Building Transnational Collective Identity in Internationalized Boards: The Experience of Worker Directors in German Societas Europaea

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Board-level employee representation (BLER) exists in at least 14 countries of the European Economic Area, although with different institutional features, social practice and functions. The European Company (Societas Europaea, or SE) Statute and its Directive on employee involvement introduced the possibility to internationalise BLER. Other routes also enable workers’ directors from different countries to gather in a single board, but despite its still limited social impact (67 SEs have BLER), the implementation of the SE Directive undoubtedly promoted this trend.

The phenomenon rises several socio-political questions, but scholars in European industrial relations have paid more attention to the development of European Works Councils as transnational industrial relation’s institution with longer and wider practice. Indeed, studies from different disciplines and methodologies contributed to broaden our knowledge about actors’ practices, roles and the processes towards building a transnational identity in this arena. Conversely, the existing literature on BLER mainly enquired into the causal effects of workers’ involvement in performance, corporate governance, and macro-social indicators, revealing a strong econometric bias.

BLER as a European IR institution remains largely unexplored from an actor-centred focus interested in understanding its social function and practice, with its underlying conflicts, uses and understandings. This paper addresses the gap by questioning how worker directors do experience their mandate in internationalized boards of German SEs. The aim is to uncover discourses and processes of interaction influencing the emergence of a specific transnational collective actor and identity within internationalized BLER.

As methodology, we draw on a ten case-study selection of internationalised German SEs boards (with at least three countries mandated on the workers’ side), and conduct an interpretive analysis of thirty semi-structured interviews to German representatives and worker directors mandated in foreign subsidiaries. Additional documental sources are also analysed as contextual support, such as board annual reports and SE agreements.