European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Worker Participation

Since the beginning of the European integration process there has been a commitment to provide employees in Europe with the right to be involved in company decision-making. Worker participation thus serves two intertwined purposes: implementing social rights so as to strengthen democracy at the workplace; and supporting companies, Member States and the European Union in their efforts to combine economic competitiveness with social progress.

Workers’ right to information and consultation within the undertaking has been recognised, in Article 27 of the Charter of fundamental rights, now annexed to the Lisbon Treaty, as having the same value as other treaty provisions, alongside civil and political rights. As from the 1970s, the social acquis communautaire in respect of workers’ right to involvement has evolved significantly. Several directives contain provisions providing the workforce with information and consultation rights in various contexts and areas:

  • employment law, including the Framework Directive on information and consultation 2002/14/EC, which complements the existing set of arrangements by laying down general minimum standards for national companies;
  • general/framework directives for transnational information and consultation rights;
  • specific circumstances such as transfers of undertakings, insolvency and collective redundancies;
  • workers’ involvement rights in the field of health and safety.

With more and more companies operating Europe-wide (or even globally), the transnational level of employee interest representation is becoming increasingly important. In accordance with this development, the European Union has more recently embarked upon the definition of a general framework of employee involvement in transnational undertakings, included in directives regulating the establishment of European Works Councils, the European Company (SE) and the European Cooperative Society (SCE).

In its various activities in the field of worker participation, the ETUI closely follows and analyses this dynamic field of European integration. For this purpose, the ETUI has also set up several topical websites and databases complementing its research activities:

  • - Database of EWC and SE works council agreements, including statistics;
  • - a portal containing comprehensive information on various themes linked to workers' representation, including information on national industrial relations.

Moreover, the ETUI offers training to members of European and SE works councils. The tailor-made training courses and expertise is offered to European Works Councils, Special Negotiation Bodies (SNB), and SE Representative Bodies (SE RB), in close cooperation with the relevant Trade Union organisations on the national and European level (European Trade Union Federations).

Since 2009 the ETUI hosts the European Worker Participation Competence Centre. Based on an ETUC resolution, the EWPCC coordinates and organizes activities concerning transnational workers’ representation with a specific focus on board members representing employees of European Companies (SE).

The themes covered in this section are: