Steady progress with European Works Councils in EPSU areas

{(23 April 2007)} The EPSU EWC coordinators discussed {recent developments}. The EPSU Deputy General presented the recent EWC agreement which was reached with the Czech company CEZ and signed by EPSU. CEZ is the first EWC of a Czech company and the first EWC which is made up of representatives of trade unions in the new member states (Czech, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania). He underlined the progressive formulation of information and consultation which includes that consultation is to take place with a view to reaching agreement. He also presented the recent negotiations with Suez (energy, water, waste). The unions and EWC delegation are discussing a range of agreements on: -* Equality; it was welcomed and the coordinators underlined that more needs to be done regarding preventing discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity -* Maintenance of purchasing power; while it was seen as welcome that the company would guarantee purchasing power and address low pay, the union group did not give a mandate to sign; there are too many unknown aspects which could hinder and undermine local negotiations amongst others; -* Profit sharing proposals; -* Forward looking management of employment and competencies. The unions stressed the importance of the involvement of the trade unions and where appropriate the works councils at local and national level. -* Trade union rights and resources. This includes representation in the Board of the company. Sven Bergelin, EPSU coordinator of RWE, presented the agreement the RWE EWC has reached on minimum standards in the case of restructuring. The group also considered which companies would qualify for EWCs and noted progress with regard to ENEL and Aguas Barcelona. A number of new companies were considered in the waste and health/ social services sector. The participants continued to discuss {the relation between the trade unions and the EWCs}. The background is the proposal of the Commission for an optional framework for transnational agreements, the recent discussions with RWE and Suez, the discussion about wage developments and a series of recent mergers and acquisitions. The work of the EMF was presented as a particular method of work. Should collective bargaining committees be stimulated in transnational companies ? How quick can the Federation react in the case of restructuring ? This discussion will be continued at the next meeting. Romuald Jagodziński of the Trade Union Institute presented {an overview of the implementation of the EWC Directive} in Estonia, Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. He noted the differences between the different countries. He also referred to the recent court cases in which European Works Councils took a company to Court due to a lack of information and consultation. The two most known are Gas de France (lack of sufficient information and consultation over the merger with Suez) and British Airways (lack of information and consultation over a company business plan that restructured several workplaces but was introduced country by country. Both cases were won by the unions. The ETUC Congress proposals were briefly discussed. The importance of a trade union strategy to make progress was underlined in the absence of willingness by the employers (Business Europe, former UNICE) and the Commission to take action. Next meeting: 29 October 2007, Brussels (30 October 2007, Brussels, the Standing Committee Utilities)