Board-level participation agreed at Aventis

In March 2001, it was announced that an agreement on board-level employee participation had been reached at the Franco-German chemicals group, Aventis. The agreement, which provides for employee and trade union representatives from both France and Germany to sit on the Aventis supervisory board, is seen as an important precedent in this area.

It was announced on 7 March 2001 that an agreement on European board-level employee participation had been finalised between Aventis management, the German chemical workers' trade union, IG BCE, the French chemical workers' unions affiliated to CGT and CFDT and the European Mine, Chemical and Energy Workers' Federation (EMCEF). Aventis, which has its headquarters in Strasbourg, France was created in 1999 following the merger of the German chemicals multinational, Hoechst AG and the French Rhône-Poulenc SA (FR9812146F). The company employs some 95,000 people in more than 120 countries.

The new accord, hailed as the first of its kind (especially in the light of the forthcoming adoption of the European Company Statute - EU0101290N), provides for a total of six worker representatives to sit on the supervisory board of Aventis. Four of these six representatives (two French and two German) are full members of the board, nominated by trade unions and voted onto the board by the company's shareholder assembly. The two remaining worker representatives are, in line with French law (TN9809201S), appointed by the works council (comité d'entreprise). Under the terms of the agreement, EMCEF will nominate the candidate for one of these seats and, in return for the French works council agreeing to this, it will have the right to be represented on the Aventis European Works Council (or European Dialogue Committee). The four regular worker representatives will have the same rights as the 10 shareholder representatives on the board, whereas the works council representative will attend in a consultative capacity and the EMCEF representative will attend as a guest.

This deal follows an agreement in principle negotiated between the parties in 2000, which was reported to have run into practical problems concerning its application. The unions are happy with this agreement, stating that it is a great innovation in terms of European-level board-level worker representation and a significant milestone in terms of improving communications between worker representatives at all levels throughout the Aventis group. IG BCE head Hubertus Schmoldt, who is also the president of EMCEF, described the deal as a "viable compromise". Jürgen Dormann, chair of the Aventis management board and Jean-René Foutou, vice-chair, stated that the agreement "is a new signal of successful European cooperation between the social partners at Aventis. It has been achieved through negotiation, with no legal obligation to do so, and demonstrates the common willingness of the social partners to establish a positive dialogue within our group."

The agreement was due to be formally approved at the Aventis annual general meeting of shareholders on 21 May 2001.

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