Workplace rights: Works councils boost

This year, concerted moves will be made to bolster EU laws on worker involvement in multinational companies, as the European Commission develops proposals to revise the 1994 European Works Council (EWC) directive.

by Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors -e-mail: employment@lewissilkin.com
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

This requires most multinationals with more than 1,000 employees within the continent to have a consultative body on 'transnational' issues. Many of the 850 or so firms that have set up an EWC would dismiss it as an expensive and time-consuming talking shop, but that could all change. The reforms could lead to increased interference by EWCs in strategic management decisions like job losses and plant closures. Companies may, for example, be obliged to consult on such issues earlier on and 'with a view to seeking agreement' - a requirement more akin to negotiation than mere dialogue. This might entail more frequent EWC meetings and greater scope for worker representatives to stall corporate decision-making. Clearer rights for EWCs to take legal action against companies for alleged information and consultation failures are also on the cards. The Commission is likely to press ahead with draft legislation. European trade union and employers' bodies may have a chance to hammer out a deal on revising the EWC directive.

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