Members of the European Parliament are set to vote on a legislative initiative report on the Revision of the European Works Council (EWC) Directive. UNI Europa, together with sister European Trade Union Federations, is calling on them to vote in favour and adopt the report.
European Works Councils are vital. The aim of these structures is to have workers’ involvement in the strategic decision-making process of the multinational they work for. When properly implemented, they can play a crucial role in protecting workers’ rights, ensuring companies’ and public services’ long-term sustainability and fair anticipation and management of change. Dialogue at the level of a European Works Council is instrumental to tackle challenges of a de facto transnational nature, such as digitalisation, decarbonisation and the now emerging industrial impacts of the war in Ukraine and the energy price crisis. Democracy at work also paves the way for democracy in our societies, which is all the more necessary at a time of rising populism and far-right political ideas.
In practice though, compliance to the letter and spirit of European law for workers’ information, consultation and participation is not always secured, nor are sanctions effective or strong enough to discourage non-compliance by management. There are currently fines in place as low as €23 (Malta) or €30 (Lithuania) per worker for billion-revenue multinational companies which breach the rights of their EWC. The enforceability of basic EWC rights is too often a challenge, as it remains almost impossible, in many cases, to defend EWC rights before the courts.
MEP Dennis Radtke’s report calls for a better implementation of the legal framework, asking for basic requirements such as proper sanctions, including the temporary suspension of a management decision when information and consultation requirements are disrespected; as well as a clearer definition of transnational matters and effective access to justice for EWCs and Special Negotiating Bodies (SNBs). Building upon multiple research evidence which demonstrates the positive effect of trade union support on the operation of EWCs, Radtke’s report also promotes trade union experts assisting EWCs.
The vote at the European Parliament was scheduled to be held on 19 January. It has now been postponed. UNI Europa is determined to see this vote and this vital legislation through.