April 2018

IZA DP No. 11506: What Do Workers Want? The Shortfall in Employee Participation at the European Workplace

revised version published as 'What Do Workers Want? The Representation Gap at the EU Establishment as Perceived by Their Workplace Representatives' in: Research in Labor Economics, 2020, 49, 1-39

A shortfall in employee voice attendant upon union decline has long been forewarned. Data from the third European Company Survey is used to establish perceived shortfalls in employee involvement based on the responses of employee representatives in establishments where formal workplace employee representation is practiced. Among the main findings is that the desire for greater involvement in decision making is smaller where representation is via a works council-type apparatus rather than through the agency of a union body. Similar, albeit more pronounced marginal effects are associated with information provision, most notably where employee representatives are (a) 'satisfactorily' informed on a variety of establishment issues or (b) are asked to give their opinions/involved in joint decisions in the event of some major human resource decision. The latter results are robust to subsets of the data based on variations in trust between the parties and the perceived quality of the industrial relations climate, where there is an overwhelming desire for more participation in those circumstances in which management is adjudged uncooperative and untrustworthy. On net, it remains the case that a shortfall in employee participation is observed across all types of establishments in the sample and, by extension, it would appear to those without any workplace representation at all.