miércoles, 20 de octubre de 2010

The Role of Workers & Migrant Workers & Expatriate Assignments

The Role of Workers

Workers within a company are essential, without them there would be no company, however despite this importance, workers or employees haven’t always been treated accordingly. This has changed in the past few decades though, mainly because of the trade unions which are growing more and more and are having a bigger say on what goes on inside the companies and even influence national policy making.

Because of these trade unions employees now feel like they have more power, like they have a saying in the companies they work at. Their participation has increased in such a way that the employees and their representatives actually now sometimes share the same amount of decision making power as the managers of the company. The employees become just as important and relevant as the shareholders.

Migrant Workers

A migrant worker is a person who willingly leaves his home country and moves to another to work for reasons of personal convenience or necessity and not because they are forced to leave. The factors pushing these people to move from their country are varied, usually it’s because the economic and social situation is very bad and they want to try their luck somewhere else.

A distinction must be made between a migrant worker and an immigrant. The latter seek to stay permanently in the host country while the first one is only temporary. The categories of migrant workers are:

• Job seekers, who look for a better job and opportunities
• Students who are looking for better educational opportunities.
• Family members of migrants who want to be reunited with their family.

There are also regular migrants and irregular migrants. The regular ones are those who have the permission to stay, to perform remunerated work and are under the law. The irregular migrants are those who have no permission to stay, they are illegally in the country.

The biggest difference between migrant workers and expatriates (we’ll take about them later) is that the migrant workers usually have no other choice but to go work somewhere else like the construction workers in Dubai. They are in great demand in the city and usually people from Pakistan, India and other Arab countries see it as an opportunity, however they are paid very little and usually have to endure horrible working conditions and treatment. On the other hand expatriate workers are sent by their companies in their country to spend some time working in one of their branches abroad or other companies. They have all the benefits ensured by their employer and perform high level jobs.

Asylum seeker, refugees and internally displaced people are not migrants, since they are forced to leave their country against their will.

Expatriate Assignments

Expatriates are workers who leave their home country to work in another but they are usually sent by their employer to perform an important job or as a part of the company’s policy which is all about sending employees abroad for them to have the experience of working in another country with different people and then go back to apply what he/she had learned in the benefit of the company.

This category of migrant workers is treated separately because of the nature of the movement itself. Normal migrants move because they want to find better opportunities and sometimes that’s not the case and because of their low level of training and skills they find themselves working in worst conditions as they would be in their home country. Expatriates on the other hand leave their home country with all the guarantees and the support of the company who sends them. They don’t have to worry about what job will they find or if they’ll even find one, they have their accommodation arranged for them and usually with the same or more comforts than they have at home.


The Co-determination principle (from the german word Mitbestimmung) refers to a practice whereby the employees have a role in management of a company. Co-determination rights are different in different legal environments. In some countries, like the USA, the workers have virtually no role in the management of a company, and in some, like Germany, their role is more important. The first serious co-determination laws began in Germany.
In 1974, a general law was passed ordering that worker representatives hold seats on the boards of all companies employing over 500 people.

In systems with co-determination workers in large companies usually form work councils and in smaller companies elect worker representatives. These act as intermediaries in exercising the worker’s rights of being informed or consulted with on decisions concerning employee status and rights.

But what benefits or disadvantages this brings? Well from the employees point of view this is very positive, they feel that they have more saying in the company and that policies are not being made without them, they are more involved, which has a positive influence in the productivity. Relations are more harmonious with low levels of strike actions, while better pay and conditions are secured for employees.

On the other hand for the employers this could be a double edged sword, because sometimes having the employees involved can be positive because they feel better within the company and therefore the productivity rises. Also they might come up with great ideas that managers may have never thought of on their own, given their poor involvement in the day-to-day activities of the company. But there can also be a negative side to this. Disgruntled employees may try to sabotage the decision making process just out of spite. It can also happen that when managers are trying to pass a policy that may seem harsh on the employees but that is nevertheless necessary; the representative of the employees may try to veto this proposition, maybe delaying important decisions over an undetermined amount of time.

So it is hard to say just how positive or how well the co-determination works. In Germany everyone swears by it because employees tend to feel more satisfied in the companies where they feel they are being taken care of, and as a result productivity and efficiency increase. So one can say that it is more useful to see just how it can work in different companies and in different legislations, we cannot forget that also corporate culture and national culture may play a major role in determining how well co-determination works.

Piette, Jean-Jacques. 2004. “Understanding Management German style”. Les Amis de L’ecole de Paris.


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