Employer unrest as Euro unions back rewrite of Works Council Directive

Concerns were raised this morning after the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) announced its intention to secure a rapid rewriting of the Works Council Directive.

David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy at manufacturers’ body the EEF, told Personnel Today: “The European Commission’s proposals are quite worrying for employers, as this could strengthen trade union influence at a time when membership is declining across Europe.”

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

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

Employer group Business Europe subsequently wrote to the European Commission yesterday signalling its willingness to negotiate on ways to make the councils more effective.

And now the ETUC has declared its determination to secure a quick agreement – likely to be close to proposals made by the commission.

“Our main objective is to see action to revise the directive during the lifetime of this European Commission and this Parliament,” said ETUC general secretary John Monks.

“We are ready to negotiate, but only on a basis that includes a tight timetable and a quick conclusion to the negotiations. We will be following this up next week with the employers and the commission.”

Business Europe said employers were looking forward to the opening of negotiations.

“Building on an in-depth assessment of councils’ practical experiences and needs, our main objective will be to agree on amendments to the EU legislative framework, which will help improve the functioning of works councils in practice,” its letter said.

Firms currently have to set up work councils if they employ at least 1,000 employees within the EU, including at least 150 in each of two member states.

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