Research Handbooks in Comparative Law series
Edited by Matthew W. Finkin and Guy Mundlak
Collective bargaining has been and still is the most relevant instrument of collective employee voice on the labor markets. Through their ‘countervailing power’, labor unions try to establish minimum labor standards on the labor markets and may provide their members with an appropriate level of protection guaranteed by collective agreements. There is not only historical evidence for this outstanding impact of collective bargaining on employee protection. Also, the numerous guarantees of freedom of association and of the right to collective bargaining in both national laws as well as international law reveal the extraordinary relevance of collective bargaining. Nonetheless, there is a wide range of other forms and mechanisms to give employees a voice toward the employer or the State which have been developed over the last 150 years beyond collective bargaining. Many countries have institutionalized through statutory law or collective agreements other channels of (collective) employee voice and guarantee thereby forms of employee ‘representation’, ‘participation’ or ‘involvement’. Such forms of a collective voice beyond collective bargaining may be institutionalized on different levels. By far the most important level is the workplace or plant level where specific problems related to the work process can be solved in cooperation with the workforce. Some national systems have gone beyond a mere workplace representation and have additionally institutionalized an employee representation on company level (e.g. in the supervisory boards or boards of directors of big corporations) enabling employees to really participate in the company’s decision-making.
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