimes compared to other European countries. Moreover the Nordic countries are highly coordinated market economies with social-democratic political traditions. In contrast, Ireland (together with Britain) is the West European Country closest to the ideal-typical liberal market economy. With regards to part-time work Ireland represent a different phase of adapting to female labour market participation. While the dual-earner family model dominates in the Scandinavian countries, the single male breadwinner is still the dominant form of economic activity in Ireland. Hence, this research design combines a ‘most similar/most different’ approach within the context of industrial relations in north-western Europe. Yet, the three countries share important similarities that make them comparable: they are small, open economies with similar population sizes, where working time is regulated by a mix of EU regulations, national labour laws and collective agreements.
The research were conducted by examining working time regulations, and how the regulations changed, in national legislation and in collective agreements at sectoral and company levels between 1980 and 2008. The implementation of EU directives concerning working time was also examined. Subsequently, interviews were conducted with employer and employee representatives at sectoral level and in one bank from each country. Examination of the company level was required as working time negotiations were decentralized in different ways in the countries during the 1990s.The purpose of the interviews were to check the enforcement of regulations and whether they were considered important or not. There is always a gap between the ideal pattern of a rule and the real pattern of life under it.
The examination shows that traditional rules constituting the normal working day and overtime remain intact in all three countries but are also undermined by new rules, practices and working time cultures. One example is the increase in temporal compensation, so-called time off in lieu. Time off in lieu has emerged as a regulated alternative to economic compensation in Norwegian and Swedish banking, and as an unregulated practice in Irish banking. Academic and political debates about work-life balance often identify time of in lieu a as a strategy to ease the reconciliation of work and life outside work. This examination, however, shows that time off in lieu has some unintended consequences. It differs from economic compensation by being more vulnerable to be postponed, or not taken at all. Hence, the distinction between normal working hours and overtime becomes blurred. This practice is related to the emergence of a more results-oriented work culture in banking during the last three decades. It seems like performance policies, in combination with increased self-regulation of work, are linked to unpaid overtime in a way that undermines collectively agreed working time regulations. This example illustrates that regulation of working time is complex and that new rules may have unintended effects in the context of more results-oriented work cultures. Such work cultures also seem to have a negative effect on the actual equalization between part-time and full-time work.
This study also finds that there is more regulative change and more controversy related to the timing of when workers need to be available for work than to the length of working hours. In banking in all three countries schemes for unsocial hours working were negotiated during the 1990s and implemented on top of ‘old’ working time regulations. For a long time this raised little concern and the new regulations were utilized to a small extent. The pressure for around the clock availability was met by self-service technology. During the last five years, however, competition and new ideas about customer relations have resulted in extended opening hours during evenings and Saturdays in Swedish banks and there are signs of a similar development in Norway. Hence, it seems that the traditional working time regimes do change as a consequence of new rules and new practices, but not necessarily immediately after the introduction of new rules. More than ten years after its introduction these rules became consequential because of new business ideas.
This material does not unambiguously support the assumption of continuity of national differences. On the contrary the development is marked by increasing similarity in both regulations and in how the enforcement deviates from formal the formal rule. It seems like sectors matters: the similar development across countries is probably related to sector similarities such as increased decentralization of work organizations and individualized performance policies. Yet, there are traces of national path-dependency as well. Still the Irish working time regulations are less comprehensive and less beneficial to workers. Moreover, both the Irish collective agreements in banking and Irish working time legislation are more vulnerable to change compared to the Nordic countries.
The development of working time regulations over a long period of time provides an empirical basis for discussing how to understand institutional change. The conventional institutionalism tends to focus on the self-reproductive properties of institutions. Things that are institutionalized are seen as relatively inert and change resistant. In this perspective change is unlikely and when it comes to explaining change attention is frequently called to exogenous shocks. Exogenous shocks are understood as periods of turbulence where the usual constraints on action are lifted or eased. A more recent position sees institutional change as more continual and gradual. Institutions are seen as ‘relatively durable though still contested settlements based on specific coalitional dynamics which are always vulnerable to shifts’ (Mahoney & Thelen 2010:8). Over time a number of incremental changes may add up to considerable institutional transformation.
This examination shows that understanding change in working time regulations is complex. In line with the conventional position we find that working time regulation is marked by great stability and that the incidents of change hardly would have happened without an ‘exogenous shock’, namely the bank crisis during the late 1980s / early 1990s. One of the most important changes, the introduction of schemes for unsocial hours working, is seen as a result of the crisis. However, there is also evidence of incremental and uncontroversial, but nevertheless important, change. One example is the introduction of rules for time of in lieu as a supplement to economic compensation.
Generally the development of working time regulations between 1980 and 2008 is interpreted as complex institutional adaptations to work organizations that are dramatically changed. These institutional adaptations are partly intentional and partly not. They have evolved both gradually and in greater leaps. This variety of change would hardly be identified without a research design enabling examination of working time regulations at a detailed level over a long stretch of time.
Artikler. Artikkel I er tatt ut av avhandlingen pga. forlagets opphavsrett.
Artikkel I: Nicolaisen, H. (2011) Changes in the regulation of overtime under different collective bargaining regimes: A comparison of Irish, Norwegian and Swedish banking. European Journal of Industrial Relations 17 (1): 5-23. doi:10.1177/0959680110392274
Artikkel II: Nicolaisen, H. (2011) Increasingly Equalized? A Study of Part-Time Work in ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Part-Time Work Regimes. Nordic journal of working life studies 1 (1): 95-114. Nordic journal of working life studies 1 (1): 95-114.
Artikkel III: Nicolaisen, H. (2012) Farvel til normalarbeidsdagen? - En studie av endring i Irland, Norge og Sverige Forfatterversjon, publisert versjon kan leses i: Tidsskrift for Samfunnsforskning 53 (1): 49-79.