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Democracy at work: guaranteeing workers have a say in just transitions


14 Dec 2021


Social Europe & Jobs

The plenary of the European Parliament will today debate an S&D report on democracy at work, with a vote tomorrow. The report calls for strengthening workers’ participation at workplaces across the EU and proposes a new framework for information, consultation and board-level representation to replace the existing patchwork of sometimes contradictory rules. With this framework, we want to firstly establish minimum standards for board-level representation in European-scale companies, namely that the number of seats on boards for workers’ representatives should range from a few seats to parity, depending on the number of employees in the company and its subsidiaries. Secondly, we want to reach the goal of 80% of corporations being covered by sustainable corporate governance agreements by 2030. Thirdly, the framework will ensure timely and meaningful information for workers and the consultation of workers’ representatives, as well as a revision of the European Works Council Directive with a view to strengthening the right of employee representatives to information and consultation, particularly during restructuring processes. 

Gabriele Bischoff, S&D MEP and author of the parliamentary report on democracy at work, said:

“Democracy is alive when citizens can participate and make their voices heard in all areas of their lives, including in their workplaces. When workers are empowered to shape decisions, the results are simply better: productivity, innovation and work organisation are enhanced. We are witnessing this phenomena again during this pandemic, strong workers’ representatives are playing a key role in mitigating the impact with health and safety measures, in job retention schemes, or with new ways of work organisation like teleworking. To meet the epochal challenge of managing the green and digital transitions for the benefit of all, we must tap into this enormous potential.

“In my report I call on the Commission to update the current patchwork of different and sometimes even contradictory EU rules with a new framework for information, consultation and board-level representation. Such a framework is also needed to make up for the shortcomings of the EU Statute for a European Company (Societas Europeae – SE) and address the abuse of cross-border mergers to avoid representation rights and the misuse of complex corporate structures to circumvent social standards.

 “Firstly, we want guarantees that employees are represented on boards in European‑scale companies by setting minimum quotas based on the size of the company. Democracy at work means guaranteeing employees a seat at the decision-making table. Secondly, we want to create the conditions to reach the goal of at least 80% of corporations being covered by sustainable corporate governance agreements by 2030. Thirdly, we want to ensure that workers’ representatives must have access to timely and meaningful information and consultation, particularly during restructuring processes.”

Agnes Jongerius, S&D MEP and spokesperson for employment, said:

“Empowering unions equals strengthening social Europe. The voices of workers must be heard for transformations to succeed, especially when they herald tremendous changes in the world of work, such as the green and digital transitions. But our responsibility does not stop at Europe’s borders. We call on the Commission to deliver on its commitment to put forward, without further delay, a directive on binding human rights due diligence and responsible business conduct. Mandatory due diligence must involve trade unions and workers’ representatives throughout the whole process.”


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