1) What are the advantages to an EWC? 

The most important raison d’ être of an EWC is the possibility to influence company policy at the level that this policy’s being devised.  This is in order to prevent the local/national management from confronting the works council with a decision that has already been made at a higher level in the company, which cancels out worker participation.  If an EWC runs smoothly, European workers are part of the change processes that continuously take place in multinationals.

What is more, the EWC is a good source of information for the (central) works council.  On the one hand the EWC receives information from top management directly, and on the other hand the exchange between EWC members from the different countries seems to be very useful.  For instance, sometimes sites in different countries are pitted against each other.  And it is possible to find out from other worker representatives how they tackle certain matters.

Moreover, in the EWC one gains a better overview of the company as a whole and the position of one’s own country and site within that whole.  Also, the informal contact with the top management of the company can be useful.

The management often appreciates being able to get direct information from the shop floor, without it having been through all types of filters (levels of management).  Furthermore, the EWC improves involvement in the company and communication.  Finally, an efficient European Works Council can help management make the right decisions and implement policy.

2) What are the EWC's most important rights? 

The most important rights of the European Works Council are Information and Consultation.  European Works Councils can discuss translational themes (18) at the highest European level in the company and give their opinion.  However the EWC’s opinion is non-binding.  The company is obliged to follow the procedure properly and provide the EWC with information in a timely fashion and the necessary time to come up with an opinion.

3) When should a company have an EWC? 

A company which has 1000 workers inEuropeand at least two countries with minimum 150 workers ought to have an EWC.  ‘Europe’ are the Member States of the European Union in addition to the countries of the European Economic Area (4).  Incidentally, it does not matter where the parent company is located.  Non-European (Japanese, US, etc.) companies that are active inEuropeand fulfil the requirements also have to have an EWC.

4) What countries can belong to the EWC? 

The European Directive is valid for all Member States of the European Union (The Netherlands; France; United Kingdom; Belgium; Luxemburg; Spain; Portugal; Greece; Italy; Finland; Sweden; Cyprus; Malta; the Czech Republic; Slovakia; Slovenia; Romania; Poland; Bulgaria; the Republic of Ireland; Hungary; Latvia; Lithuania; Denmark, Croatia and Austria) and the European Economic Area (EEA) (Lichtenstein; Iceland and Norway).  Workers from the countries within the group where the company is active have to be represented in the SNB (10) and the EWC.

One can arrange to have other countries written into the EWC agreement, for example Switzerland.

5) What are the specific characteristics of a European Works Council in a European company? 

A European Works Council of a European Company (SE) is different from a ‘standard’ EWC in one important matter: in an SE, there is the possibility for co-determination in addition to information and consultation in the EWC.  Co-determination at the level of the supervisory body means that EWC can appoint members to the Supervisory Board / Board of Directors.  This has to be spelled out in the EWC agreement.  The EWC can also waive this right.

Futhermore, in the Directive, the consultation process is more firmly anchored for the EWC within the SE.  The purpose of consultation is “to reach agreement”