There has been a significant decline in democracy in the workplace; brought about by decades of attacks on the trade union movement, employment rights and collective bargaining structures, established to ensure a collective voice at work.
It is clear that employees must be given a stronger voice in the strategic direction of our businesses.
This is why this paper for Class: Centre for Labour and Social Studies examines the concept of workplace democracy, and focuses in particular on the inclusion of employee representatives on company boards, drawing on Sweden as a case study and referencing interviews that have been conducted specifically.
This evidence strongly suggests that this system is beneficial to all involved:
- Employees are able to present issues at board level
- Trade unions form better working relationships with management
- Board members benefit from the expertise of employees working on the shop floor
We have reached a decisive moment, with public opinion turning against companies that exploit their workers. With some cross-party consensus on the inclusion of employee representatives on company boards, there is now scope to re-open some of the discussions around this issue that took place in the 1970s.
As a proud trade unionist, I do not want to see another generation believing that zero hour contracts and poor workplace rights are the norm of working life. We need a change, and I believe this more cooperative approach between management and employees is the way forward.