European Works Councils, as transnational bodies of worker representation within companies operating across borders in the EU, are one of the cornerstones of Social Europe. They play a crucial role in allowing for workers’ representatives to be informed and consulted by management, at European level, on the developments within their company and on any transnational decision that could have an impact on the workforce. These bodies are therefore vital to ensure sound corporate governance and to make the workers’ voice heard by management before strategic decisions are taken. The new EU legislation on EWCs, recast directive 2009/38/EC, has come into force in 2009 and is due to be transposed by the member states into national law by 5 June 2011. This directive grants EWCs with stronger and clearer rights to be informed and consulted and with better means to apply these rights.
These improvements in the EU legal framework respond to longstanding demands of the European Trade Union movement. It is now important to highlight that this new directive is the minimum level of expectations that workers in multinational companies should have!
It is in this context that the EWC Conference of Athens will go one step further and examine how European workers can go “from an improved directive to an improved practice for EWCs”. The conference will aim at highlighting and raising awareness on the new rights, definitions and tools provided by the recast EWC directive, as well as connecting them with concrete experiences of EWCs.
EWC members from all over Europe and across sectors will intervene and discuss the practical relevance of these newly improved rights, among others the more precise definitions of information and consultation, the access to training and the duty to inform the workforce. Experts and representatives of the European Trade Union Federations will also provide an introduction to these topics and contribute to the debate with their assessment.
The Conference will be articulated around three thematic sessions. On Monday afternoon, the first session will focus on the clearer competences for EWCs based on the new definitions and stronger rights provided by the recast EWC directive. The second session, on Tuesday morning, will touch upon the “means” to apply those rights and assess whether EWCs are equipped with better tools to play an effective role in practice. During the third session, on Tuesday afternoon, participants will discuss about the role of EWCs to tackle company restructuring and anticipate change.
Representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee, as well as the European Trade Union Confederation will also participate and contribute to this Conference. Bernadette Ségol, General Secretary designate of ETUC, will draw conclusions and provide future perspectives on worker participation at European level.
Claudio Stanzani, SDA managing director:
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