TUC and DGB: Workplace democracy is essential to decent work – the 13th British-German Trade Union Forum

”Our aim is industrial democracy“  - Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary.

”Our aim is industrial democracy“ – Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary.

A meeting of British – German Trade Union Forum took place in London on the 8th and 9th of December. It was the 13th time that this forum, jointly organised by the TUC and the DGB as well as the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation and the Hans-Boeckler-Foundation, has taken place. I attended as a member of the General Council along with other General Council members.

This year’s agenda centered on “Workers’ voice – good governance and workplace democracy”.

Democracy at the workplace is an essential part of what makes decent work. British and German trade unionists are therefore calling for the mandatory representation of workers’ representatives on company boards. This should provide a way to shape the concept of good work and to give work and employment a sustainable perspective.

“Worker participation is the instrument for creating sustainable companies” Reiner Hoffman chair of the German Trade Union Confederation DGB.

“Worker participation is the instrument for creating sustainable companies” Reiner Hoffman chair of the German Trade Union Confederation DGB.

European trade unionists recently agreed unanimously to call for minimum standards for information, consultation and workers’ board level representation in European corporate law. This represents a historic move forward.

It is also closely linked to the aim of introducing an improved model of management compared to the shareholder value model of financial capitalism that has clearly failed.

European corporate law should support this better model in the future. The current Commission proposal to harmonise national corporate law regimes by means of the European single member company (SUP) is going in completely the wrong direction.

While it is presented as being of advantage to small and medium-sized enterprises, in reality even major companies could register in an EU member state other than the one in which their actual administrative headquarters are based.

So-called ‘regime-shopping’ will be the consequence: with the blessing of European corporate law, companies could then opt for the lowest legal requirements in terms of consumer and creditor donor protection, the lowest level of taxation and the lowest requirements for workers’ participation.

Such a step towards maximising short-term economic advantage without any corresponding social protection is considered counterproductive for a social Europe and therefore strongly rejected by British and German trade unionists.

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