Opinion EESC on Democracy at work
2023 – The European Economic and Social Committee was asked for a Exploratory opinion on Democracy at work.
Some of the conclusions and recommendations
- Over decades, European legislation has developed a robust system of worker participation in the workplace, based on the law and practices of the Member States and EU fundamental freedoms. A democratic world of work is a building block for further developing the European social model in a sustainable and competitive environment.
- Mechanisms and legal instruments serving the purpose of democracy at work make companies more resilient, more economically successful and at the same time better able to deliver on employment and decent work. Democracy at work as a guiding concept should cover all workers and types of work as well as all workplaces, be they private, public or social in nature, irrespective of size, sector or other organisational aspects. The circumstances of SMEs should be considered. Empirical evidence shows that workers’ voices offer the flexibility and room for manoeuvre necessary at workplace level in order to adapt to structural changes.
- Over decades, European Works Councils (EWCs) have made a positive contribution to companies’ long-term economic, social and environmental objectives. To increase their potential and effectiveness their participation rights and resources need to be substantially improved: e.g. any circumvention or infringement of EWC participation rights should be sanctioned effectively and access to justice should be facilitated. In this context, the EESC welcomes the European Parliament’s recent resolution on the revision of the EWC Directive and calls on the Commission to take legal measures in a timely manner.
- Technological innovations have led to new business models in the platform economy, which often involve precarious employment, especially for people in entry-level jobs and migrant workers. Access to collective representation is mostly non-existent or else insufficiently used. The EESC considers purposeful the aim of the current draft EU Directive on platform work to prevent bogus self-employment, in particular the definition of employers and employees, the reversal of the burden of proof. This would also strengthen the basis for giving workers a voice in the platform economy when adequate criteria for employment status are fulfilled. The EESC notes the Commission’s Guidelines on the application of Union competition law to collective agreements regarding the working conditions of solo self-employed persons. The EESC encourages the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU to highlight this aspect, in particular when adopting the Directive, and also to address these workers’ potential access to collective coverage in line with the Minimum Wage Directive.
- The educative role of workplace participation could support democratic practice in a wider political and societal meaning. In this sense it is crucial to raise awareness and educate young people for democracy at work even before starting employment. Along with social partners, CSOs working in the field of education can play a complementary role and should be supported.
Reiner Hoffmann, Krzysztof Balon (rapporteurs): Democracy at work. Exploratory opinion requested by the Spanish Presidency. . European Economic and Social Committee. 2023, SOC/746.
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