Holger Lengfeld, Stefan Liebig
May 19, 2016
When implementing semi-autonomous group work on the shop floor, blue collar workers have to carry out new tasks to enhance the performance of the whole group. Since traditional pay systems focus on individual performance at single work places, their contributions to the group’s performance are not rewarded. This paper asks how workers evaluate this shift within the pay performance relation in terms of fairness. Using data from a standardized employeesurvey in twenty-one firms of the German metal-industry it can be shown that a pay system is perceived as unfair if work groups have been implemented while no adjustment of the pay system has taken place. Concurrently the perceived injustice of the pay system increases when workers report lower commitment to the firm and negative evaluation of the factory workers council. Moreover, higher perceptions of injustice are observed in those work units which are less productive and which have a higher absenteeism rate. Based on these results it is argued that not the greater workload or the degree of autonomy at the work place is the main obstacle to teamwork on the shop floor as many industrial sociologists assume. On the contrary, the main challenge for employers and factory workers councils alike is to find a pay system which is regarded as fair.