This week, HR Policy Global published its European Works Council (EWC) Survey Report. With 96 respondents, this is the largest survey on EWCs from the employer’s perspective and will help to advocate for and amplify the employer voice.
Why it matters: Contrary to narratives supporting the proposed EWC Directive, which makes major changes to EWCs, the survey results show that most companies with EWCs have experienced stability, flexibility, and progress over the years. Additionally, EWCs have proven to be effective in dealing with mergers, acquisitions, and global challenges, with very few legal cases.
- EWCs work well and are improving: 70% of companies report their EWC as being constructive or very constructive. 94% of companies report that the EWCs have become increasingly effective over time with just 2% of companies reporting the EWCs are less effective.
- EWC members do not perceive the definitions under the current directive as restrictive or limiting to their ability to interpret them on an individual basis. Merely 5% of the companies surveyed felt the need to seek legal judgment on their application. This contradicts the assertion that there are shortcomings in the current EWC definitions and unilateral decision-making process.
- Article 13 agreements (i.e., agreements negotiated before the 1996 Directive was in effect), have proven to be sustainable and flexible. According to the survey, 45% of companies have chosen to sustain Article 13 agreements for nearly three decades, indicating both parties are comfortable with the current conditions. They have not hindered EWC’s progress but have allowed them to evolve and adapt to changing times. Therefore, the suggestion of ending the current exemptions will create unnecessary burdens and disruptions for both employers and EWC members.
- Most agreements are broad operating frameworks not prescriptive rules, which provide flexibility for both parties. Additionally, many companies have broadened the EWC agenda and moved from one to two standard meetings per year. The proposed directive, which seeks to impose legislated default rules, will curtail flexibility for both parties.
- Exceptional meetings, for circumstances with a significant impact on the interest of workers, are rare with 40% having no exceptional meetings in the last three years. Of those that have, 80% held three or less exceptional meetings and 37% just had one. Companies have been granting these requests in 87% of cases and engaging with employee representatives.
- The survey shows little evidence of companies minimizing the role of the EWC , which the new proposal was trying to address. The current scheme allows different sizes and shapes of EWCs with widely differing terms of agreement.
Next steps: We will share our report with broader stakeholders. To learn more about EWCs and how to negotiate with social partners in Europe, join our upcoming December 5 and 7 virtual training, Negotiating with European Social Partners and in-person European Knowledge and Networking Program in Brussels February 28-29.