Works Council Directive revision talks fail to get under way

Talks aimed at securing a revision of the Works Council Directive have collapsed before they even had a chance to begin.

Union umbrella body the ETUC refused to start discussions with employer representative Business Europe – because the parties could not agree on a date to finish talks.

Business Europe is understood to have wanted a longer period for negotiations, concerned that fast-tracked changes to the directive would leave trade unions with unreasonable powers.

The ETUC said in a letter to the European Commissioner for Employment this week: “Unfortunately, it was not possible to agree with Business Europe on a concluding date for any talks, nor reach a robust understanding on substantial amendments to the directive as outlined in the consultation document.

“Under these circumstances, we are not ready for negotiations within the framework of the social dialogue, and we count very much on you that the commission will present a revised directive in early June.”

The Works Council Directive became law for EU member states in 1996, requiring multinational firms to establish works councils as a means of negotiating with staff on international issues.

In February 2008, the commission published a consultation on a revision of the directive. This document proposed extensions to the powers of works councils.

Employer group Business Europe subsequently wrote to the European Commission signalling its willingness to negotiate on ways to make the councils more effective. But the ETUC declared its determination to secure a quick agreement.

Unable to convince employers of the need to do so, it has put its faith in the commission to make changes.

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