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14.5 million employees to benefit from improved information and consultation rights.

02/07/2008 14.5 million employees to benefit from improved information and consultation rights.

On the 2nd of July, 2008, The European Commission adopted a legislative proposal to improve the role of European Works Councils in informing and consulting employees. European Works Councils (EWCs) currently operate in 820 major companies across the EU, covering some 14.5 million employees.

Vladimír Špidla, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities said: "We need to make sure European Works Councils can play their full role in managing the process of globalisation in a balanced way and help citizens benefit from the opportunities it offers. This is one of our priorities in the context of the renewed Social Agenda."

The proposal aims to add value to European Works Councils while making employees’ transnational information and consultation rights more effective. The proposal also aims at increasing the take-up of European Works Councils while ensuring legal certainty during their set-up and the execution of their tasks.

Proposed amendments yet to be examined are aimed at:

  • Further specifying the concepts of information and consultation;
  • Defining the competences of European Works Councils and linking the national and European levels of information and consultation;
  • Adapting the fall-back rules, which are used as benchmarks in defining negotiated and adapted rules at company level;
  • Providing training for employee representatives, introducing a duty for them to report back to the workers and recognising the role of trade unions;
  • Adapting European Works Councils in the event of significant change in the structure of companies.

Company agreements

The Commission also issued a new report on transnational company agreements. These are texts concluded between management and workers' representatives in companies located in several countries for which no legal framework currently exists.

The report finds that the number of these initiatives is rapidly increasing: around 150 such texts have been concluded in 90 companies covering around 7.5 million employees since 2000, on issues ranging from managing restructuring to equal opportunities, fundamental rights, training and health and safety standards.

Social partners' agreement on telework

Meanwhile, the Commission on the 2nd of July also issued a report on a major agreement by European employers' and workers' representatives on telework – or distance working.

The agreement, signed in 2002, put in place a series of rules and guarantees both for teleworkers and employers. Six years later, the agreement has been a success: social partners in most European countries have developed rules and tools to use this new form of work to the advantage of both workers and employers.

The agreement has a real added value, as only two Member States already had a comprehensive set of rules on telework prior to the EU agreement. The key provisions of the agreement have now been implemented in 19 Member States and partially in a further two. Work will continue in the remaining six, most of which have relatively recent structures for social dialogue.

Around 8% of the European workforce reported in 2005 that they were teleworking from home for at least a quarter of their working time, while 2% do it full-time.