Eurofound describes a new report on EWCs as follows: “This working paper investigates the practical implementation of the European Works Council (EWC) Directive at company level. It explores the challenges faced by existing EWCs and provides examples of solutions identified and remaining issues from the point of view of both workers and management.
In addition, the paper looks at how EWCs meet the requirements of the EWC Directive in terms of establishing processes of information and consultation. Using case studies, it also examines the extent to which such effective collaboration has gone beyond the EWC Directive’s requirements to establish joint work on other issues of common concern.” It can be found here.
The paper has a lot of useful, up-to-date information on EWCs, facts and figures, number of EWCs etc. But you have to question if it actually does what it says it does, as quoted above. The paper is based on a sample of 11 companies – 4 of which are from France, 2 from Italy, and 1 each from Spain, Germany, Czechia, Sweden, and the UK. With around 1,100 EWCs in existence, basing any sort of report on a sample of 1% is a brave venture.
There are no sample companies from the US even though the US comes second to Germany with companies with active EWCs. As for the 3 companies that do not have EWCs – they are all French and the management side in each of them did not participate. In fairness, the report refers to these limitations at several points. It tries to make up for this by quoting extensively from the literature on EWCs, but a great deal of this is from trade union publications, hardly the most objective of sources and generally written to advance an agenda.
Despite its limitation, one thing comes across clearly from the report, based on both the case studies and the literature. EWCs are more involved after decisions have been taken that before they. There is no evidence that EWCs, now stretching back over 30 years, have ever succeeded in getting management to change its mind on a major decision. When EWCs complain about not being “properly informed and consulted” what they really mean is that they do not like the outcome of the process and do not agree with management’s decision. Suggested changes in the law are not going to alter that.
One other thing comes across clearly from the paper. Agreements should be as detailed as possible, especially when it comes to information and consultation in exceptional circumstances. The information to be given to the EWC, the steps that will be taken to inform and consult, and the timescale involved, should all be set out clearly. The process should be unambiguous.