Out-sourcing a priority issue for European Works Councils, argue coordinators and EWC representatives

(Report of the meeting of 10 May 2006)

Many companies in the utilities and other sectors outsource activities in different forms, including off-shoring. European Works Councils are also confronted with this and sometimes seek agreement with the employer. Suez for example has agreed with the EWC not to off-shore its Shared Services Centres. The EWC coordinators discussed a background paper on outsourcing. They also considered a list of issues to be considered for agreements in the case of outsourcing, This checklist is a worthwhile tool for trade unions and shopstewards to be used when confronted with out-sourcing. The coordinators agreed to request EWCs to raise the issue of outsourcing in their meetings and reach an understanding with the employers.

Guidelines for Trade Union coordination in the case of negotiations in SE

The meeting discussed a number of other issues including Guidelines for EPSU affiliated trade unions when involved in negotiations over European Companies (SE). The guidelines were considered important to coordinate the trade union side in these negotiations. They further indicate the role of coordinators and EPSU. The coordinators recommended the guidelines to the Standing Committee Public Utilities.

While the number of companies which has indicated to establish an SE is relatively small, they include important ones such as Nordea, Strabag, Suez and Allianz AG. The absence of coordination has been problematic in some cases. The situation in Allianz was noted as a good example of what trade union coordination can achieve. A report was provided of a recent meeting organised by the ETUI network on SE. There are now about 30 companies known, but 2/3 are empty shells, companies without employees and established by large consultancies and large law firms. The European Commission has been requested to monitor these to ensure that they are not used to circumvent information, consultation and participation rights. The guidelines argue that in the case of European Companies EPSU unions should aim to obtain the highest level of participation possible in the Boards of SEs, that is 50%.

Update on developments of European Works Councils

Colleagues provided updates on recent developments in European Works Councils and companies targeted for the establishment of a European Works Council. Several companies are faced with major disposals such as Severn Trent (Biffa, waste) and RWE (Thames Water). The discussion concentrated mainly on the recent wave of mergers of companies in the electricity sector based on a discussion paper.

Out-sourcing a priority issue for European Works Councils, argue coordinators and EWC representatives (read more on outsourcing)

Issues to be considered for the next meeting

- The role of Private Equity Funds and the role of EWCs.

- Transnational Collective Bargaining and European Works Councils

- Consider the system of reporting back on EWC developments.

The meeting was chaired by Sven Bergelin, President of the EPSU Standing Committee Utilities and followed by Claude Pommery, chair of the EPSU EWC coordinators network and vice-president of the Standing Committee.

Next meeting is on 26 September 2006, Brussels