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European Works Councils

European Works Councils (EWCs) are forums for transnational workers solidarity. EWCs can influence multinational companies´ decisions when they are grounded in a strong trade union network.

The EFBWW supports EWCs with support and practical advice.The EFBWW – together with the other European  sectoral trade union federation und the ETUC – demands a revision of the EU´s EWC directive in order to strengthen the rights of EWCs.

Where can workers in transnational companies commonly defend their rights and interests beyond national borders? In a European Works Council. In the construction and wood sectors there are about 80 active EWCs. The EFBWW provides them with support and practical advice

EWC´s rights - Information and consultation

In the EU´s internal market, multinational companies in the construction, building materials and wood sectors employ a large workforce. Thus, it is paramount for workers and trade unions to make solidarity a European reality. In an EWC, workers have the right to be informed and consulted about developments and decisions of the company.

The workers from all EU countries in which the company is active should be represented in the EWC. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for national trade unions to appoint EWC members when seats are given to a country. The stronger the presence of trade unions in the EWCs, the better the conditions to influence the strategies of multinational companies. Solidarity of workers can be accomplished if a structured trade union network exists. Moreover, especially for trade unions coming from Central and Eastern Europe, EWCs can be an additional opportunity to recruit and organise members.

The topics EWCs can discuss with management are numerous. Just to name a few: The trend of employment, investments, new working methods, health and safety, subcontracting, transfers of production, mergers, cut-backs or closures of undertakings, or collective redundancies.

Legal background and additional information

EWC agreements are concluded and implemented on the basis of EU directive 2009/38/EC and according to the law of the country in which the company has its main seat. Workers have the right to an EWC when a transnational company employees at least 1000 employees, of which at least 150 work in two states each. Unfortunately, some EWC agreements are still governed by the old EU directive 94/45/EC, which gives lesser rights to the workers.

If an EWC operates within a company based on a European Company Statute (Societas Europea or SE) according to Directive 2001/86/EC workers might also have the right to participation in management boards. However, these rights depend on the rights of the works council(s) that existed before the company was transformed or merged into an SE.

Overall, roughly 1100 EWCs have been established since the early 1980s when the first EWC directive of the European Union came into force. The EWC database of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) provides comprehensive up-to-date information on EWCs, including existing EWC agreements, legal analysis, court cases, history and statistics.