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The transition of trade unions in Taiwan: from paternalistic autonomy to responsibility for collective union and non-union representation

Tai, Hsiao-Hui (2017) The transition of trade unions in Taiwan: from paternalistic autonomy to responsibility for collective union and non-union representation. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.g70m76plnlsq


Paternalistic employment relations have been a tradition supported by the government in Taiwan whilst trade unions were brought in to support political development and economic growth. The government promulgated a ‘harmony culture’ in order to control employment relations, and in the 1980s set up the campaign of the ‘factory as one family, factory as one school’ to encourage employers to inculcate paternalistic beliefs in their employees’ everyday working lives. Authority, benevolence and morality, the characteristics of paternalistic management, make workers docile and loyal to management and stunt the sense of collective identity. This qualitative research selects one primary case, a privatised enterprise SteelCo and its union Steel-U, to conduct participant observation, in-depth interviews with union officers, labour representatives and management, surveys of union members, and documentary analysis of official documents and meeting minutes. One supplementary case is a state-owned enterprise SugarCo with its union Sugar-U; this mainly involved in-depth interviews with union representatives and limited access to some documents. Corporate trade unions take advantage of the paternalistic tradition to gradually develop their organisations as recognised by employers. Implementing nonunion representation is a practice of paternalistic ideology, offering trade unions another platform on which to work with management. Workers identify both themselves and the trade union as parts of the enterprise family rather than seeing the union as an agent of collectivity. The union has to be a service provider offering welfare and benefits to attract members before triggering any mobilisation. To conclude, paternalism has helped corporate trade unions to establish themselves in state-owned and privatised workplaces, and empowered trade unions to engage legitimately, effectively and autonomously in workplace affairs. To revitalise themselves from the paternalistic ideology, trade unions are expected to take the route of partnering unionism with the manipulation of nonunion representation in a top-down process of shaping labour’s collective identity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Hsiao-Hui Tai
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Sets: Departments > Management
Supervisor: Hyman, Richard

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