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Call for a workers' 'Golden Share' heard all the way to Brussels

10 October 2018

Call for a workers' 'Golden Share' heard all the way to Brussels

Foto: Femke Reudler Talsma

The SP wants workers to have a greater say in important decisions taken by the enterprise for which they work via recognition of a 'golden share'. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is also working on this issue, and SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong has signed ETUC's European Appeal and, at the demonstration in Brussels on 10th October, called on fellow MEPs to do the same. Without workers there would be no firms, so they should have a decisive vote in their direction and management, especially when it comes to mergers, branch closures, or divestment.

The European-level actions were prompted by proposals from the European Commission for the reform of company law. In common with the trade union movement, De Jong is unimpressed by these proposals, but also sees them as presenting opportunities. “The Commission simply wants to make it easier for firms to move their head offices to a different member state, loosening the existing controls on this,” he says. “That would increase the danger that more and more mailbox companies would be established in low wage countries. This would mean in turn that the conditions of employment in these low wage countries would apply to 'detached' workers, those employed by a firm in one country to work in another. This would directly affect workers, just as does the closure of sites, as well as take-overs and mergers. That's why we don't need just to amend the existing wording but also to add stipulations which give the workers a determining vote when such decisions are taken. The EU has here a unique chance to show its social face. It's time for justice in the European Union.”

A good example of a corporation decamping to low wage countries is provided by Siemens. Not only was the profitable site in Hengelo in the Netherlands threatened with closure until another firm, VDL, was prepared to take it over, but a number of sites in Germany suffered the same threat. Production was then moved to countries where wages were lower. On 5th December the SP's team at the European Parliament, together with our German sister party Die Linke, is organising a seminar in the EP in Brussels in response to the Siemens affair. The aim is to produce a manifesto on workers' participation in company decision-making, as well as to discuss a German legislative proposal to make it obligatory for the company in question, on closure of profitable sites, to first of all repay all subsidies. We would like to see the same sort of legislation at European level. It happens far too often that a company profits from, for example, innovation subsidies, then moves elsewhere. These subsidies come from taxpayers' money, and under such circumstances they should be reimbursed.

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