“People are main asset of any business; worker participation benefits social cohesion” Impressions from #IrlaTreball

News / 22.11.16

Centre Maurits Coppieters, in cooperation with Fundació Josep Irla organised the conference entitled “Work in Europe in the 21st Century” to reflect on the main challenges of the European labor market and present the study “To Work and Decide: Employee Participation as a Business Strategy” by Montserrat Palet, expert in business strategic management.

Following the opening remarks by Antonia Luciani, Vice-President of the Centre Maurits Coppieters and Joan Manuel Tresserras, President Fundació Josep Irla, the audience was introduced to one of the main challenges for social democracy in the XXI century. David Rueda, Professor of Comparative Politics at Oxford University, explained the duality between two groups in the labor market: insiders, or protected workers with standard employment, and outsiders, the precariat. Even in highly developed OECD countries, where permanent employees enjoy high levels of protection and social benefits, there is a growing number of unemployed or temporary workers who are forced to work in precarious conditions due to their vulnerability. “Employment policies cannot satisfy both insiders and outsiders. And the dilemma for the Left in this context is whether to promote policies that cater to the needs of insiders or outsiders. The danger is that both groups tend to shift their vote to the Right when abandoned,” Dr. Rueda warned.


The main idea that Monstserrat Palet shared from her study with the audience is that “people are the main asset of any company.” Europe’s deep economic crisis has served as a push to build more equitable and participatory societies; rethink the role of businesses as transforming agents; and regenerate the European project through active participation. The aim of Palet’s study is to promote a space for debate on employee participation within businesses with a special emphasis on deepening the sociological and cultural aspects that cause or hinder participation. Palet argued that worker participation in the decision-making process of a company promotes business competitiveness and social cohesion: “People want to work and be decision-makers. For that reason, businesses are already transforming their participation structures.”

“Labour laws are a condition, but not a solution. We need political will, institutional action and good governance to be able to create an environment where workers can work, but also actively participate in businesses” noted MEP Ernest Maragall.

The round table on “Business Competitiveness and the Labor Market in Europe” chaired by David Grosclaude, Vice-President of the European Free Alliance, opened with a contribution from Gibbels Patrick, Secretary General of the European Small Bussines Alliance, who argued that micro-businesses and small businesses are a good example of worker participation where a small team works together closely, but conceded that these business face challenges.

Monaco Marina, policy adviser of the European Trade Union Confederation, addressed Europe’s striking poverty and the radical worsening of standards and protections for workers. She explained that companies, trade unions, civil society, EU Member states, but also regions and cities are facing challenges, such as integrating migrants and refugees, coping with demographic change, adapting to digitization, dealing with the crisis of skills and education, and implementing green economic policies. The European social model should represent the right to secure and quality employment, access to safety nets and worker participation.

“The idea that Europe no longer understands what the needs of its citizens are represents an issue. It puts into practice the lack of a democratic approach. The measures that are being enacted are never decided by the people or for the people. We strongly believe that there is a need to renovate the whole European approach: workers need to know that Europe is there for them, especially women, migrants, youth and the unemployed,” added Monaco.

Jose Maria Larrañaga, consultant for cooperatives, gave an impassioned speech about the need to collectively reflect on aims and approaches of companies and organisations: “We need to apply subsidiarity principle to business: we do not need an organisation of people, but organised people,” said J. M. Larrañaga.

The ceremony was closed by Dolors Bassa, Minister of Employment, Social Affairs and Family of the Generalitat of Catalonia.

You can see the study “Work and decide. Employee participation as a business strategy” here (Catalan).