Influence of the EU on Democracy in the UK One of the objectives of the creation of the European Union was to develop a single market and remove trading barriers so there would be standardisation of technical regulations and convergence of conditions between European markets. With this in mind, it saw the need for employers and employees to work together in order to achieve this. The main statement of the European social policy is the Social Charter (approved by 11 of the then 12 member states) which seeks to improve working and living conditions and ensure the effective use of human resource across the EU.
This policy seeks to guarantee rights to individuals in areas such as freedom of movement, improved living and working standards, fair remuneration, freedom to join a trade union, equal opportunities for men and women, and protection for the disabled, children and adolescents in the workplace. In addition, workers have rights to be consulted and informed in the cases where there is new technology, collective redundancy, and mergers. It was agreed by the members of the EU that the Social Charter be implemented by directive so member states will be bound by legislation and utilise all necessary resources as to ensure its provisions.
Companies in the EU also have the option of forming companies that operate on a Europe-wide basis and governed by community law. This is governed by the European Union Statute (2001). There is an accompanying Directive that requires employee involvement arrangements that includes collective bargaining on decisions, unitary board structure with worker representatives and sub-board level company council which comprises solely of worker representation. Trinidad and Tobago is influenced by this initiative. In the Caribbean, a similar initiative was created.
It was called CARICOM and was established in 1973. Members of CARICOM also recognised the need for employees and employers to work together in order to create a successful single market in the region. The work environment is evolving into more of an employee relations environment and workers now have more rights, and opinions. The IRA plays a big role in ensuring that employees are fairly treated in the workplace. Organizations have opted to implement employee relations policies within their organizations as well.
These provide a forum for employee participation and employee involvement. Although organizations in Trinidad and Tobago are governed by legislation, it is still ineffective in many instances. There are cases where the recognized majority trade union defy the law and do not comply with the regulations of the IRA. An example is the “No Work Day Campaign” by the Public Services Association in January, 2011. This protest would clearly go against section 69 (1) where public servants are not allowed to take industrial action.
In relation to participation in the EU, various countries have different approaches to encouraging employee participation. For example, in Germany, a system called co-determination is used where employees and their representatives are involved in all decisions relating to personnel and other aspects of company policy. It is supported by legislation and involves three methods by which workers can participate. These methods include a Works Council, Supervisory Board, and Management Board.
Works Councils are formed where there are more than five workers and consists only of workers’ representatives. They have rights to receive information on health and safety, jobs, work changes that adversely affect employees, and the work environment. They also have the right to make suggestions during the formulation and implementation to human resource plans and policies. Their suggestions are not binding but must be considered. The supervisory board is made up of worker representatives and other members elected by the shareholders (these are in companies employing over 500 people).
They generally oversee the overall direction of the business. The third method, the management board, is generally responsible for the day-to-day operations of the business. Sweden has adopted a similar approach to industrial democracy. They have used techniques such as job enrichment and quality of life working programmes. They differ in the sense that they are more unionised than Germany. They have an average of 80% union membership. Other countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, France, and Spain also have co-determination models.
However, there is a smaller range of issues open to employee approval in these countries. In the Netherlands and Belgium, companies have to also supervisory and management boards. In Trinidad and Tobago, employee representatives (trade union representatives) are part of supervisory boards and works council. They must be informed of changes that affect trade union members and consulted on issues such as working conditions, health and safety, and pay structures. It is important to note that this is only in organizations that have agreed to ave a recognized majority union represent their employees. Some organizations have implemented techniques such as job enrichment and work-life balance programmes such as use of flexi-time, and programmes to help new mothers re-enter the workforce after being away on maternity leave. These programmes can be very expensive to implement. Employees would need to be convinced that these changes are good. Ideally, some employees will resist these changes so they would need to be involved from the very beginning.