Directive 2009/38/EC lays down rights for the information and consultation of employee representatives in community-scale undertakings and groups of community-scale undertakings on transnational issues. The EFBWW supports workers’ representatives in European Works Councils (EWC) from the building, building materials, cement and woodworking sectors through a network of EWC coordinators and by providing know how and expertise. This also enables the EFBWW to gain first-hand understanding of the difficulties and challenges that EWC representatives face in their role, as well as of the
positive experiences and expectations they have for the future to further improve their capabilities and the outcomes of their work.
Information and consultation rights are the core of EWC work. However, far too often the procedures for information and consultation are underdeveloped and not fully taken advantage of. Consequently, many EWCs are reduced to minimal and formalistic information exchange with little added value to workers or the company. This can have different reasons which can be found for example in the lack of awareness of information and consultation rights at European level, in the limited understanding of the transnational nature of specific topics on the side of management and workers’ representatives or due to cultural
differences in industrial relations between member states. In order to overcome these differences it is important to foster a targeted approach to information and consultation that addresses transnational issues in a mutually beneficial way to benefit workers and companies.
One development in this area concerns a growing number of companies and groups of companies that show an interest in developing common approaches across the EU to issuesthat are traditionally dealt with at national level such as health and safety, demographic change, skills and qualifications, and subcontracting, which adds an increasingly transnational character to these issues that can have tangible consequences for the workforce in these companies. Accordingly workers’ representatives have an interest in mproving their cooperation across borders on such issues by using their rights to
information and consultation more effectively. EWCs in particular should be involved in this process and serve as an existing forum for transnational cooperation between workers’ representatives. The aim of the current project is to improve the capacity of trade union and workers’ representatives in EWCs to engage in a meaningful information and consultation procedure at European level on a wider range of topics.
Previous EFBWW projects and other activities have been dedicated to some of the urgent challenges facing the building, building materials, cement and woodworking sectors in Europe today. One example of this comes from a previous EFBWW project, which studied the information and consultation process in case of mergers and acquisitions based on a case study in the building materials sector. The project identified a number of good practices that can be applied by workers’ representatives in such situations. For user friendliness and accessibility these guidelines have been summarized in the Practical Guide on Information and Consultation for EWCs.
The current project is intended to provide similar guidance on other topics such as health and safety, demographic change, skills and qualifications and subcontracting, by creating synergies with previous projects and by making them more accessible to EWC representatives by following a similar format of topical fact sheets, which have first been introduced in the previous project Practical Guide on Information and Consultation for EWCs, and which has already been applied in the project on the implementation and application of the European Public Procurement directive.
The project will provide accessible fact sheets with a view to the specific needs of EWCs taking account of their rights to Information and Consultation drawing on the following projects:
- Health and Safety
- Skills and Qualifications
- Demographic Change
- Demographic changes in the woodworking industry
- Cross-border Social Fraud/Abuse in Social Security
Goals of the project
The overall aim of the project is to improve the capacity of trade union and workers’ representatives in EWCs to engage in a meaningful information and consultation procedure at European level on a wide range of topics including health and safety, demographic change, skills and qualifications and subcontracting. Some EWCs have already gained valuable experience in engaging on such issues with their respective company management.
This typically contributed to building greater trust and a better working relationship between workers’ representatives and management, which in turn is reflected in the overall performance of the EWC. Another observation that can be made in this context is that topics that are sometimes considered as soft issues such as health and safety can be a door opener for further engagement on potentially more controversial issues by establishing a foundation of trust between workers’ representatives and management by demonstrating that they are willing and able to contribute to the company’s development in a constructive manner.
The goal of the project is to draw on existing experience and issue specific know how of the EFBWW to provide guidance for EWC representatives on anticipating future challenges to the company and the sector primarily with a view to health and safety, demographic change, skills and qualifications and subcontracting; the project will also look into why it makes sense to tackle these specific challenges in EWCs; how to convince management to provide
information and consult workers’ representatives on these issues; which information to request; and to provide examples of pragmatic and constructive solutions to draw on in the consultation procedure.