Definitions

Works council

Works council

A works council is a "shop-floor" organization representing workers, which functions as local/firm-level complement to national labour negotiations. Works councils exist with different names in a variety of related forms in a number of European countries, including Germany (Betriebsrat), the Netherlands and Flanders in Belgium (Ondernemingsraad), France (Comité d'Entreprise), Wallonia in Belgium (Conseil d'Entreprise) and Spain (Comité de empresa).

One of the most commonly-examined (and arguably most successful) implementations of these institutions is found in Germany. The model is basically as follows: general labour agreements are made at the national level by national unions (e.g. IG Metall) and national employer associations (e.g. Gesamtmetall), and local plants and firms then meet with works councils to adjust these national agreements to local circumstances.

Works council representatives may also be appointed to the Board of Directors.

European Works Council

On 22 September 1994, the Council of the European Union passed a Directive (94/45/EC) on the establishment of a European Works Council (EWC) or similar procedure for the purposes of informing and consulting employees in companies which operate at European Union level.

The EWC Directive applies to companies with at least 1000 employees within the EU and at least 150 employees in each of at least two Member States.

European Works Councils were created partly as a response to increased transnational restructuring brought about by the Single European Act. They give representatives of workers from all European countries in big multinational companies a direct line of communication to top management. They also make sure that workers in different countries are all told the same thing at the same time about transnational policies and plans. Lastly, they give workers’ representatives in unions and national works councils the opportunity to consult with each other and to develop a common European response to employers’ transnational plans, which management must then consider before those plans are implemented.

The EWC Directive is currently being revised by the European Commission.

Further reading

  • European Commission (2008) Employee representatives in an enlarged Europe (2 volumes). Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. ISBN 978-92-79-08928-2 (Volume 1), ISBN 978-92-79-08929-9 (Volume 2).
  • Fitzgerald, I., Stirling, J. 2004. European Works Councils: Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will?, London, Routledge.
  • Lecher, W., Platzer, H., Rub, S., Weiner, K. 2002. European Works Councils: Negotiated Europeanisation: Between Statutory Framework and Social Dynamics, London, Ashgate.
  • Thelen, Kathleen. 1993. West European Labor in Transition: Sweden and Germany Compared. World Politics 46, no. 1 (October): 23-49.
  • Turner, Lowell. 1998. Fighting for Partnership: Labor and Politics in Unified Germany. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

See also

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