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EWCs: No open cheque books on experts and legal costs

Speaking to the Irish weekly, Industrial Relations News (IRN), Dr Werner Altmeyer, managing director of the union-side EWC Academy, said that under the proposals from the European Commission for changes in the European Works Council Directive, 

“the restriction to one paid expert no longer exists” 

“The EWC is free to call in one or more trade union experts or independent experts plus lawyers, who must be paid by central management”

This is not what the Commission has proposed. Yes, the Commission is proposing to delete the reference to one paid expert from the provisions on Special Negotiating Bodies (SNBs) and EWCs operating under the Subsidiary Requirements. 

But the Commission says it is doing this because Member States have the authority to draw up “budgetary rules” covering SNBs and Subsidiary Requirement EWCs and such rules can spell out how expert costs are to be met. The idea that the Commission is proposing a “free for all” on expert and legal costs is simply not the case.

Further, when it comes to negotiated EWC agreements, (Article 6 agreements) expert and legal costs have to be agreed between the parties. Dr Altmeyer also suggests that the Commission’s proposals give carte blanche to EWCs when it comes to training.

“EWC decides on the selection of the training provider and simply informs central management of the costs in advance. The central management has to pay as long as the costs are in line with the market. This formulation largely corresponds to the situation in Germany.”

Again, this is not the case and training and training costs will need to be agreed between the parties.

Given Dr Altmeyer’s comments on expert and training costs, which may be reflective of union thinking on such matters, employers will be asking governments through the Council of Ministers to clarify the wording on these issues to prevent future disputes.

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Authors: Tom Hayes

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