Frame for a new EWC
breakthrough on Chantilly Castle
the exerted pressure of the French Minister of Labour Xavier Bertrand
the leading associations of trade unions and employers took a decision
of general principle at a European level which will influence the
further course of the revision procedure of the EWC Directive
substantially. At a conference of the Labour and Social Affairs
Ministers of the EU on July 10th and 11th, 2008 in the Castle of
Chantilly north of Paris (photo), the headquarters of the French army
in the first World War, they accepted the bill of the European
Commission as a base.
the summer break there were intensive discussions between the social
partners to overcome the remaining differences. On August 29th, 2008,
they presented to the public a common recommendation with eight
concrete wording suggestions which shall be changed in the bill.
However this change little in the core of the basic philosophy of the
outline. More important is the fact that with this joint recommendation
all sides have politically accepted a revision of the EWC Directive in
the suggested scale.
as they were formulated by the employers' federations or
further-reaching demands of the trade unions (see report in EWC
News 2/2008) will hardly play any role. Since it isn't a full
revision of the EWC Directive but merely a "recast" (a restatement of
the existing Directive) as originally planned, the influence
possibilities of the European Parliament are strongly restricted. On
October 2nd, 2008 the bill was again on the agenda of the meeting of EU
Ministers of Labour in Luxembourg. They declared in view of the joint
recommendation of the social partners for the fast adoption of the
changed Directive. A meeting takes place in Lyon for the transnational
social dialog on November 13th and 14th, 2008 where the topic is
discussed publicly once again.
of the British government caused unrest
the conservative French government is actively promoting a fast
revision of the EWC Directive, an internal paper of the
social-democratic British government caused unrest among trade unions.
Fundamental British doubts ("UK Concerns") are listed there: the
competitiveness of EU companies is in danger if European works councils
could hinder the implementation of restructurings. A rigorous impact
assessment of the amendment of the law is demanded.
British government warns of a setback for the European works councils
if the legislator limits the flexibility of the business parties too
much. This could deter many companies from the formation of an EWC,
which don't have any EWC till now yet. An over-regulation would
actually weaken the employee voice on a transnational level. Labour
Party representatives in the European Parliament however do not share
this liberal opinion, they stand behind the demands of the trade unions.
British lobby work behind the scenes, however, couldn't prevent the
joint recommendation of the social partners from August 29th, 2008.
Therefore the British Department for Business, Enterprise and
Regulatory Reform (BERR) reacted promptly and published a consultation
paper on September 11th, 2008. Until October 6th, 2008, British
companies can transmit their opinion, which then is given effect by the
British government in the European Council of Ministers.
assessment of the European Commission
be prepared for such objections, the European Commission worked out an
impact assessment of its own for the revision of the EWC Directive. The
document was published in July 2008.
unions present memorandum
European trade union institute in Brussels published a scientific
memorandum for the revision of the EWC Directive on August 26th, 2008.
Based on current experiences concrete recommendations are formulated to
to the new EWC Directive: What comes towards us there?
EWC members are still uncertain about the legal consequences of the
revision of the Directive and would like to design their current EWC
agreement on the basis of the new legal situation. Works council
members who still have the EWC foundation ahead also would like to
early include the new regulations in their considerations. A number of
questions will also arise for lawyers after the adoption of the new EWC
Directive at the end of the year 2008. The training and consultancy
network " euro-workscouncil.net " offers the opportunity on
January 26th, 2009 on a symposium in Hamburg to discuss the
new legal situation in detail with experts from Brussels as well as
from Germany with theoretical and practical background.
symposium is carried out in German. Interested parties in other
languages are invited to contact us directly for the purpose of
Calculation: How much
does an EWC meeting cost?
Study estimates costs
of the EWC work
behalf of the European Commission the consultancy firm GHK Consulting
from London conducted between January and April 2008 telephone
interviews in 70 companies, which have a European works council.
Amongst them were 14 French companies as well as ten each with
headquarters in Germany and the UK. Meanwhile the final report, which
exactly estimates all costs a European works council causes is
a plenary session of an EWC costs on average € 101,000 and
reaches in the individual case € 370,000. Half of it is being
allotted to travelling expenses (15%), interpreters (22%), hotel and
catering (15%). The continued payment of wages of the workers'
representatives is calculated with 29%. The costs of the steering
committee come to on an average € 25,700, what contains three
annual meetings. A further education for the complete EWC costs
€ 43,800. Even higher costs cause the SE works councils, so
the name of the European works council in the European Company (SE).
The "most expensive" EWC meetings carry out French companies, followed
by German companies, while the EWC costs are less than half as high in
British and non-European companies. It can hardly astonish that the
quality of EWC participation rights is also developed differently.
time of the managers a part of EWC costs
participation of employer representatives in EWC meetings makes an
impact with 14% in the calculation. This isn't travelling expenses but
merely around the working time. As a rule, the CEO reports together
with further managers of the topmost executive level in an EWC plenum
meeting. It is reported in the study that in some enterprises up to 13
managers report in the EWC meeting. On today’s usual top
salaries a four-hour Powerpoint presentation of the management can
therefore drive the budgeted costs of an EWC quickly into dazzling
height. This may also be one of the reasons why the legally specified
minimum number of EWC meetings shall not be increased in the opinion of
the employers' federations.
adviser costs in French companies
be able to meet the policy units of multinational companies on a par,
workers' representatives need good advisers. The costs for it amount in
non-French companies on € 3,500, in French companies however
on € 143,700 and in the individual case up to €
500,000 every year. These numbers show why French councils
significantly exhaust their information and consultation rights (if
necessary also by legal proceedings) better than councils of other
countries. Even well equipped German
catch-up demand in this (see report in EWC
cost differences are easily explained: as a rule, a European works
council outside France is advised by a full-time trade union officer
who doesn't bill for his activity. On the other hand, there is only
little full-time trade union machinery in France which hardly is able
to guarantee the continuous advice of a variety of EWC bodies. This gap
is closed by private consultancy companies like the Groupe Alpha or
Syndex. An additional difference: the EWC in many big German companies
has employed subject specialists on a regular basis at its disposal who
aren't credited as adviser costs although they do the same work.
British government also has checked more exactly
British Department for Business BERR adds the annual costs for a
European works council up on about £ 137,000 (€
176,000). By the planned change of the EWC Directive they will increase
to £ 215,000 (€ 277,000). The meeting of a special
negotiation body (SNB) of the duration of a day is valued with about
£ 62,000 (€ 80,000).
market crisis: a coordinated EWC action started
special meetings in 51 European works councils
current bank crisis will destroy up to 200,000 jobs of the financial
community in North America and Europe in the opinion of the finance
section of the confederation of service sector trade unions (UNI). To
analyse the consequences for every single company, UNI Finance has
demanded special meetings in a circular to members of 51 European works
councils on September 30th, 2008. They shall take place within a few
the opinion of UNI Finance the finance market crisis is a situation of
extraordinary circumstances, which seriously concern the interests of
the employees. The current EWC Directive provides the right to special
meetings for it. UNI Finance publishes up-to-date reports on the crisis
from a trade union viewpoint on a special web page.
Finance put forward a list of requirements for the better supervision
of finance institutes and rating agencies already in September 2007 and
pointed to the ethical and social dimension of the financial crisis.
After the crisis had intensified, UNI Finance demanded a better
regulation of the finance markets in May 2008 once more. The European
Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) voiced in favour of fairness and
determined behaviour at a meeting in London on September 27th, 2008.
connection with this, there are great differences on how social
responsibility is practised in individual banks and insurances.
According to an UNI study from the year 2007 the enterprises Barclays,
Dexia, KBC and Nordea are good examples whereas companies like
Generali, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS or West LB are regarded as
specially bad examples. Many banks and insurances, among this Deutsche
Bank, Axa or UniCredit, are in the midfield.
examples from the industry
September 29th, 2008 the British building society Bradford
& Bingley was nationalized and the savings business
with all the 200 branch offices was taken over by the Spanish bank
Santander. This had already taken over the British bank
Abbey National in 2004 and thus became the largest bank of
the euro zone. There wasn't an EWC with Bradford & Bingley yet,
the staff is in future represented by the European works council of the
Santander group, which was founded in 2005.
September 18th, 2008 the British bank Lloyds TSB
announced the take-over of the largest British building society
HBOS which had come into being in 2001 from the merger of
Halifax and Bank of Scotland. The new group will have a market
dominating position. As a result of the merger from the about 130,000
employees up to 40,000 will lose their job. Since 1999, Lloyds TSB has
a European works council which meets in London once a year. Its members
come from Britain, Germany, Spain, France, the Benelux countries and
Switzerland. The tax havens Gibraltar and Monaco also send a workers'
representative respectively. HBOS didn't have an EWC till now yet.
insurance group Allianz and Commerzbank agreed on
the sale of the Dresdner Bank on August 31st,
2008. Until now the staff is represented by the SE works council of the
Allianz SE (see report in EWC News 3/2006), in future the European
works council of Commerzbank will be responsible for them. The merger
of the two banks will most likely cost 9,000 jobs. The following texts
are available only in German:
redundancy scheme was signed in the Swiss big bank UBS
on July 28th, 2008. 5,500 workplaces shall be cut as a result of the
finance market crisis, half of this in Switzerland. But the downsizing
doesn't come to an end yet, central management announced the reduction
of further 2,000 jobs on October 3rd, 2008, this time particularly in
the UK. Till now, there isn't a European works council at UBS yet
although the company is represented in 21 European countries and is
part of the leading finance institutes worldwide.
became known on July 12th, 2008 that the U.S. Citigroup sells its
German branch offices as result of the finance market crisis to the
French co-operative bank Crédit Mutuelle.
This is steered from Strasbourg, has their main emphasis in the Alsace,
in Lorraine and in the Burgundy and is regarded as a preferential
partner for the administration of social funds by French works
councils. The 6,800 German Citibank employees
aren't represented by the European works council of Citibank in future
any more. Till now, there isn't a transnational employee representation
at Crédit Mutuelle yet although the bank is already
represented in Belgium, Luxembourg, the UK and Switzerland.
Restructurings in further lines of business
violates repeatedly the EWC Directive
European Metalworkers’ Federation (EMF) together with the
European works council founded a trade union coordination committee for
Siemens at a meeting in Brussels on July 17th, 2008 to plan Europe-wide
actions against the announced downsizing. Such committees have already
proven of value in other companies in addition to the work of the EWC
particularly at heavy restructurings (see report in EWC News 2/2005).
On July 22nd, 2008 the EMF addressed EU Commissioner
Vladimír Špidla in an open letter complaining the
violation of the EWC Directive by Siemens management.
19th August 2008, the new Siemens committee experienced its first test
during its second meeting in Prague where the work for rail vehicles
shall be closed or sold. With the presence of 25 representatives from
eleven countries and a strike on 20th August 2008 it was possible for
the Czech works council to obtain an agreement on guidelines with the
plant management on 25th August 2008. IG Metall was also represented
with a delegation so that the same standards apply to redundancy scheme
negotiations abroad as of Siemens in Germany.
announced in the press on September 19th, 2008 to close the plant in
Thessaloniki (Greece) with 240 employees to October 31st, 2008. Neither
the local nor the European works council had been informed before, what
is a clear violation of the EWC Directive -- comparable to the case
stripping of Continental?
After the take-over of
Continental by the family
company Schaeffler an employment guarantee was agreed on August 22nd,
2008. Until 2014 no group parts shall be sold or locations closed,
participation in the present form shall continue. The following texts
are available only in German:
this agreement binds
only the new owner and not the management who meanwhile announced
restructurings. So Continental has got a new structure since September
30th, 2008 with only two divisions: the automotive and the rubber
division. It is speculated in the press that the rubber division could
be sold and automotive merge with the corresponding division of
Schaeffler. With that the agreement of August 22nd, 2008 would be
the take-over of the majority of shares the future of the Continental
European works council also is in question. The minimum requirements of
the EWC Directive provide only for a single council for the entire
group, in this case Schaeffler, after such fusions and don't recognize
any division representation. While Continental has an European forum
already since 1992 and was one of the first German companies, after
Volkswagen, with a transnational employee representation at that time,
an EWC agreement was signed at Schaeffler only in October 2007 (see report in EWC
new Schaeffler EWC constituted itself during a meeting in Schweinfurt
(Germany) on June 16th and 17th, 2008. At present, both European works
councils exist besides each other. A merger of two European works
councils, however, doesn't always go harmoniously, as the discussions
about Porsche and Volkswagen show (see report in
EWC News 2/2007). And: there isn't any workers'
representative in the Schaeffler supervisory board since it is a family
company. The following texts are available only in German:
shall lead into
September 25th, 2008 the European works councils of Hewlett-Packard
(HP) and Electronic Data Systems (EDS) met in London for a joint
special meeting to get informed about the planned reduction in staff as
a result of the merger. In opinion of the workers' representatives
there isn't any financial necessity for the cut of 7.5% of all jobs.
They demand an honest consultation procedure from central management,
which shall lead into negotiations about an Europe-wide redundancy
scheme. HP becomes the worldwide second largest IT-Service provider by
the take-over of EDS behind IBM. In 2005 a considerable downsizing had
already taken place at HP (see report in EWC News 3/2005). Both U.S.
companies have an EWC according to Belgian law since 1996. The two
councils will soon be amalgamated.
protest against plant closure
unilateral announcement of the central management in Paris to close the
Valeo light plant in Kronach (Bavaria) with 310 employees and to shift
the production into other works in France, Poland and Spain the
European works council of the French motorcar supplier founded in 1999
ran for the first time an Europe-wide protest day. On September 30th,
2008 walkouts in Kronach (photo) and in other German locations, in
France, Spain, Italy and Czechia took place to protest against the
closure. The following texts are available only in German:
Foundation of European works councils
French Post Office founds EWC
for the package division
On May 13th and 14th, 2008 the
European works council for GeoPost, the package division of the French
La Poste, constituted itself in Paris. Most important foreign daughter
is the German parcel service (DPD).
EWC consists of three members each from France and Germany, two from
the UK and one each from Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain,
Portugal, Greece, Czechia, Poland and Lithuania. Switzerland has an
observer status. Since it is a French agreement, the chairmanship lies
with the employer. The steering committee consists of five members: the
secretary comes from France, its deputy from Germany, further members
are from Spain, Belgium and Czechia. Plenum meetings take place twice
for French agreements is the exact frame for the time-off: The
secretary of the EWC gets 120 hours per annum, the members of the
steering committee 60 hours and all other EWC members 20 hours in
addition to the participation in meetings. Per annum a training day is
scheduled. The preparations for the EWC foundation were supported by
the training and consultancy network " euro-workscouncil.net " (see
report in EWC News 4/2006).
French EWC agreement in the
electronics company Safran
EWC agreement was signed for the 42,000 European employees of Safran in
Paris on July 4th, 2008. The French group resulting from a merger in
2005 produces mainly aeroplane and armour electronics. An European
works council which had been formed at Snecma, one of the two
predecessor companies, in 2001 is dissolved now.
new EWC will consist of 25
members, amongst them nine from France, two each from Belgium, Germany
and the UK and one each for the other ten countries. They meet under
the chairmanship of the employer once a year. Special meetings take
place if as a result of a measure at least 1,000 employees are
concerned in more than one country. In all other cases the steering
committee is responsible, this consist of five members, three come from
outside of France. The steering committee has a budget of €
25,000 for interpreters and experts and of € 8,000 for
travelling expenses at its disposal in addition to the costs of the
plenum meetings. The secretary of the EWC gets eleven days time-off,
the members of the steering committee six days and all other EWC
members one day per annum in addition to the participation in the
meetings. Every EWC member can take ten days study leave for language
An Italian helicopter producer
EWC agreement was signed for the company AgustaWestland according to
Italian law in Farnborough (UK) on July 17th, 2008. The European forum
consists of eight workers' representatives each from Italy and the UK.
A six-headed select committee leads the business between the annual
plenum meeting. AgustaWestland is a daughter of the Italian armour
group Finmeccanica which still hasn't established any EWC.
negotiations after splitting off
EWC agreement was signed for Wabco in Brussels on October 1st, 2008.
The U.S. company produces braking systems and was until 2007 a
subsidiary of American Standard, where an European works council
existed since 2001.
After the start on the stock
exchange Wabco gets an
EWC of its own now. Although the agreement is subject to Belgian law
(works councils are equal committees in Belgium), the Wabco EWC only
consists of workers' representatives. It meets once a year and chooses
a steering committee of five, which meet with central management three
times a year. Special meetings take place if by a change of business 50
jobs are concerned in at least two countries. The main features of the
agreement are strongly orientated at the old rules of American Standard
(see report in
EWC News 1/2007).
texts of numerous EWC agreements are available on a download
Adjustment of old EWC agreements
Australian raw material group accepts EWC agreement
Since June 4th, 2008, Rio Tinto
has an European works council according to French law which also
contains Switzerland besides the European single market. The raw
material group took the Canadian aluminium group of Alcan in July 2007
whose most important European production centres lie in France and
Switzerland (see report
in EWC News 2/2007). Many regulations of the EWC agreement of
Alcan which had been negotiated after numerous fusions in March 2006
(see report in EWC News 2/2006) are valid for the entire group Rio
extended finance committee took work
On June 19th, 2008 an agreement
was reached for the French car manufacturer PSA
Peugeot-Citroën, which extends the equal finance committee of
the group which was accessible to only the French workers'
representatives till now to Germany, the UK and Spain. Business
alterations and consequences for the personnel policy shall be
discussed there early ("Anticipation of change"). The finance committee
is an addition to the activity of the European works council and its
select committee. It met for the first time in the extended composition
on July 1st, 2008 and among other things dealt with the product
plannings of the group and the development of the business in Germany.
Peugeot-Citroën had strongly been under union
criticism in summer 2006 when the closure of a British factory with
2,300 employees was announced without consultation of the European
works council (see report in EWC News 2/2006). The equal finance
committee shall help to prevent such unilateral management decisions.
EWC agreement suspended
We usually report
about the foundation of European works councils in EWC News, sometimes
there are however also opposite developments. An EWC which had been
formed according to Dutch law in the machine assembly company Milacron
in 2000 was abolished again now. The U.S. company sunk below the
threshold of 1,000 employees in Europe and therefore doesn't fall into
the scope of the EWC Directive any more. On February 13th, 2008 central
management and European works council reached an agreement to rest the
EWC agreement as long as the staff has reached the legal threshold
Preliminary stage to the world works council
May 22nd and 23rd, 2008, 90 workers' representatives of the drink group
met for their second conference in the NGG education centre in
Oberjosbach nearby Frankfurt am Main (Germany). They founded an
alliance for the worldwide 600,000 Coca-Cola employees, a kind of
precursor to a world works council. The alliance is led by a steering
committee to which representatives from all continents belong and which
meets twice every year with central management in the USA. A
representative of the central management from Atlanta took also part at
the conference in Oberjosbach and faced the questions of the delegates
from 32 countries. Trade unions and central management had come to an
agreement to carry out regular meetings in 2005.
meeting of the Tesco trade unions
Workers' representatives of the British retail
chain Tesco from twelve countries met in Nyon (Switzerland) on June
18th, 2008 to form a network. The aim is not only the formation of a
global dialog forum with central management but also the formation of a
European works council, which would embrace the UK, Ireland, Czechia,
Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. Tesco is market leader in the United
Kingdom and number three in Europe.
A Danish bank
framework agreement which guarantees worldwide social standards in all
branch offices was signed for Danske Bank in Copenhagen on September
9th, 2008. The Danish bank had replaced the EWC agreement in December
2007 and goes far beyond the minimum requirements of the EU Directive.
At present, an EU project on strengthening of the cooperation in the
EWC is carried out (see report in
EWC News 1/2008).
to the Directive on European works councils the Directive on workers
participation in the European Company (SE), which was adopted in 2001
also arranges in article 15 for an obligatory audit namely 8th of
October 2008. On 30th of September 2008 the European Commission in
Brussels informed that this is postponed to 2009 and will be dealt with
after the new election of the European parliament and the Commission.
"Freezing" of participation
named as a problem
a German company grows
beyond the threshold of 2,000 employees, then the supervisory board is
appointed by workers' representatives to 50%. Whereas when a German SE
grows beyond this threshold it stays with a third participation of the
employees in the supervisory board. The SE Directive safeguards the
size of the participation only on the scale as it is at the time of the
SE foundation. A customization is missing for the time after that. More
and more companies meanwhile use this "loophole" to avoid growing
employee participation and transform themselves into a SE. This
possibility is pointed to specifically in the German economy press (see
in EWC News 2/2008).
expert group engaged by the
European Commission has recognized this problem by now and suggests a
customization of the SE Directive. Similar problems also can appear at
the foundation of a SE which doesn't employ any worker and buys up
companies with bigger staff later. There is even a considerable number
of stockpile foundations meanwhile, that is a company shell without
business activity. The example Volkswagen shows how difficult a legal
contestation of a SE agreement is (see report in
EWC News 2/2007).
example: Pump manufacturer avoids an equal supervisory board
The pump manufacturer Wilo from Dortmund
(Germany) has enrolled as an European Company (SE) since July 24th,
2008. A participation agreement which confirms a one-third
participation of the employees in the supervisory board had been signed
on July 1st, 2008 a few days before. Wilo has worldwide 6,000
employees, in Germany almost 1.900. The company can avoid an equally
occupied German supervisory board, which is legally binding as of 2,000
employees, by transforming into a SE. According to existing SE law the
status quo (here the German one-third participation) is confirmed for
With the SE transformation the European
works council existing since 1996 is also transformed into a SE works
council. This meets once a year and covers the European single market
(all EU countries as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, not
however Switzerland). It chooses a select committee of five. Wilo has
production centres in Germany, France and Ireland. The countries with
small staff are combined to groups, these vote for regional
representatives. The SE works council has an access right to all sites
company from the Black Forest as SE
SE agreement was signed for the textile company Gütermann with
seat in Gutach (Germany) on May 16th, 2008. The company has locations
in Europe in Germany, Spain and Switzerland. The transformation into a
SE was carried out on June 14th, 2008. There wasn't any European works
council with Gütermann till now, the SE works council will be
the first transnational employee representation.
9. Euro zone and
changeover in Slovakia
The currency area of the Euro
will include additional five million people on January 1st, 2009: The
European single currency replaces the Crown in Slovakia. The country
has mastered the criteria for the joining with bravado. Slovakia
recorded an economic growth of over ten per cent in 2007 which
corresponds to almost Chinese conditions. As the first country in
Eastern Europe Slovenia joined the euro zone already on January 1st,
2007 (see report in the EWC News 3/2006).
Switzerland abolishes border
controls to the EU
On September 26th, 2008 the EU
agreed to Switzerland joining the Schengen agreement. Most likely in
December 2008 all identity checks with the EU at the borders of
Switzerland will be abolished. The country gets the same status as
Norway and Iceland. However, the accession to the Schengen agreement is
the reason, that the border between Switzerland and Liechtenstein is
controlled for the first time since 1923 (24 hour video supervision).
The principality is the only remaining not Schengen country in whole
on December 21st, 2007 the circle of the states which do without
controls at their common borders had increased from 9 to 24. Since then
all middle and Eastern European EU countries with the exception of
Romania, Bulgaria and South-Cyprus belong to the Schengen zone. By
travelling in Europe one must only show his passport when going to the
United Kingdom, to Ireland, onto the Balkans or further east. Between
Athens and Reykjavik, between Lisbon and Riga there is a boundless
freedom of movement. The joining of Liechtenstein and South-Cyprus will
be carried out in 2009 or 2010.
Interesting web pages
European works council of the
insurance group of Axa
With a lively sound visitors
are welcomed on the new internet page of the European works council of
the French insurance group of Axa. After the take-over of the Swiss
insurance Winterthur in December 2006 (see report in
EWC News 1/2007) it has increased to 61 members and thus
belongs to the larger EWC bodies. The web page is available in several
The web page " who-buys-whom "
is a current German-language news service for company take-overs. All
relevant reports are provided on the initial page and are callable also
to lines of business. Moreover, the profile can be investigated by
investors (e.g. Private Equity companies).
Social dialog in the Baltic
The EU financed trade union
project " BalticTU.NET " devotes itself to the development of the
employee participation in the branch offices of Scandinavian companies
in the three Baltic states. The main emphases are on the retail trade,
in the hotel industry, telecommunications, and in the finance sector.
The European works council is also one of the topics dealt with.
Country comparison to social law
protection at illness, pension or unemployment is very differently
regulated in individual EU member states. The information system MISSOC
provides explanation and offers overview displays for single countries,
an online query mask and regular analyses for every single EU country.
have arranged numerous further interesting links in a link