A works council is a "shop-floor" organization representing workers, which functions as local/firm-level complement to national labour negotiations. Works councils exist with different names in a variety of related forms in a number of European countries, including Britain (Joint Consultative Committee); Germany and Austria (Betriebsrat); Luxembourg (Comité Mixte, Délégation du Personel); the Netherlands and Flanders in Belgium (Ondernemingsraad); France (Comité d'entreprise); Wallonia in Belgium (Délégués du Personnel); and Spain (Comité de empresa).
One of the most commonly examined (and arguably most successful) implementations of these institutions is found in Germany. The model is basically as follows: general labour agreements are made at the national level by national unions (e.g. IG Metall) and national employer associations (e.g. Gesamtmetall), and local plants and firms then meet with works councils to adjust these national agreements to local circumstances. Works council members are elected by the company workforce for a four year term. They don't have to be union members; works councils can also be formed in companies where neither the employer nor the employees are organized.
Works council representatives may also be appointed to the Board of Directors.
As with co-determination, there are three main views about why works councils primarily exist: to reduce workplace conflict by improving and systematising communication channels; to increase bargaining power of workers at the expense of owners by means of legislation; and to correct market failures by means of public policy.
European Works Council
On 22 September 1994, the Council of the European Union passed a Directive (94/45/EC) on the establishment of a European Works Council (EWC) or similar procedure for the purposes of informing and consulting employees in companies which operate at European Union level.
The EWC Directive applies to companies with at least 1,000 employees within the EU and at least 150 employees in each of at least two Member States.
European Works Councils were created partly as a response to increased transnational restructuring brought about by the Single European Act. They give representatives of workers from all European countries in big multinational companies a direct line of communication to top management. They also make sure that workers in different countries are all told the same thing at the same time about transnational policies and plans. Lastly, they give workers’ representatives in unions and national works councils the opportunity to consult with each other and to develop a common European response to employers’ transnational plans, which management must then consider before those plans are implemented.
The EWC Directive was revised by the Council and the European Parliament in May 2009. The changes contained in the new ("Recast") Directive must be transposed into national law by 5 June 2011, and have important implications for all companies in scope of the legislation, both those with an existing European Works Council and those yet to have set one up.
Comité d’Entreprise (Works council) is mandatory in any company with 50 employees or more. Members of the C.E. are elected by all the employees, and have 20 hours of delegation. The main role of the C.E. is being the interface between the employees and the members of the board which is constituted of the Chairman and the HR. All the 10 members of the C.E. have a monthly meeting with the board, in which very specific points are dealt with.
The funding represents a small portion of the employees payroll, The minimal legal percentage of 0.404%.
- European Commission (2008) Employee representatives in an enlarged Europe (2 volumes). Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. ISBN 978-92-79-08928-2 (Volume 1), ISBN 978-92-79-08929-9 (Volume 2).
- Fitzgerald, I., Stirling, J. 2004. European Works Councils: Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will?, London, Routledge.
- Lecher, W., Platzer, H., Rub, S., Weiner, K. 2002. European Works Councils: Negotiated Europeanisation: Between Statutory Framework and Social Dynamics, London, Ashgate.
- Thelen, Kathleen. 1993. West European Labor in Transition: Sweden and Germany Compared. World Politics 46, no. 1 (October): 23-49.
- Turner, Lowell. 1998. Fighting for Partnership: Labor and Politics in Unified Germany. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.
- European Commission: European Works Council legislation
- ETUC: On the offensive for stronger European Works Councils