European Commission set to toughen

All major UK employers will be forced to consult with their staff via national works councils under proposals drafted by the European Commission.

A copy of the plans obtained by Personnel Today states that all organisations employing more than 50 people will be required to set up a council.

Currently only employers with over 1,000 staff and employing over 150 personnel in two or more countries are required to consult with staff through so-called European works councils.

According to the leaked document the French government will make the proposals one of its priorities when it takes over the presidency of the commission in June.

The German and UK governments have previously resisted moves for the wider introduction of works councils, but EC insiders say German opposition has crumbled. And the recent fiasco over the break up of Rover and the poor consultation with staff and unions will make it hard for the UK government to resist the move.

If the EC is successful, governments will vote on the plans by December and will have two years to introduce them.

The move would force employers to consult on issues such as mergers and redundancy.

The paper, drafted by senior EC official Franz Berger, also advocates forcing certain European registered companies to have a employee representative on the board.

The proposals will meet strong resistance from UK employers. In the past the CBI has voiced opposition to works councils – seeing them as an interference in companies’ rights to establish their own form of employee relations.

European employment consultant Peter Reid warned that EC proposals “never go away for good”. He added, “There is a growing head of steam for a formal consultation directive. The Government’s comments on consultation on the Rover sale contradict the line they have taken on national works councils.”

Fiona Webster, director of Organisation Resource Counsellors and an expert on European works councils, said the commission is now readier to criticise companies for perceived inadequacies in consulting.

She added, “German opposition to works councils at national level will wither. The British government cannot stop this on its own.”

By Philip Whiteley

Comments are closed.