Workers on boards: interviews with German employee directors

By 16.09.13PublicationsSeptember 2nd, 2020No Comments

We talk to employee and shareholder directors on German boards about company strategy, pay and unions

Bosses in Germany do not shy away from discussing challenging issues with their workforce. There is a structure in place that enables employees to make their voices heard – from works councils right up to representatives on the supervisory board that monitors the management. This enables the workforce to engage in vital debate about the company’s strategy, jobs and pay. “My expertise is to tell the board what issues really touch the workforce and what they think,” says Martina Klee, employee representative on Deutsche Bank’s supervisory board. In recent years, employee directors have also initiated a discussion about executive pay with Volkswagen cutting its CEO pay by 20 per cent last year and Deutsche Bank imposing a pay cap.

Employee directors take part in investment discussions, asking what the staff can do to keep jobs in Germany. “It’s not just about profit, there is a general understanding at VW that we don’t shut plants: job security and profitability are the two goals of this company,” says Hartmut Meine, union representative on the VW board.

Industrial democracy is well entrenched in Germany. With the economy emerging in better shape from the financial crisis than its European neighbours and Germany hosting many world-leading companies in key sectors, has the German system of employee involvement helped deliver this? This report talks to the employee directors themselves and tells the story of their involvement in their own words.

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