Co-determination
Overview
 
Co-determination is a practice whereby the employees have a role in management of a company. The word is a literal translation from the German word Mitbestimmung. Co-determination rights are different in different legal environments. In some countries, like the USA, the workers have virtually no role in management of companies, and in some, like Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, their role is more important. The first serious co-determination laws began in Germany.
Encyclopedia
Co-determination is a practice whereby the employees have a role in management of a company. The word is a literal translation from the German word Mitbestimmung. Co-determination rights are different in different legal environments. In some countries, like the USA, the workers have virtually no role in management of companies, and in some, like Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, their role is more important. The first serious co-determination laws began in Germany. At first there was only worker participation in management in the coal and steel industries. But in 1974, a general law was passed mandating that worker representatives hold seats on the boards of all companies employing over 500 people.

Overview

In systems with co-determination workers in large companies usually form special bodies - works councils and in smaller companies elect worker representatives. These act as intermediaries in exercising the workers rights of being informed or consulted with on decisions concerning employee status and rights. They also elect or select worker representatives in managerial and supervisory organs of companies.

In systems with co-determination the employees are given seats in a board of directors
Board of directors
A board of directors is a body of elected or appointed members who jointly oversee the activities of a company or organization. Other names include board of governors, board of managers, board of regents, board of trustees, and board of visitors...

 in one-tier management systems or seats in a supervisory board
Supervisory board
A supervisory board or supervisory committee, often called board of directors, is a group of individuals chosen by the stockholders of a company to promote their interests through the governance of the company and to hire and supervise the executive directors and CEO.Corporate governance varies...

 and sometimes management board in two-tier management systems.

In two-tier systems the seats in supervisory boards are usually limited to 1/3 of all members. In some systems the employees can select 1/2 of all members of supervisory boards, but a representative of shareholders is always the president and has the deciding vote. The employee representatives in management boards are not present in all systems. They are always limited to a workers director, who votes only on matters concerning employees.

In one-tier systems with co-determination the employees usually have only one or two representatives in a board of directors. Sometimes they are also given seats in certain committees (e.g. the audit committee
Audit committee
In a U.S. publicly-traded company, an audit committee is an operating committee of the Board of Directors charged with oversight of financial reporting and disclosure. Committee members are drawn from members of the company's board of directors, with a Chairperson selected from among the committee...

). They never have representatives among the executive directors.

The typical two-tier system with co-determination is the German system. The typical one-tier system with co-determination is the Swedish system.

There are three main views as to why co-determination primarily exists: to reduce management-labour conflict by means of improving and systematizing communication channels; to increase bargaining power of workers at the expense of owners by means of legislation; and to correct market failures by means of public policy. The evidence on "efficiency" is mixed, with co-determination having either no effect or a positive but generally small effect on enterprise performance.

German Mitbestimmung

The German model of co-determination is unique. Formulated at the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, it was applied first in the coal and steel industries of West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 following the war and gradually expanded to other sectors. Co-determination in Germany is regulated by the Co-operative Management Law (1951), amended in 1976, and the Workers Committee Law (1952), amended in 1972. Within the framework of the 1976 reform, the government broadened the laws' applicability to all firms throughout the German economy employing more than 2,000 workers.
The German co-determination law (Mitbestimmungsgesetz) forms part of the bedrock of German industrial and company policy. it requires that just under half of companies' supervisory boards' members are representatives of workers. German company law
German company law
German company law is an influential legal regime for companies in Germany. The primary form of company is the public company or Aktiengesellschaft . The private company with limited liability is known as a Gesellschaft mit beschränkte Haftung...

 is curious to an English speaker's eye, because it has not one but two boards of directors. Shareholders and trade unions elect members of a supervisory board
Supervisory board
A supervisory board or supervisory committee, often called board of directors, is a group of individuals chosen by the stockholders of a company to promote their interests through the governance of the company and to hire and supervise the executive directors and CEO.Corporate governance varies...

 (Aufsichtsrat). The chairman of the supervisory board, with a casting vote, is always a shareholder representative under German law. The supervisory board is meant to set the company's general agenda. The supervisory board then elects a management board (Vorstand
Vorstand
In German corporate governance, a Vorstand is the management board of a corporation. It is hierarchically subordinate to the Aufsichtsrat , as German corporate law imposes a two-tier board system....

), which is actually charged with the day to day running of the company. The management board is required to have one worker representative (Arbeitsdirektor). In effect, shareholder voices still govern the company for a number of reasons, but not least because the supervisory board's vote for the management will always be a majority of shareholders.
Co-determination in Germany operates on three organisational levels:

1. Board of directors
Board of directors
A board of directors is a body of elected or appointed members who jointly oversee the activities of a company or organization. Other names include board of governors, board of managers, board of regents, board of trustees, and board of visitors...

: Prior to 1976, German coal and steel producers employing more than 1,000 workers commonly maintained a board of directors composed of 11 members: five directors came from management, five were workers' representatives, with the eleventh member being neutral. (Note: Boards could be larger as long as the proportion of representation was maintained.) In 1976, the law's scope was expanded to cover firms employing more than 2,000 workers; there were also revisions to the board structure, which now had an equal number of management and worker representatives, with no neutral members. The new board's head would represent the firm's owners and had the right to cast the deciding vote in instances of stalemate.

2. Management: A worker representative sits with management in the capacity of Director for Human Resources. Elected by a majority of the Board of Directors, the workers' representative sits on the Board and enjoys the full rights accorded to that position.

3. Workers committees: The workers committee has two main functions: it elects representatives to the Board of Directors and serves as an advisory body to the trade union regarding plant-level working conditions, insurance, economic assistance and related issues. The committee is elected by all the workers employed in a plant.

Thanks to the years during which a co-operative culture has been in place, management requests from workers for proposals to improve operations or increase productivity, for example, are no longer considered mere legal formalities; they represent recognition of the fact that workers play an important part in plant success. In tandem, a practical approach has evolved among both parties, with each aiming to reach decisions based on consensus. In addition, worker representatives no longer automatically reject every proposal for structural reform, increased efficiency of even layoffs; instead, they examine each suggestion from an inclusive, long-term perspective. At the core of this approach is transparency of information, such as economic data. Co-determination is thus practised at every level, from the local plant to firm headquarters.

Co-determination enjoys intractable support among Germans in principle. In practice, there are many calls for amendments to the laws in various ways. One of the main achievements seems to be that workers are more involved and have more of a voice in their workplaces, which sees a return in high productivity. Furthermore, industrial relations are more harmonious with low levels of strike action
Strike action
Strike action, also called labour strike, on strike, greve , or simply strike, is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became important during the industrial revolution, when mass labour became...

s, while better pay and conditions are secured for employees.

The UK Bullock Report

In Britain, the proposals for co-determination were drawn up, and a command paper produced named the Bullock Report. This was done in 1977 by the Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

 Labour Party (UK)
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 government. It involved a similar split on the board, but its effect would have been even more radical. Because UK company law requires no split in the boards of directors, unions would have directly elected the management of the company. Furthermore, rather than giving shareholders the slight upper hand as happened in Germany, a debated 'independent' element would be added to the board, reaching the formula 2x + y. However no action was ever taken as the UK slid into the winter of discontent
Winter of Discontent
The "Winter of Discontent" is an expression, popularised by the British media, referring to the winter of 1978–79 in the United Kingdom, during which there were widespread strikes by local authority trade unions demanding larger pay rises for their members, because the Labour government of...

 and, as Labour lost the next election, two decades of Thatcherism
Thatcherism
Thatcherism describes the conviction politics, economic and social policy, and political style of the British Conservative politician Margaret Thatcher, who was leader of her party from 1975 to 1990...

. This tied into the European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

's proposals for worker participation in the 'fifth company law directive', which was never implemented.

EU Fifth Directive

Also in the 1970s, the European Community (now the European Union) drafted the 5th Directive on company law, proposing a two-tier board and worker representation on supervisory boards. This was similar to the German model. The directive has not yet won widespread support to be brought into force.

See also

  • Labour law
    Labour law
    Labour law is the body of laws, administrative rulings, and precedents which address the legal rights of, and restrictions on, working people and their organizations. As such, it mediates many aspects of the relationship between trade unions, employers and employees...

  • Labor union
  • Works council
    Works council
    A works council is a "shop-floor" organization representing workers, which functions as local/firm-level complement to national labour negotiations...

  • Workers' council
    Workers' council
    A workers' council, or revolutionary councils, is the phenomenon where a single place of work or enterprise, such as a factory, school, or farm, is controlled collectively by the workers of that workplace, through the core principle of temporary and instantly revocable delegates.In a system with...

  • Codetermination in Germany
    Codetermination in Germany
    Codetermination in Germany is a concept with a solid history that involves the right of workers to participate in management of the companies they work for. Known as Mitbestimmung, the modern law on codetermination is found principally in the Mitbestimmungsgesetz of 1976...


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paritarian_Institutions

External links



EU Draft Fifth Company Law Directive
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