Workplace Democracy – Histadrut Delegation Visits Germany to Learn About Employee Participation in Decision-Making in the Workplace
A delegation from the Histadrut recently visited Germany to learn about its advanced model of employee participation in decision-making in the workplace. A group of chairpersons of workers’ committees, and Histadrut workers who lead and support processes of unionizing and renegotiation of collective agreements visited Germany. The delegation met with employers and employees in companies that have employees on their boards, representatives of the German Ministry of Labor, the Hans Bockler Foundation, and the DGB trade union federation.
The German model of employee participation is one of the most advanced in the world. It is enshrined in federal legislation and collective agreements. Employees have a right to be informed and consulted about decisions that affect their work lives. They also have a right to be represented on the boards of directors of companies.
“The democratic dimension at the workplace was significant to the people they talked with, in the ways they described their relationship with management and their satisfaction with their workplaces.”Tomer Reznik, Deputy Chairman of the Histadrut and Chairman of the Division for Industrial Democracy
Tomer Reznik, Deputy Chairman of the Histadrut and Chairman of the Division for Industrial Democracy in the Histadrut led the delegation. He said that in meetings with German employers, the delegation met with “very positive attitudes and practical reflections on businesses’ benefits to the representation of employees on boards.” While there were some issues discussed with them, the Israelis learned how the participation of employees in companies’ decision-making contributes to their business sustainability.
When visiting some factories to understand how the German model of employees’ representation in decision-making looked on the ground, the Israelis saw the positive impact on working relations. Reznik said that it was noticeable that “the democratic dimension at the workplace was significant to the people they talked with, in the ways they described their relationship with management and their satisfaction with their workplaces.”
At the conclusion of the delegation, Reznik also said that employee participation in decision-making is “the future of advanced labor relations,” and that Israel has a lot to learn from the German model. He called on workers’ committees and managements to adopt employee participation models in collective agreements.
“The resounding call for democracy should not and cannot stop at the workplace gates. Employee participation in decision-making in the workplace is the future of advanced labor relations, and we in Israel have a lot to learn from the German model.”Tomer Reznik
The chairman of the Assuta Tel Aviv workers’ committee – Maggie Moore, said: “The index of the 40 most powerful corporations in Germany shows that 32 of them have employee representation on the boards. In the enriching meetings we held at the Ministry of Labor and Welfare of Germany and in the meeting with the Deputy Minister, Kerstin Griese, we also learned about the importance of such a move in Israel. The integration of employee representation in boards of directors significantly increases organizations’ resilience, the trust between management and employees, and organizations’ development. There is definitely something to learn from our hosts in Germany.”
Chairman of the Pelephone workers’ committee – Yehiel Shemen, said: “We were exposed to innovative models in the field of labor relations, to different approaches regarding employee participation in decision-making and a strategic view of workplaces. We return with many insights and new partners for the development and adjustments of the work organized here with us. Among other things, on issues such as workers’ rights, harassment in workplaces and treatment of sexual harassment.”
The delegation was also supported by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Micky Drill, the foundation’s representative at the Histadrut coordinated the schedule and accompanied the delegation in Germany. Amongst the key figures the group met with, was Deputy Minister of Labor Kerstin Griese, who emphasized the importance of employee participation to Germany’s democratic and economic fabric. Thomas Fischer, Head of the Political Strategy and Planning Department at the DGB, and Reinald Thannisch, Head of the Co-Determination Department at the Ver.di trade union, shared insights from the trade unions’ perspective on co-determination. Navid Armeli, Economist from the Institute of Co-determination and Corporate Governance of the Hans Bockler Foundation presented the training and development opportunities his organization provides to qualify board members across local industries.
The Director General of the International Relations Division at the Histadrut – Peter Lerner, said: “Delegations aimed at learning from our partners in the world in general, and from the German unions, the DGB in particular, are a significant opportunity for professional growth for the workers movement in Israel. As per the policy of the Chairman of the Histadrut, Arnon Bar-David, we are working to bring knowledge from the world to benefit the workers in Israel. We believe that with the extensive knowledge they gained during the delegation, the participants will have the tools to promote the influence of workers’ representatives in the workplace, for the benefit of the companies, organizations and for the sake of the workers.”
In the aftermath of the delegation, Reznik and Lerner agreed to continue fostering cooperation with the German counterparts of the Hitadrut – the DGB, to continue the study of the German model and explore its implementation in Israel.
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