Committing to Employee Participation in the Company

There has been a growing rift in labour relations in recent times which is becoming more and more untenable for the management of companies in our country. As a consequence, the competitiveness of our business network is being negatively impacted by deteriorating dialogue, a lack of accords in CBAs, and the ongoing use of strong-arm pressure tactics.

This situation is being capitalised upon by many players who are making a call to move beyond the present framework of antagonistic labour relations in companies. They are advocating for the need to better define management mechanisms which would turn companies into organisations with people at the heart, thus guaranteeing the sustainability of business ventures into the future.

All questions of ideology aside, the need to transform companies into Communities of People who share the whole business project is becoming a matter of efficiency. We cannot ensure the competitiveness of companies without the shared work of all the company players who maintain close ties to their region.

I believe this is the ideal time to instil a business management practice in our society which would facilitate direct employee participation in companies. There are a multitude of structures available for employee participation: co-operatives; companies in the social economy; companies that facilitate participation in the value created by the whole organisation; employee participation in social capital; shared management; and self-management, among other options.

If the main goal of government is the design of a society which grows in solidarity and social equality, where income differences between social groups are reduced wherever possible, all the while ensuring a culture of entrepreneurship and business risk, we cannot desist in our efforts to transform companies into motors of this process in their goal of wealth creation.

In my personal opinion, we must draft legislation and garner public support to create a favourable environment for employee participation in companies, without a preconceived idea of what model of participation to adopt. For a company to flourish, each must individually be allowed to decide which formula would best suit their business project within the limits of their own identity, of their own management models, and aspirations.

Organisations promoting employee participation offer a number of advantages to guarantee the competitiveness of the business project over the long term. When their Project is shared by all the members of the organisation, it both facilitates the management process and promotes a greater level of responsibility in all areas of the company, leading to greater sustainability of that business project. Furthermore, not only does employee participation nurture greater emotional attachment to the idea of the project, it guarantees greater levels of transparency and shared responsibility. Finally, it democratises the organisation and establishes a new framework for personal and labour relations, not based on confrontation, but rather on shared work.

I would encourage companies to shake off the straitjacket of current labour relations and to explore this world of employee participation to improve competitiveness in organisations. Creating these communities of people would strengthen the social dimension of the company, promote wealth creation and contribute to heightening the role of the company in social cohesion.

* Orginally published in El Economista. 09/09/2013

Sabin Azua

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