elected or nominated in a European Works Council (EWC), what is my role? What are the tools available for me?
As senior management and European Workers’ representatives meet regularly to exchange information and conduct consultations on key economic, production and social issues, EWCs give workers the opportunity to influence the company’s strategy before final decisions are made. With strategic decision-making power shifting from the local level to the European level, if not global, EWCs help to ensure that dialogue takes place with decision makers at the appropriate level of management.
EWCs are a unique place where workers representatives from all over Europe can meet, discuss and develop European solidarity as well as coordinated trade union responses to company strategies which, too often, are aimed at pitting production sites and workers against each other across borders.
As an EWC member, I have, on the one hand, the right to information. This means I am allowed to ask the management for all the relevant data regarding the impact of their projects on workers in the company. On the other hand, I have the right to consultation, which means worker representatives and the company’s management establishing dialogue and exchanging views with the aim of providing an opinion. I may be assisted by experts of my choice, who can help me analyze the economic and social information received during the consultation phase. I must be ready to find alternative solutions in case of exceptional circumstances, i.e. those which considerably affect the interest of workers (such as relocation, closure of the company or of an establishment, collective dismissals, etc.).
The company covers the expenses relating to the organization of the meetings, the travel expenses of EWC members and, last but not least, interpretation fees.
As an EWC member I usually have a mandate of 4 years during which I cannot be made redundant.
The members of the European Works Council or the steering committee may hold preparatory meetings without the presence of management representatives. In addition, as a representative of an EWC, I can also benefit from the training necessary to exercise my mandate efficiently and without any loss of salary.
- Meet with management to define the information needed and the EWC consultation timeline (number of meetings and deadlines)
- Establish working groups on specific issues
- Organize preparatory and debriefing meetings during the consultation process without the presence of management representatives
- Obtain support from external sources
- Organize upstream and downstream information flows with national and local worker representatives
- Communicate on the EWC opinion once the information and consultation process is complete
- Monitor the implementation of the decisions taken by management
All representatives of European Works Councils have:
- an obligation to exercise discretion with regard to confidential information in certain cases
- an obligation to keep workers informed of the EWC activities and opinions