The history of Democracy at Work in Germany and future perspectives

The origins of boardlevel representation in Germany

Boardlevel representation had its origins when the British occupied Germany after World War II and secured board level seats for workers in the German industrial companies. In Jun 1951 – 70 years from now – the 50% rule on board-level representation entered into German law. In 1976 it was enlarged to all capital  companies with more than 2000 workers.


At the turn of the millennium, democracy at work came under criticism. Trade unionists on the supervisory board didn’t seem to prevent neither excessive executive pay nor management mistakes or the fiasco of the Daimler merger with Chrysler. The mood changed with the 2008 financial crisis, which managers and trade unionists mastered together.

Future perspectives

In view of the federal elections in September, DGB General Secretary Reiner Hoffman says that about 300 companies with two million employees are still circumventing full democracy at work or illegally ignoring it. Hoffmann also wants to overturn double voting rights, which are used by supervisory board chairmen to shut down factories like the one at Conti. He can count on the SPD and the Left after the elections in autumn. Not yet on Armin Laschet. Nor yet on Annalena Baerbock.