HR Policy Global

BEERG Newsletter - EWCs: Ireland in the spotlight

Some weeks ago, we reported on the decision by the Irish Workplace relations Commission (WRC) on claims by four members of the Verizon European Works Council (EWC). 

The four claimants had attended a training program run by the EWC Academy which the company refused to pay for. The claimed that this was an infringement of the rights under the Irish legislation. The Verizon EWC works under the Subsidiary Requirements as set out in Schedule 2 of the Act. The WRC Adjudication Officer (AO) ruled against them as the company had provided training to the entire EWC sometime earlier. The Director of the EWC Academy, Dr Werner Altmeyer, acts as the expert advisor to the Verizon EWC. Three of the four claimants have now lodged an appeal against the WRC decision with the Labour Court. 

One of the claimants, … who acts as chair of the EWC, has also appealed against the decision of the WRC to only allow 50% of the fee claimed by Dr Altmeyer for acting as the expert to the EWC. Dr Altmeyer suggested in a recent article in IRN, the Irish weekly labour relation report, that Mr. Jean-Philippe Charpentier would have to pay the other 50% himself. 

The Labour Court will hear all the issues referred to it ab initio, meaning that both parties will be able to make fresh submissions on all the issues in contention.

The Irish Labour Court is made up of fulltime chairs and deputy chairs, along with fulltime members representing the worker side and fulltime members representing the employer side. The sit in panels of three. On the EWC issues before them, their decision will be legally binding.

Meanwhile, in its response to the European Commission’s consultation on a possible revision of the EWC Directive, arising from the proposals from the European parliament based on the Radtke Report, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is highly critical of what it says are deficiencies in the legislation which undermine the rights of all workers in EWCs based under Irish law.

For the most part, the ETUC’s response to the consultation is supportive of the proposals put forward by the Parliament. Hardly surprising, as the driving force behind the Parliament’s proposals is Denis Radtke, MEP, a former official with the German union, IG Chemie. 

The ETUC response focuses almost entirely on giving EWCs the ability to go to court to block management decisions. It has little or nothing to say about how EWCs could be made to work better. It also wants trade union officials to be embedded in every EWC, irrespective of what membership they may have in companies. This would very quickly lead to the “capture” of EWCs by the unions, turning them from fora for dialogue between managements and employees’ representatives into instruments designed to promote union agendas. It needs to be kept in mind that, as best, unions represent around 15% of all private sector workers across Europe. 

As if to underscore the fact that unions see EWCs as effective channels to block management decisions with which they disagree, the ETUC has recently published a guide for EWCs on how to legally challenge such management decision. You can access the guide HERE. The introduction says: 

This practical overview provides an overview of the state of play and a useful toolkit, including technicalities and available means of access to justice in each EU Member State. LOOK OUT FOR THE COUNTRY FICHES ON PAGE 52, which are regularly updated.

It is meant as a hands-on guidance for EWCs, trade union coordinators and experts supporting EWCs and other practitioners; it is not meant to encourage or discourage litigation. The practical overview aims at offering insight into litigation as a possible conflict solution, but is not meant to replace direct trade union advice, support or specific guidelines (for those the reader is encouraged to always seek contact with the relevant trade union and European Trade Union Federation).

Published on: June 7, 2023

Authors: Tom Hayes

Topics: Employee Relations, Employment Law, The UK and European Union

Tom Hayes

Director of European Union and Global Labor Affairs, HR Policy Association

Detailed Bio

Contact Tom Hayes LinkedIn


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