S toulotte (1)


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S toulotte (1)

  1. 1. TOULOTTE Sarah Industrial Social Work: its purpose and its usefulness at the workplaceMy name is Sarah TOULOTTE and I am an instructor in a Social Worker College at theInstitut Social Lille Vauban (France). What follows is a report on my research project onindustrial social work.In the ever-changing business world, there is an often unrecognized branch, that of industrialsocial work.ORIGINS :In France during WWI, the mobilization of men as soldiers forced employers to recruitwomen massively, especially in armaments factories. The working conditions - with theirworking hours often incompatible with the raising of children - worried France’s Ministry ofLabour which feared it might trigger a fall in the birth rate. This would have been a majorissue in these murderous times. The people from the Ministry sent a work group to England toinvestigate on the “ladies superintendents”, trained professionals who were employedwherever there was female labour.The Ministry decided to create the same in France, and by the end of 1916 they opened theEcole des Surintendantes d’Usine (Ladies Superintendents School). Industrial social workdates back to 1917 and WWI. Its mission was to ensure security, hygiene and assistance forwomen working in armaments factories. The phrase “surintendante d’usines” derives from theEnglish “lady superintendent” and “lady welfare supervisor”.The job of “surintendante” survived in France in the interwar period, whereas their Britishcounterparts disappeared. In France, the profession started in the armaments factories andspread progressively to the whole economy, including the service sector.The precise date of the end of the profession in England is not known. Why did it survive inFrance ? Maybe this has to do with the States actions in creating and supporting the job.During WWII, the “surintendantes d’usine” returned to their original role. They carried onwith their intervention at the workplace and became “assistantes sociales d’entreprise”(industrial social workers). Helping the individual while acting for the improvement of theplace they work in will always be a key element of this social service. 1
  2. 2. INDUSTRIAL SOCIAL WORK :The Act of July 28th 1942 made industrial social work compulsory in three industries:Industrial social work was established by the Act of July 28th 1942. Indeed, the Act stipulatesthat companies with at least 250 working employees must organize industrial social workservices. Only three presidential decrees affecting the application of the law were issued onAugust 13th 1943. As a consequence industrial social work is only compulsory in threeindustries: the leather, ceramics and metal processing industries.In these three industries, the application threshold was increased from 250 to 500 employees.Pétains government only had time to issue these three decrees before it became defunct.Indeed, no other decree has been issued to this day. Industrial social services are thereforeonly compulsory in companies from one of the three aforementioned industries and with over500 employees.In every other company:In every other company, a social service can be created but it is on the company manager’s oron the enterprise committee’s initiative. Considering the number of companies which must,according to the law, have a dedicated social service ( less than a hundred nowadays ) and thenumber of companies which benefit from the services of a dedicated social worker ( severalthousands ), one might think that having a social service in favour of the employees hasfinally been considered useful, if not necessary. 1Some employers resort to industrial social workers to enable their employees to benefit frompsychosocial assistance. Indeed “ 3 500 professionals work in companies or in administrationservices 2 ” – which is about 10 % of the profession.The decree of November 16th 1945 allows the creation of social services shared amongseveral companies. This text, today codified in the labour code, which has retained most of it,is still applicable in every economic sector. Indeed, certain companies are not big enough topay for an internal social service but find it useful to be able to benefit from an inter-companysocial service.1 SIMON, C, Actes des 54èmes journées d’Etude du Travail, Evolutions du monde dutravail, évolutions du service social du travail, 20052 TREMINTIN, J., Quelle place pour les assistantes sociales du travail du XXIesiècle ?, Lien Social n°747 du 31 Mars 2005. 2
  3. 3. France is the only European country where industrial social work is liable to law andbenefits from a specific training course.The profession of industrial social worker was born from the necessity to give answers to amajor social issue raised during WWI. Today, this is carried on in a universe of turmoil andglobalization, that of the enterprise.THE ENTERPRISE:A definition:We speak of enterprise as soon as people gather together to offer goods or services to societyin order to ensure man’s material, cultural and spiritual life.In the French word “entreprendre” there is the notion of dynamics which we find in every partof an enterprise’s life. "Entreprendre" means to initiate an action with a very specific purpose.An enterprise is not liable to the presence of a particular man, particular capital, particularpremises or of particular material means. The enterprise survives through the succession ofmen and through the changes or evolution of other elements.Whatever the size, the purpose of an enterprise is to produce goods or services to satisfy theneeds of others.The enterprise today:Industrial social work must evolve in accordance with the economic crisis, the rise ofunemployment, the financial and psychological weakening of the employees, but also inconnection with the changes within the enterprise, and with the remodelling of internationallabour which leads to a decrease in jobs, and even to the end of many companies.Labour should enable men to accomplish things in life but you have to admit that this is notalways the case. Indeed the enterprise is confronted with the speeding up of its evolutionprocess. International competition, the introduction of new technologies and extreme mobilityforce companies to constantly adjust the way they produce, the way they organize work.Confronted with this situation, the employees are compelled to permanently adapt themselves( otherwise they might be excluded ) : they have to acquire new qualifications, accept new jobpositions, and so on.Theses change can affect every employee, at one time or another, creating difficult situations,especially for those who are more vulnerable than others because of their social backgroundor because of a one-off health of family problem. 3
  4. 4. A company will too often separate itself from those who cannot “keep up” with the pace, butit certainly realizes this does not only have a positive side: laying people off costs a lot ofmoney, its corporate image is worsened, know-how is lost - not to mention the lossexperienced by the employees.With the increase in corporate restructuring plans (usually involving job losses), the pursuit offlexibility, the growth in short-term contracts or interim jobs the lack of security is now partof the enterprise.During the “Trente glorieuses” (three decades of economic prosperity in France, 1945-1975),the company met all individual and collective social needs. The limits that gradually appearedare connected with the fact that the company was finally confronted with issues ofcompetitiveness and profitability.Work determines social status :Work has been a factor of social integration for a long time. It has served as collectiveidentity, allowed professional promotion, been a source of income and guaranteed socialprotection. Today, employment has become scarce.Work attracts many controversies. Whether it is praised, criticized, sought after or endured, itssocial value is unanimously recognized. It bears complex meanings. It was only for slaves inancient times, and so it was lowly and despicable. But industrialisation and economicdevelopment add a positive meaning to it. Even though there exists a constraint - “you have towork to live” - this constraint is becoming weaker and work is well accepted as a factor ofeconomic growth and development. It determines social status, the level of independence, theway man interacts with others. It is a key element of socialisation. It determines the way youbehave in society or within the social groups you belong to. It enables each individual tosatisfy his or her needs for identification, individualisation, integration and recognition.Two ideas can be expressed to qualify work: the concept of effort (there is no work when thetask does not require energy and attention), and the concept of purpose (the effort must havean aim and the activity is done in order to achieve a goal; this goal is often a financial one).Even though work was associated with alienation in the sixties, it has now become the mainfactor that indicates you belong to a social group. Every study on exclusion shows thatexclusion is the end of a process of social rejection. One reason of this social rejection is theloss of a job or unemployment.INDUSTRIAL SOCIAL SERVICES TODAY: 4
  5. 5. This job, as many other jobs, is liable to evolutionary changes in the underlying environment.It is based on a diverse and changing sociological reality: that of the company and that of manat work.The missions, duties and tasks of an industrial social service are very diverse and increasinglycomplex; they depend as much on the organizational culture of the enterprise, on itsprosperity or on its difficulties, as on the personality and skills of the people who run it.The industrial social worker’s main mission is to do everything he or she can, inside andoutside the company, to find a solution to the difficulties that employees experience at work.The solution has to combine personal needs with the economic needs of the company.The job is done on various levels and it is necessary to take into account the following datasimultaneously: the needs and concerns of the employees but also the companys economictargets. As far as social policy is concerned, a great number of companies are ready to investto help their staff to adapt. Surely the social service, while preserving professional ethics anddeontology ( to be at the individuals service ), is able to contribute to this policy. It finds itsplace within the company, working together with other partners. It has to put forward itsspecificity and show how important its action is in order to find a place of its own within thegeneral organization. Social service is always at the crossroads of two realities: that of theemployees, who are often unsettled by the changes they are confronted with, and that of thecompany which needs to manage its resources and especially its human resources.We often hear it said that in the competitive world of today, “man makes the difference 3 ”.The social worker has to take into account the organizational culture of the company or, on alarger scale, its organization, history, traditions, rules, and explicit or implicit values whichare at the basis of its personnel management. No company is run the same way as another andvarious types of management exist. The job must always adapt to the companys expectationsof economic development.A SERVICE IN CONTINUOUS EVOLUTION:If there a paradox for the industrial social worker, it is that he has been partly at the origin ofthe profession but he is also hardly known at all. The job is undergoing deep changes that arecaused by the changes in the labour world.3 TREUIL, D., Article : Le service social du travail, une fonction d’une grandeactualité, dans un monde en pleine mutation. 5
  6. 6. As a matter of fact, industrial social work is constantly evolving as it is always trying to findsolutions to the issues of its time; it missions evolve accordingly. It must develop its dynamicand prospective ability to perceive changes and then innovate. It must find its role at theearlier stages of production and work in partnership with all players, whether they areworking inside the company or outside it.The social worker works in permanent interaction with the employees, the other people of thecompany and sometimes with outside services. The issues intermingle continuously: newworking environment, training courses, housing, health, and so on.Some issues have an impact on other issues and you must find a solution on several levels.The social worker must be very aware of the company he works for and understand howissues can interfere with the company – but at the same he must be independent from anyinside influences or pressures that could limit his points of view and make his actions lessobjective.The main resource of the company is man. We have to develop mans skills but also take intoaccount what can alter his behaviour at work.EVERYDAY ACTION … FOR THE EMPLOYEES INTEREST:Help and attention:The social service must provide assistance and attention in order to help employees to bettercope with changes. Beyond the usual traditional actions, the social worker may, in somecases, help the employees to build a project both on a personal and professional level. This isvery useful action for weak or weakened individuals who may be carried along by events.A work of partnership:Working with many other players, the social worker sheds a new light on issues that mayhave resulted from measures which were taken against an employee with no prior thinking.For example, for employee relocation or retraining to be successful, you must be very carefulfrom the earlier stages to the later stages of the process ( taking into account housing issues inthe case of a relocation, etc.).Professional confidentiality: 6
  7. 7. Industrial social work offers a place where you can talk about your issues and be listened to, aplace which is protected by professional confidentiality. This is an irreplaceable and uniqueservice, which can encourage employers to hire a social worker regardless of the lack of legalobligation to do so. Industrial social service adapts so that it can continue to exist.“A professional group develops itself when its members succeed in having the legitimacy oftheir mission or of their social usefulness and their expertise recognized. 4 ”The employee remains at the heart of their concerns. He must be prioritized at all cost.Industrial social service is the only service to provide a place where he or she can talk and belistened to, a place where confidentiality is guaranteed by professional confidentiality. To besuccessful a social worker must remain independent. While working in partnership, he mustkeep a certain distance and not take part in any conflicts arising between the executivecommittees and the unions.PERSONAL QUESTIONSWhat are the reasons why an employer resorts to industrial social service ?What are the companies expectations when resorting to industrial social service ?When does a social worker intervene ?What are his or her main reasons of intervention ?How does a social worker blend into the social policy of the company ?What is the place given to this job at a time when the phrase “human resources” has neverbefore been used in companies to such an extent ?What partnerships must a social worker have inside the company ?How can he work to tackle the employees’ issues ?How are his or her missions balanced between personal and professional issues ?Facing the technological changes and the new human resources management, how can he helpgive the employees trust in the future when they have lost their bearings ?How much must he or she intervene in the management teams ? How not to be used for thecompany manager’s own ends ?4 ABALLEA, F., Surintendante d’usines – conseiller du travail et conseillère enéconomie sociale et familiale : deux dynamiques professionnelles divergentes, Départementde Sociologie, Groupe de recherche Innovation et Sociétés, Université de Rouen 7
  8. 8. How can he or she decide where to stand in an enterprise whose economic motivations arecost management (work-time organization, etc.) ?How can he cope with the economic profitability that is imposed on the employees ?How do the social worker’s actions change address the changes in the labour world ?What does the future have in store for industrial social workers ?Where do industrial social workers fit in the 21st century ?THESE QUESTIONS RAISED THE FOLLOWING RESEARCH QUESTION:What is the incentive for a company that has no legal obligation to hire a social workerto do so ?TO TRY TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION I AM MAKING THE FOLLOWING ASSUMPTION:Because the social worker has a very unusual position in a company, he or she mightoffer added value to the position of human resources in trying to combine the socio-economic interest of the company with the employee’s interests by helping the employeeto find a balance between his or her professional and personal life.If I have to define more precisely this « unusual position:Because he has a very unusual position which is at the crossroads of two realities, that of theemployee and that of the company. He is in the middle of a network of other players and isliable to professional confidentiality, and he or she might ….It would also be interesting to examine in more detail:The sociology of organisationsThe company, its functions, usefulness, its various ways of organisation (Weber, Taylor,Fayol)Work-valueIndustrial Social work: its history, evolution, mission, ways of interventionAt the same time, interviews with industrial social workers and human resources supervisorswill help me in answering my research question. 8
  9. 9. BIBLIOGRAPHY :ABALLEA, F, SIMON, C., Le service social du travail, avatars d’une fonction, vicissitudes d’un métier,L’Harmattan, 2004.ALTER, N., Sociologie du monde du travail, PUF, 2006.ANAS., Entreprise et société en crise, quelle contribution du service social du travail à la responsabilité socialecollective ?, 48ème session de perfectionnement des services sociaux du travail, Juin 1996.ANAS., Evolutions du monde du travail, évolutions du service social du travail, Actes des 54 èmes journéesd’étude du travail, La revue française de service social, n° 218, Septembre 2005.ANAS., Langage et communication dans l’entreprise, 30 èmes journées d’études des services sociaux du travail,Grenoble, 1978.ANAS., L’entreprise dans la cité, le service social d’entreprise et les autres services sociaux, 23 èmes journéesd’études des services sociaux du travail, Mulhouse, 1971.ANAS., Le service social dans l’entreprise, 50 èmes journées d’études du travail, ESF Editeur, 1999.BOISARD, P., Le travail, quel avenir ?, Nouvelle édition revue, Folio Actuel, Gallimard, 1997.BERNOUX, P., La sociologie des organisations, 5ème édition revue et corrigée, éditions du Seuil, 1985.BOUQUET, B, GARCETTE, C., Assistante sociale aujourd’hui, 2ème édition, Maloine, 2002.Conseil Supérieur du Travail Social, Le CSTS a 20 ans. 20 ans de contribution pour penser le présent etréfléchir l’avenir, Rapport, 2004.ERBES – SEGUIN, S., La sociologie du travail, la Découverte, 1999.LALLEMENT, M., Le travail, une sociologie contemporaine, Gallimard, 2007.PARODI, M., Rapport Entreprise et travail social, CSTS, 1996.POTOCKI MALICET, D., Eléments de sociologie du travail et de l’organisation, Anthropos, Economica, 1997. 9