The right of employee representatives of European Works Councils (EWCs) to inform the workforce about the proceedings on the European level is not self-evident according to a new ETUI policy brief. In this brief, researchers Stan De Spiegelaere and Romuald Jagodzinski, looked at the right and duty of European Works Councils to report back to the workforce. .
Informing and reporting back to workers is one of the central rights and obligations for all employee representatives in general, but it is of special importance for representatives in EWCs. The EWC deals with important but technical matters such as financial reports. Without any structural link between the EWC, the local representatives and the workforce at large, the EWC risks working in a vacuum. It needs constant input from the rank-and-file to completely fulfil its potential. And the process should be a two-way street. The representatives need to inform the workforce, and the workers need to give input to the representatives. For this reason the 2009 EWC Recast Directive included a clear reference to the right and obligation of EWC members to inform the local workforce about ‘the content and outcome’ of information and consultation at European level.
To be effective this right should be flanked by concrete provisions on who’s responsible, what to communicate, how frequent and to whom. A review of the EWC agreements on this issue provides a mixed image. In about 32% of EWCs, the responsibility to report back is shared between management and employees; in 33% it is an employee-only responsibility; and in 7% the management alone is responsible for informing the workforce.
Yet even when the right and duty to report back is well established, the scope of the right can still be limited by provisions of confidentiality. As the EWCs often deal with sensitive company information, the representatives might be prevented from informing the employees on the basis of the confidentiality clause. Clear rules and procedures on how to treat confidential information are therefore fundamental.
There is, in other words, still a huge challenge for EWCs to negotiate concrete and extensive rights in their EWC agreements enabling them to effectively liaise with their rank-and-file. Only subject to these preconditions can the EWC become an actor of relevance and the idea of transnational solidarity and articulation between the European and national levels take on concrete shape.
Romuald Jagodzinski and Stan De Spiegelaere (ETUI)
Romuald Jagodzinski (ETUI)
Stan De Spiegelaere (ETUI) and Romuald Jagodzinski (ETUI)