About one thousand European Works Councils already exist in the EU-27 member states. They promote a shared understanding of the transnational challenges facing large multinational companies and the involvement of employees in the decision-making process, with the objective of exchanging on possible solutions, facilitating their implementation and increasing the impact of strategic choices made by the employer.
The European Pillar of Social Rights highlights the importance of social dialogue and the involvement of workers (principle 8). Therefore, the European Works Councils represent a vital tool for workers’ involvement in transnational decisions of multinational companies that affect them. These councils are set up at the request of employees and may issue non-binding opinions to management on relevant transnational matters.
The European Works Councils Directive*), during last decade has required the EU member states to put in place adequate administrative and judicial procedures for the establishment and operation of European Works Councils, EWCs.
About 20 new EWCs are created each year and around 1,000 companies have active EWCs, representing around half of all eligible companies.
The Commission is seeking social partners’ views on employment issues, in line with the EU’s basic law, i.e. art. 154-2, TFEU. The European legislation provides for a two-stage consultation of European social partners for proposals in the social policy field, also based on the Treaties (e.g. art. 153 TFEU).
Besides, social partners may decide to enter into negotiations among themselves following the first or the second stage of the consultation.
*) On Directive 2009/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees, in: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/ALL/?uri=CELEX%3A32009L0038
On 11 April 2023, he Commission launches the first-stage consultation of European social partners on a possible revision of the European Works Councils Directive. This consultation follows up on the European Parliament’s legislative own-initiative resolution of February 2023 calling for the Directive’s revision.
In line with the Commission’s Political Guidelines, the EU institutions are committed to follow up on such resolutions with a legislative proposal, in full respect of proportionality, subsidiarity and better law-making principles.
The European Works Councils promote a shared understanding of the transnational challenges facing large multinational companies and the involvement of employees in the decision-making process, with the objective of exchanging on possible solutions, facilitating their implementation and increasing the impact of strategic choices made by the employer. The European Works Councils Directive provides a procedure for setting up information and consultation bodies between management and workers’ representatives in companies with more than 1,000 employees operating in at least two EU member states.
The Commission’s 2018 evaluation**) of the Directive found that European Works Councils remain relevant for ensuring and organising transnational social dialogue in multinational companies, while providing the EU member states with flexibility to adapt it to their national systems. However, the evaluation also found shortcomings, for instance regarding the consultation process of EWCs and the means for representatives to enforce their rights.
The European Parliament also called on the Commission to revise the Directive to strengthen EWCs and their capacities to operate, and increase their number, while taking into account the different industrial relations systems in the EU member states.
Taking this into account, presently the first stage of the social partner consultation will gather the views of European social partners on the need for and overall direction of possible EU action on improving the European Works Councils Directive. The consultation will be open for six weeks.
**)The Commission finds that large majority of the EU member states have properly transposed the EU legislation, which aims to strengthen employees’ right to such transnational information and consultation. Most stakeholders agree that the Recast Directive has improved the clarity of the legal framework.
The EU value added of the Directive was confirmed: all stakeholders consider the rules relevant and a significant contribution to ensuring transnational social dialogue at company level. According to the “recast” report, information for workers improved in terms of quality and scope but the Directive has not increased the rate at which new EWCs are set up. In order to reinforce the creation and effectiveness of EWCs, the Commission proposes to pursue the following measures: = creating and sharing a practical handbook for EWC practitioners, = providing funding to social partners to support the implementation and effectiveness of EWCs, and = ensuring the full implementation of the Directive in the EU member states.
Reference to: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=707&furtherNews=yes&newsId=9102
More information in: =Consultation document: first-phase consultation of social partners; and =Commission’s 2018 evaluation of the Directive.