11) How an EWC operates in practice

Most EWCs convene once or twice a year with the highest management level of the company inEurope.  If there are important developments within the company between the (twice-)yearly meetings, additional meetings are organised (19).

The EWC can deliver an opinion during or after a meeting.

An EWC usually has a Select Committee: a number of representatives who look after the EWC’s everyday business, coordinate the work and are the management’s primary speaking partners.  The Select Committee sometimes holds additional meetings during the year.

12) What themes does the EWC deal with? 

The EWC deals with the development of the company and its forecasts.  In the Directive’s subsidiary requirements, a considerable amount of themes are mentioned for the EWC to deal with, which are taken up in most agreements and even completed:

the structure, economic and financial situation, the probable development of the business and of production and sales, the situation and probable trend of employment, investments, and substantial changes concerning organization, introduction of new working methods or production processes, transfers of production, mergers, cut-backs or closures of undertakings, establishments or important parts thereof, and collective redundancies.

Themes that EWCs add to this list are for example: Health and Safety, Equal Opportunities and European HR Policy.  In practice it is mostly economic themes that dominate the agenda

EWC themes have to be transnational (18).

13) When is a theme transnational?

The EWC Diretive and the legislation is unfortunately not very clear on this. At any rate there is agreement about the fact that themes affecting the whole company or at least two sites in two Member States are transnational.  When one looks at the Directive’s preamble, one sees that decisions taken in one country that have an affect on workers in another country are also transnational. This provision is not in the body text of the Directive and is missing from a lot of EWC agreements; thus, the concept of “translational” is often discussed in EWCs.

14) We only meet twice a year. What are the rights of the EWC in the event that something happens between two meetings?

Almost every EWC has the possibility to convene additional meetings in the case of extraordinary developments. This meeting can can take place between the management and the EWC plenary, or between the management and the EWC’s Select Committee, either with the EWC members from the relevant countries or not. During or after these meeting the EWC can emit an opinion. In the Directive, the following is understood as being exceptional circumstances:  ‘exceptional circumstances... which have a considerable effect on workers’ interests, more particularly in the event of relocation, closure of companie or sites or collective redundancy.’ 

NB: These are the subsidiary requirements (8) of the EWC law. If you want to know precisely what the righs of your EWC are in this area, consult your agreement. Most  EWC have included this provision from the subsidiary requirements in their agreement.