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2016 - Guide pratique de l'information et consultation du CEE

In today’s world, worker representatives are increasingly called upon to deal with issues relating to work and employment in their transnational action. European Works Councils (EWCs) have become strategic meeting points for social dialogue in internationalised companies. The ability to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the rights and competencies of EWCs in the areas of information and consultation has thus become a key issue.
This issue is linked to the improvement of the EWC information and consultation practices and forms a part of a wider context which affects the status of worker representation and participation as well as its evolution.
The economic and financial crisis has highlighted the need for anticipation as well as information and consultation in view of restructurings in multinational groups. Previous work by the EFBWW concluded that there was room for improvement in EWC practices; a conclusion supported by the results of the exchanges within the scope of this project.
One of the chief complaints addressed by the EWC worker representatives is that in the great majority of cases the EWC is only informed and consulted after a decision has been made by the management. Hence, EWC involvement becomes useless, or at best a means of managing the social consequences of decisions which have already been taken and are on the point of being implemented.
The study has identified a number of difficulties experienced by EWC members, such as finding the time to discuss EWC goals as well as the resources to do so. As well as the goals to be determined by the members, the rules and principles which regulate the internal operation of EWCs also require clarification. Unless the agreement or Directive can be amended within a short time, only an improvement in the internal operation and practices of the EWC can bring about prompt and tangible improvement.

Beyond the information phase, genuine consultation of the EWC would ensure that the workers’ voices were heard and taken into account during decision-making processes. Too often, EWC members feel that the management excludes the EWC from its decision-making process and is not much inclined to use the opinion of the EWC members to help shape its decisions. Many EWC members believe that stronger EWC involvement would give the management an opportunity to make better decisions. Moreover, the study illustrated that the information provided is not sufficient to assess the impact of decisions on workers. In some instances EWCs experience a flood of detailed information, which however, is irrelevant to anticipating planned restructuring, mergers or acquisitions and other events that can have an impact on workers.
One common complaint is that managements frequently do not adequately describe the impact on workers of extraordinary decisions (e.g. an acquisition) or issues considered to be important by the EWC (e.g. subcontracting, workplace health).
The lessons learned from the Lafarge Holcim experience helped to optimize the engagement and cooperation between the EWC members of Heidelberg Cement and Italcementi. Many of the elements that were identified as good EWC practice in the Lafarge Holcim merger were applied in the takeover of Italcementi by Heidelberg Cement and adopted to the specificities of the two companies. In an ongoing learning process the experiences acquired in both merger processes will be further evaluated and developed, including the creation of a template which can be used by other groups when being confronted with mergers or take-overs.

In the framework of the project a Practical Guide on Information and Consultation for EWCs was prepared. This guide includes the background to the EWC information/consultation process, an analysis of the operation of EWCs in the building and woodworking sectors, as well as a case study on the place of the EWC at the time of the merger between Lafarge (France) and Holcim (Switzerland), focusing on the merger plan and the support provided by the EFBWW to the information and consultation processes of the respective transnational bodies.
The practical guide for EWCs on information and consultation should become a reference text and information base for the EFBWW EWC coordinators and affiliated trade unions, for European Works Councils (EWCs) and SNBs, helping them to improve the information and consultation processes; increase the role of the EWC and develop the interaction and cooperation between all players involved.

The complete Practical Guide on Information and Consultation was published in French and English. Additionally, the more practical part of the guide, i.e. the thematic fact sheets to improve the operation of EWCs was published in Italian, Spanish and Dutch.

ITALIAN Practical Fact Sheets
SPANISH Practical Fact Sheets
DUTCH Practical Fact Sheets