European Works Council

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European Works Councils (EWC) are information and consultation bodies representing employees in European multinational companies.


The rationale behind the establishment of European Works Councils is related to the economic and political integration of the European Union. As companies became more transnational, the local information and consultation bodies (such as works councils) lacked a direct link to the level on which the real decisions are taken. As EWCs bring employee representatives of all over Europe together with the European management, they have an opportunity to be informed and consulted on the transnational companies strategy and status.

Legal basis[edit]

European Works Councils are regulated by two European directives. The first EWC directive was adopted in 1994 (94/45/EC) and a revised directive was adopted in 2009 (2009/38/EC). These directives are transposed into national legislation in all European Union and European Economic Area countries.

The adoption of the EWC Recast Directive came after a long period of discussion on the desirability of giving these councils extra rights and putting an extra burden on companies. In the end, the EWC Recast Directive adopted in 2009 contained some important changes regarding the definitions of information, consultation and transnational issues, included a right to training for employee representative and provided some more requirements for EWC agreements.[1]


European Works Councils can be established in multinationals operative in more than two EEA countries if they pass a certain threshold of number of employees. Currently, the company (or the group of companies) needs to employ at least 1000 employees in the EEA and at least 150 employees in two member states. If a company passes these thresholds, an initiative can be taken by the employer or the employees to establish a European Works Council.

After such an initiative, a Special Negotiation Body enters into negotiation on the practicalities of the European Works Council: the composition, the competences, the amount of meeting, the need for translation and interpretation in the meetings and much more. This negotiation results in an EWC agreement which forms the basis for all EWC functioning.

Current situation[edit]

Since the first Directive on European Works Councils was adopted, over a 1000 EWCs[2] have been created. According to estimations, they would cover an estimated amount of 19 million[3] employees in the EEA. Most EWCs are established in companies from the metal, chemical and services industries. Geographically, most EWCs are established in companies headquartered in Germany, the US, France and the UK.[4]

According to the EWC Recast Directive, the implementation of the Directive was to be evaluated no later than 5 June 2016. This evaluation was however postponed to the end of 2016 and further postponed to 2017. In the meantime, several evaluation studies have been published from the ETUC, the Leuven University and the ETUI.


  1. ^ De Spiegelaere, S., & Waddington, J. (2017). "Has the recast made a difference? An examination of the content of European Works Council agreements". European Journal of Industrial Relations. 23 (3): 095968011668594. doi:10.1177/0959680116685948.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ "STATS & GRAPHS". Retrieved 2016-05-12.
  3. ^ "European Works Councils: progress and a long road ahead". NETUF. 2015-12-18. Retrieved 2016-05-12.
  4. ^ "De Spiegelaere, S., & Jagodzinski, R., (2015). European Works Councils and SE Works Councils in 2015. Facts and figures". Retrieved 2016-05-12.