Democracy in labour organizations an open door?
The Dutch Law on Works Councils (WOR) is developed to improve democratic relationships in labour organizations. It’s a long tradition and actually started on behalf of liberal employers and the trade unions. Is it still valid and of added value today?
Traditional Work Councils
Many labour organizations do not have the traditional shape in which the tradition of Works Councils was created. An owner-director, maybe some share holders for the long run and both committed to the company, the product and the employees. That’s how it all started. A bit like ASICS made the first employees shareholders, that sort of spirit in sharing.
Companies like Philips, Stork Hoekloos creating a new relationship with their employees, no longer as children under their patriarchal umbrella, but treating them as adults in those early days of the beginning of 1900 and later. Imagine that!
Works Councils are the best known and recognised results from this development and in rare cases (still) also visible at EU level with the support of a compelling directive.
So this democratic development at organisational level seems an open door, a wide open and appreciated tradition.
But what is it to you as a CEO of a Japanese, Indian, American or Chinese company, active in Europe and more specific in The Netherlands?
Added value of democratic bodies
Even though the law supports Works Councils and it is obligatory, often in practice we see a trend in forcefully trying to close this democratically created open door. Some lawyers make a living on it, but many times are not aware of the nature of the law, it’s purpose and are not specialized and therefor bad advisors to foreign management.
It is a pity this trend, as it seems to misunderstand the purpase and the added value of the democratic bodies. This trend shows discomfort in appreciating staff as adults with knowledge and experience that can be of added value to the company, and that are allowed to express their interest. As their interest very often (not always) is also the interest of the company.
New developments go much easier and fluent if Works Councils are involved. Due to the added value of the insights, of the Works Councils, proposed developments can be even altered to become more effective than was anticipated.
Is it enough?
Even if shareholders can have different interests compared to stakeholders, like Works Councils are representing the staff, the latter more often are of added value towards sustainable development of the company. It only needs an ear that wants to listen. Something Ricardo Semler for example takes to a whole new level.
It is not enough to state ‘my door is always open’ as CEO or manager, there is an open door offered to you, with an excellent reputation and experience, please embrace this open door, use it wisely and with respect🙏🏻