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EWPCC conference 'SEs in stormy weather'

After Vienna in 2009 and Amsterdam in 2010, Warsaw was chosen as a location for the third annual conference for SE workers’ representatives, experts and trade union coordinators. During the second half of 2011, Poland held the chair of the European Council, confirming that they can no longer be considered a ‘new’ Member State, but rather as a fully integrated partner of the European Union. More than 60 participants attended the conference, which was organised in cooperation with the Hans Böckler Foundation, the Polish office of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the Polish trade union confederations Solidarność and OPZZ.

On the first day of the conference, the focus was on various initiatives of the European Commission that could affect workers’ rights to information, consultation and participation. This includes the so-called ‘fitness check’ (an evaluation of the operation and effects of several information and consultation directives) and the recently launched procedure to revise the legislation on the European Company statute and the corresponding employee involvement.

An update of the ETUC position was made by Claudia Menne, Confederal Secretary, after which Jan Cremers of the University of Amsterdam briefly outlined the history of ‘10 years of SE experience’ and the challenges presented by the current revision process. Next, the participants were split up into three smaller groups to have an interactive debate about the representation of minority countries (introduced by Dagmara Skupień of the University of Łódź), the communication lines between the Board and the Works Council (introduced by Sebastian Sick of the HBS) and problems and practices of worker participation in SEs (introduced by Lionel Fulton of the Labour Research Department). Finally a panel debate, chaired by Andrzej Zybała of CPS Dialog, responded to the observations made in the working groups. Panel members were Jan Cremers, Francisco Pérez-Flores from DG Employment, Marzena Wąsowska representing the Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and Monika Gładoch who is an advisor to the employers’ federation Pracodawcy RP. The first day concluded with a presentation of the book Worker involvement in the European Company (SE): A handbook for practitioners.

The second day concentrated on the need for a new, more sustainable model of corporate governance. The storm of the current financial and economic crisis has radically shaken faith in the traditional shareholder-value model, which is believed to be one of the major causes of the crisis. According to the ‘Sustainable Company’ model, workers should always be closely involved in the strategic choices of the companies that employ them.

After an introduction to this new definition of the ‘Sustainable Company’ by Sigurt Vitols of the ETUI, an overview was given of the positions of the European trade union movement on all related topics. This was done by Anne Panneels, assistant to Judith Kirton-Darling, Confederal Secretary of the ETUC. This was once again followed by a discussion in smaller groups. Subjects for debate were sustainability as a tool for workers’ representatives (introduced by Juliette Picquenard of Axia Consultants and Christoph Juhl of the VW Works Council), key elements that define a sustainable company (introduced by Sigurt Vitols) and experiences with framework agreements (introduced by Geoff Hayward of Allianz SE and Natacha Séguin of Groupe Alpha). The closing panel was chaired by Clemens Rode of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. He moderated the debate with William Van der Straeten who is a Policy Officer at the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers, the General Director of the ETUI Philippe Pochet, Fernando Vasquez of DG Employment, Dr Jacek P. Męcina of Warsaw University, who is an advisor to the Board of the employers’ organisation Lewiatan, and Maria Kondej-Gąsecka, representing the Polish government. Dr Roland Köstler of the HBS reported to the conferees about a congress on sustainability that was organised by the Warsaw Stock Market at the same time.

Bruno Demaître, bdemaitre@etui.org


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Documentation of the conference

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Programme

European Company (SE) / Employee Board Level Representation

Sustainability / The Sustainable Company

All Activities