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EWC: BusinessEurope urges caution on EWC Directive changes

BusinessEurope has urged the European Commission to be careful with the changes it proposes to the EWC Directive.

Why it matters: The changes should not damage European competitiveness or endanger local information and consultation processes.

The big picture: Injunctions should be rejected as they would have the effect of turning EWCs into de-facto co-determination bodies, and fines for breaches of EWC obligations should be determined at the national level.

What's next: The full BusinessEurope policy position can be found here.

The BusinessEurope submission contains many of the points made by BEERG over the past few weeks and months, including in our October BEERG Perspective

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Additional material:

BusinessEurope submission URL: https://www.businesseurope.eu/publications/business-europe-position-european-works-councils-directive

Among the key points made in the submission are:

  • As employers we believe that the European Works Councils proved they are useful bodies for strengthening social dialogue and employees’ representation, bringing added value for management in terms of reaching company strategic objectives, including improving workers’ openness and adaptation to change
  • The up-coming initiative on European Works Councils Directive must be coherent with the European Commission’s policy approach aimed at strengthening European companies’ competitiveness and reducing regulatory burdens, and as such should take into account the context in which European companies find themselves with respect to the functioning of European works councils.
  • Transforming EWCs into co-decision bodies through granting a right to injunctive relief in the case of an alleged violation of their information and consultation rights would distort the purpose of the directive and represents a real danger for European companies’ competitiveness and their ability to take decisions effectively. Therefore, any form of co-determination should be absolutely avoided.
  • If the Commission deems changes in the Directive necessary, these changes should promote and safeguard companies’ prerogative and ability to make decisions and manage their operations. Effective transnational information and consultation of employees should take place without delaying companies' decision-making processes and their implementation of decisions.
  • It is essential to protect the EWCs that are functioning well through ensuring that possible changes for these bodies are not automatically mandatory for existing agreements. It should be possible that agreements can remain unchanged as long as they are valid. Moreover, as regard the voluntary EWCs agreements concluded under Article 13 of the original EWCs directive 94/45/EC or concluded or revised during the transition period following adoption of the recast directive 2009/38/EC from June 2009 to June 2011 i.e., the pre-Directive agreements, their specific nature needs to be valued and protected.
  • The initiative should respect the prerogatives of the Member States to impose effective, dissuasive and proportionate sanctions in line with national laws and practices. Calls for GDPR-size fines should be rejected as this would be totally disproportionate and not in line with the EU legislative practice under the social policy chapter in the EU Treaty, whereby it is up to the Member States to provide for sanctions that are effective, dissuasive and proportionate. This practice needs to be respected by the Commission.
  • It is essential that the definition of transnational matters remains unchanged, and that the text of the definition includes that matters can only qualify as transnational if they concern at least two undertakings or establishments of the undertaking or group situated in two different Member States.
  • The ability of management to keep information confidential needs to be maintained as proprietary information is a key element to the success of many businesses. The Commission must therefore avoid provisions increasing the risk of disclosure of confidential information.
  • The Directive must respect the importance of local consultation and continue allowing EWC consultations running in parallel to national ones ensuring national information and consultation procedures can be conducted in accordance with national legislation and practices. The Commission should therefore avoid any provision demanding the conclusion of EWC opinion prior to the conclusion of national consultations.

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Authors: Tom Hayes

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