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Belgian political parties favour co-determination of employees in company boards

board meeting

board meeting

Mid-November 2017, the Flemish Green party of Belgium (Groen) approved a text calling for, among other things, employee representatives in company boards. The approval is mostly symbolic as the Green party has no detailed plan of how this form of co-determination should be organized. The congress text mentions the need for employee representatives to sit in company boards in order to foster the democracy and participation in organizations and as a means to support constructive relations between employers and employees on strategic company issues.

Evita Willaert, (Member of Parliament): “The Green party wants to strengthen democracy by giving citizens and consumers a larger say in policy. This means that, for example the users of public transportation would get a say in how public transport is organized. Or that representatives of patients are involved in the running of care-institutions. This also means that representatives of employees contribute in company decisions. That’s why the Green party proposes to reserve at least one seat in company boards for employee representatives.

This is a scoop in Belgium, where there exists to date no mandatory co-determination laws. In at least 14 countries of the 31 European Economic Area (EEA) countries, such laws exist. They give the right to employees to have a representative in the company boards of private and/or state-owned companies.

Parallelly to the Green proposal, the (French speaking) Socialist Party (PS) has also developed a proposal for a ‘co-decision’ company form in Belgium, namely a new legal corporate form where shareholders and workers would have equal decision-making power. In such co-decision companies, employees and investors would elect their representatives to a bicameral assembly charged with the duties of electing and supervising the executive board. All decisions would require the approval of each of the chambers. Workers and shareholders representatives would, in other words, get an equal say in company decisions.

With these two congress decisions favoring co-determination (and co-decision) in company boards in both parts of the country (Groen is Dutch speaking and PS is French speaking), the debate on co-determination in Belgium might get a new impetus. At the same time, it might still take a while until employees can elect their representatives in company boards as both concerned parties are currently in the opposition.

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