DaimlerChrysler establishes World Employee Committee

In July 2002, management and employee representatives at DaimlerChrysler agreed to establish a World Employee Committee, a formal representative body for employees and trade unions across the company's global operations. The agreement aims to improve the exchange of information between employee representatives in different countries, and between employee representatives and management.

On 17 July 2002, an agreement was signed on the creation of a World Employee Committee at DaimlerChrysler, the German/US motor manufacturer, which has some 372,500 employees around the world, and revenues of EUR 152.9 billion (in 2001). The new body is based on an agreement between management and employee representatives, and will serve as a formal representative body for all employees and trade unions within the multinational. A similar global representative body was set up at Volkswagen in 1998 (DE9806271N).

At the World Employee Committee's constituent meeting on 17 July, Erich Klemm, the chair of the group works council in DaimlerChrysler's Germany operations, was elected as chair of the new committee, with Nate Gooden, vice-president of the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), elected as his deputy. The World Employee Committee consists of 13 members representing employees and trade unions from four continents - six work council members from Germany, three union representatives from the USA and one representative each from Canada, South Africa, Spain, and Brazil. The aim of the committee is to improve the exchange of information among employee representatives worldwide, and between these representatives and company management.

The creation of the committee is the latest outcome of employee representatives' efforts to coordinate their work internationally within the firm, which began after the merger of Daimler Benz AG and Chrysler Corporation in May 1998, when representatives of the trade unions representing DaimlerChrysler workers in Germany and the USA - IG Metall and UAW - started talks on institutionalising cooperation between employees worldwide (DE9805264N). An 'international working group of worker representatives' was formed in 1999 to pursue this aim. Initially, management took a reserved position, and appeared concerned to prevent any extension of German levels of co-determination to other countries. In most other countries in which DaimlerChrysler produces cars, employee representatives do not have such comprehensive and institutionalised rights as German work councils - such as access to information, and co-determination rights over matters such as working conditions and working time - or the system whereby employee representatives have equal representation on the supervisory board (Aufsichtsrat) in firms of DaimlerChrysler’s size. The creation of the World Employee Committee has established an information and consultation body which will support the work of employee representatives, but has not extended German levels of co-determination worldwide.

Both management and employee representatives have welcomed the establishment of the World Employee Committee. According to Günther Fleig, DaimlerChrysler’s board member for human resources, it will be an important information advisory body for employee issues worldwide. He describes mutual understanding and good working relations between management and employee representatives as necessary conditions for DaimlerChrysler’s 'value-based' and sustainably profitable management. Mr Klemm, the new committee’s chair, stresses the new possibilities for consultation and access to information, adding that the World Employee Committee offers the chance to set a global standard for fundamental employee rights and working conditions.

In its future work, the committee aims to support the nine principles of the Global Compact- the United Nations (UN) initiative calling on companies to sign up to a set of human rights, labour and environmental standards. Jürgen E Schrempp, the chair of the DaimlerChrysler management board, signed the Compact in autumn 2001. The labour-related principles of the Global Compact cover: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour; the effective abolition of child labour; the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

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