ETUI / NWDG Seminar 2020

‘Reviving Economic Democracy in Ireland after the Crisis’

A seminar presented by The European Workers’ Participation Competence Centre of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), in cooperation with the Irish National Worker Directors’ Group (NWDG).

Date: Thursday 23rd January, 2020

Venue: Communication Workers Union Centre, William Norton House, 575 North Circular Road, Dublin 1, D01 TR53, Ireland

Photos from ‘Reviving Economic Democracy in Ireland after the Crisis’

Information and Agenda 

The crisis of 2008 revealed the excesses of financial capitalism and corporate mismanagement. Many EU Member States felt the dramatic economic and social consequences of deregulation and austerity policies that hollowed out their welfare states.

Ireland was greatly affected. Despite an adversarial industrial relations’ system, based on voluntarism and minimal intervention of the state, Ireland maintains the legal right of workers to be represented on the boards of certain state-owned enterprises. However, this model has suffered from such pressures as privatisation, the shrinking of the public sector and the effect of massive foreign capital investments. Today, not even half of the companies originally covered by the 1977 and 1988 Acts have worker directors, and in those that do, their capacity to influence decisions is generally limited.

This evolution is not a logical one and, it would seem, not in step with the times. Extensive research shows how placing workers’ voice at the core of firms and the economy could be beneficial for society as a whole in this post-crisis moment. At the EU level, rights on board-level employee representation have been integrated into the newly adopted Directive on cross-border conversions, mergers and divisions (which forms part of the ‘Company Law Package’). In other countries, such as the US and France, politicians are showing increasing interest in putting workers on company boards and extending this more democratic model of corporate governance from the public to the private sector. With political will, Ireland could follow these trends.

The event addressed these issues, with the following main goals:

  • To present empirical and theoretical arguments for democratising the economy and to discuss concrete proposals to democratically renew enterprise models in Ireland and in Europe.
  • To understand the role employee representation can play in democratising the management of firms and the economy, in light of the current socio-economic and political contexts.
  • To learn from comparison with the political debates and legislative developments taking place in other countries (namely, the UK, France and the US) concerning workers’ voice in corporate governance and the economy, in order to outline ways forward within the Irish context.


12:00: Registration and light lunch on arrival

12:50-13:00: Welcoming Words, The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Paul McAuliffe

13:00-13:30: Opening and Introduction, Aline Hoffmann, ETUI and Patricia King, ICTU

13:30-15:00: Arguments and proposals to democratise the economy

Moderation: Pat Compton, NWDG

  • Developing and sustaining industrial democracy: public ownership and beyond, Miguel Martinez Lucio, University of Manchester
  • More democracy at work as an answer to the democratic crisis, Sara Lafuente, ETUI
  • A new model of enterprise based on stakeholder democracy, Michael Taft, SIPTU
  • Ways forward for more democracy at work in Europe, Isabelle Schömann, ETUC

15:00-15:30: Coffee break

15:30-17:30: Board-level employee representation in a context of deregulation and privatisation: International developments and perspectives for Ireland.

Moderation: Gráinne Collins, The National Disability Authority

  • Challenges and ways forward for worker participation in Ireland, Kevin O’Kelly
  • Assessing the Corporate Governance Reform and ways forward for employee representation in the UK, Lionel Fulton, Labour Research Department, UK
  • Towards extended codetermination in France, Udo Rehfeldt, IRES, FR
  • Current concrete proposals for democratising the economy in the US, Ewan McGaughey, Kings’ College London, UK.

17:30: Close, ETUI