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Why Workers' Participation in Europe?

Why worker participation?

There are multiple and wide ranging reasons why worker participation is an essential part of a modern industrial relations system.

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European Labour Authority

The proposal to establish an ELA that has so far fallen under the radar is potentially one of the most pragmatic and promising of the Juncker pledges.

In Europe where 16 million Europeans live and work in another member state, where 1.7m Europeans commute to another member state and many millions more work for international companies in the pan-European market, this seems not only a welcome but also a necessary development. “[A] common Labour Authority for ensuring fairness in [the] single market” is hence not only a great idea but also a long-term practical necessity.

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Workers' participation and the company law package of 2018

Democracy at work: information, consultation and board-level employee participation

In early 2018 the Commission’s proposed Company Law Package was being discussed intensively before making it into the European Parliament, with a view to being passed before the  European  Parliament  elections  in May 2018. The European Parliament has put forward important amendments to improve workers’ rights to democracy at work in the Company Law Package.

On 25 April 2018 the European Commission published its Proposal for a Directive amending Directive (EU) 2017/1132 regarding cross-border conversions, mergers and divisions and its Proposal for a Directive amending Directive (EU) 2017/1132 regarding the use of digital tools and processes in company law.

The Commission’s proposal would enable companies to convert cross-border by changing their legal form in one Member State into a similar legal form in another Member State, to merge and to divide. Despite the Commission's declaration to to protect the social dimension, the primary objective of the proposal was to promote company mobility.

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Worker interest representation in Europe – Towards a better understanding of the pieces of a still unfinished jigsaw

European labour relations are becoming more and more like pieces of a jigsaw fitting together specific features of national labour relations (which continue to exist) with cross-border elements of interest representation provided by EU legislation, such as the EWC directive and the European Company (SE) directive. The latter are increasingly driving the dynamics of development towards a more comprehensive model of European labour relations by providing tailor-made arrangements for trans-border operating companies. The links between different pieces of the jigsaw are becoming more obvious and visible. The webportal www.worker-participation.eu supports such a holistic view by providing continuously updated empirical and conceptual information on the subject.

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Workers’ rights and the Social Pillar

European Pillar of Social Rights: old wine in new bottles?

Politically, the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) reaffirmed social and labour law’s place squarely on the EU agenda. It also raised some hopes for convergence towards higher pan-European legal standards. However, when we look specifically at workers’ rights, we see that hardly anything new has been proposed.

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WHY CO-DETERMINATION? (Board-level employee participation)

The SE directive on employee involvement through board-level employee representation (BLER) opens the door for labour to be able to have an organised and influential voice at the central corporate decision-making level. The rationale for a substantial voice in the running of a company and its businesses is the shareholder approach:social interests have to be considered in management decisions, not only the interests of shareholders and investors.

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Social dialogue and worker representation in EU2020: underappreciated and underplayed

Worker involvement, through institutionalised social dialogue and worker representation at company level, serves two intertwined purposes: implementing social rights so as to strengthen democracy in the working environment; and supporting companies, States and the European Union in their efforts to combine economic competitiveness with social progress. The second of these two purposes, i.e. the instrumentalist vision of social dialogue and worker representation, was central to the realisation of the Lisbon Strategy which stated: ’The European social dialogue (ESD) could constitute a tool for the modernisation announced at the Lisbon European Council for all key issues on the European agenda’ (European Commission 2002b). This ‘tool’ was so prominent in the achievement of the growth and employment strategy that it led the European Commission to stress, on several occasions, that ESD should be considered ‘a force for innovation and change’ (European Commission 2002b) in the guise of ‘a partnership for change in an enlarged Europe’ (European Commission 2004). Despite the recognition of ESD and its clear positive contribution to EU policy during the 2000-2010 period, social dialogue and worker representation are a resource that the new Europe 2020 (EU2020) strategy appears to ignore. The aim of this chapter is therefore to boost the image of the missing dimension in EU2020 by demonstrating the fruitful outcomes so far achieved at European level by the institutions and practices of social dialogue and worker representation, as well as the need for these forms of action to enjoy recognition by the EU institutions and inclusion in the implementation and purposes of the EU2020 strategy.

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Worker Participation and the Lisbon goals

Worker involvement undeniably mirrors the Lisbon goals at the micro-level constituted by the workplace, making workers into citizens at their workplaces. Worker involvement serves, at the same time, two major objectives: to make social rights effective in order to strengthen democracy and social understanding, and to support companies in achieving economic competitiveness. More than 14,000 members of European Works Councils or works councils in European Companies (SE), supported by their trade unions, have adopted a pro-active role in this regard, particularly in relation to the need to resist and tackle economic crisis without excessive social damage.


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 The type of labour needed by European companies – skilled, mobile, committed, responsible, and capable of using technical innovations and of identifying with the obj ective of increasing competitiveness and quality – cannot be expected simply to obey the employers' instructions. Workers must be closely and permanently involved in decision-making at all levels of the company.


 Final report of the `High-level expert group on workers’ involvement` (Davignon group), 1997