Labour Research (August 2016)

European news

Appeal for more worker directors

Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s economics minister and head of the SPD social democratic party, the junior party in the government coalition, has called for employee board-level representation to be strengthened. 

Speaking at celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of the current law on worker directors last month, he called for the employment threshold for equal employee/shareholder representation to be halved.

At present, in companies with 2,000 or more employees, half the members of the supervisory board, the body that sets the company’s overall strategy, are chosen by the employees. 

Gabriel would like this cut to 1,000. (In smaller companies — those with at least 500 employees — a third of the supervisory board is chosen by the workforce.)

However, progress is unlikely to be rapid, as the CDU/CSU, the dominant party in the coalition, is not in favour of change. 

Ingo Kramer, head of the German employers’ organisation BDA, has said that employee board-level representation has often acted as “a braking mechanism”, slowing down decision-making. 

The unions are concerned that German companies are increasingly using legal loopholes to avoid their obligations in this area. 

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