We strive to work together with employee representatives and trade unions on the basis of partnership. Our system of employee representation in Germany is two-tiered, consisting of works councils in the decentralised units and a central works council for the Group as a whole. In addition, for some years now, Linde has had a European Works Council, currently with 24 members, which is responsible for cross-regional issues. Regional-level works councils are in place in other countries. In our Greater China region, for example, more than 90 percent of the workforce is represented by labour unions.
Activities during the reporting year included the conclusion of a new company framework agreement for a pay scale area in Germany. This agreement covers rules on working hours which take into account the different life stages in employees' careers. Every year, three or four meetings are held between the Group works council and company representatives.
Employee satisfaction is a key factor in our success. Open feedback from our staff enables managers and the Group to continue to develop. In 2013, we introduced a large number of measures in response to the findings from the global employee survey conducted during the previous year. These measures focused, for example, on communication between managers and their staff, and individual career planning. In Africa for example, we set up focus groups in which employees from different business areas discuss various aspects of our corporate culture. Plans are in place for a third global employee survey in 2014.
employee suggestions for improvement implemented in China
Our employees are encouraged to use their experience and skills to come up with ideas for further improvements. In 2013, employees submitted their suggestions on such areas as optimising products, improving efficiency, providing better customer service and increasing employee commitment. In Germany, bonuses were awarded for around 80 employee suggestions in the reporting year. In our Greater China region, employees have submitted more than 200 suggestions since 2011, 80 of which had been implemented in practice by the end of 2013. Estimated cost savings of around EUR 5 million were made as a result.