Workers' participation Special Edition of the ETUC newsletter
Restructuring and anticipation of change
It is time to strengthen workers’ participation now
The ETUC, together with the European Trade Union Federations, has over the last two decades been actively involved in the EU-level debate on how to improve framework conditions for trade unions, employee representatives and individual employees in the context of corporate restructuring.
This concerns the anticipation as well as the handling and management of restructuring operations both at national and cross-border level. Through trade union-run studies and cooperation projects, in bilateral as well as trilateral dialogue contexts and events at EU level, European unions have stressed the need for a substantial strengthening of workers’ rights in order to bring about the fair management of corporate restructuring and strengthen the capacity to anticipate change.
In the context of its project ‘ETUC Action on Workers’ Participation’, in 2015 and 2016 the ETUC carried out a number of activities on the issue of restructuring. For example, a high-level event with ETUC national affiliates as well as ETUFs held in Lisbon in June 2015, and a background report on the issue strongly showed that the existing legislative framework is not sufficient, especially in light of new challenges resulting from disruptive changes triggered by digitalisation.
Peter Scherrer, ETUC Deputy General Secretary, has called for a fresh start for workers’ information, consultation and participation: “For the quantity and the quality of jobs to be secured, workers’ representatives at local, national and European levels as well as on corporate boards must receive early and adequate information and be in a position to present alternative plans. This is why the ETUC is campaigning for a strengthening of workers’ rights, and calls for the adoption of a horizontal Directive which would establish a new integrated architecture for workers’ involvement.”
Evidence shows that well-functioning workers’ involvement at board level helps companies to perform better, also in the context of managing change and restructuring.
The ETUC would like to assure trade unionists that nothing will change with EWCs during Brexit negotiations which are supposed to take at least 2 years after the triggering of article 50.
Even more important is the fact that the EWC Directive has been transposed into British law and the current legislation will be the reference unless, after Brexit, the British repeals or modifies it. So the ETUC hopes that all British colleagues in EWCs will also in future be able to do their necessary work.
The European Quality Framework for anticipation of change and restructuring: Totally insufficient
Is this the future of work in Europe? Restructuring is a day to day business for many European Works Councils, national works councils, shop stewards and other worker representatives. The ETUC has already argued that the European Commission’s ‘EU Quality Framework for anticipation of change and restructuring’ is not the right way to deal with restructuring, but merely represents a “wishful thinking” approach that is based totally on voluntary action. In a near future, the Commission has a new opportunity to be more helpful by proposing an improvement of the EWC Directive which is currently under review. The Commission was supposed to deliver its view in June 2016 but has been delayed. The ETUC hopes that around the annual EWC conference 2016 the Commission will make its proposals.
European Works Councils: Too few are able to deal with restructuring in an adequate way
A survey of EWC trade union coordinators, conducted in the context of the project ‘ETUC Action for Workers’ Participation’ in collaboration with industriAll, UNI Europe, EFFAT, EPSU, EFBWW and ETF, between autumn 2015 and spring 2016, shows that dealing with transnational restructuring is the most important task and challenge for EWCs. The survey demonstrates that EWCs, as the only transnational bodies for workers’ representation, information and consultation, can provide a real added value for workers’ and companies’ interests. However, it also underlines that the majority of EWCs are still not functioning well and that the legislative framework needs improvement.
ETUC orientation for a new framework on information, consultation and board-level representation rights
An extraordinary ETUC Executive Committee adopted the first part of an ETUC position paper on a new EU framework on information, consultation and board-level representation rights on 13 April 2016. The second part was adopted on 9 June 2016, making up the full ETUC position.
ETUC opposes SUP, (single member company), raising risk of more ‘Panama’-like letterbox companies in Europe
For the first time the European Commission has tabled a proposal for a European company form without any provision on workers’ participation. On the contrary, the SUP could be used to avoid workers’ participation. That is one of the main reasons the ETUC opposes the SUP proposal. But there are other reasons: in open letter to the European Parliament warning that thousands of letterbox entities were set up in Panama as a result of letting companies register a head office in a different location to where their economic activity took place and profit was generated. Such a "split seat” approach is expressly allowed in the proposed SUP.
The ETUC is pleased to invite EWC members to its annual conference on European Works Councils
This conference will take place on 12 and 13 October 2016 in the International Trade Union House, Brussels. There are two main topics of this 2016 conference:
1. State of play: from EWC recast to EWC review. What is the Commission’s point of view and what is the perspective of European federations and national trade unions?
2. How to shape successful EWC practice in the digital age? EWCs in the digital age: new work organisation, new technologies, data protection, right to be disconnected, platform crowdwork, etc.