Labour Research November 2016

European news

Change unlikely for EWC reps

New figures from the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) suggest that the UK’s decision to leave the EU may have less impact on European works councils (EWCs) than some have feared.

There are 1,113 EWCs and similar bodies, covering most of Europe’s larger companies, which allow workers’ representatives from across Europe to meet regularly. Although they are not normally involved in negotiations, EWCs have information and consultation rights. The ETUI figures, drawn from its EWC database, show that the vast majority of EWCs (78%) cover companies that have some UK activities, and that 10% of the companies with EWCs have their headquarters in the UK. 

The ETUI estimates that there are probably around 1,900 EWC reps from the UK.

The position of these reps remains completely unchanged until the UK has withdrawn from the EU. After that, their position will depend on the terms of the individual EWC agreements.

The research, based on what happened before the UK was covered by the EWC directive in 1999, suggests that companies will wish to keep their existing structures after Brexit. 

It finds that half (51%) of UK-headquartered EWCs were set up pre-1999. In other words, they included UK staff in almost all cases, even though they were not obliged to do so at the time.