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News Bulletin – worker-participation.eu

February 2012


2012: a critical year for worker participation

Aline Conchon, Research Officer ETUI

The Mayas scheduled the end of the world for 2012. While there are serious doubts about such a prophecy, to say the least, what is sure is that 2012 will be a critical year for the issue of worker participation and its regulation at European level. The Commission’s annual work programme indicates several initiatives in this regard. All these initiatives take place in a context in which worker participation rights and especially board-level employee representation rights find themselves under pressure in a number of member states. more

Worker Participation – Transversal issues

Towards better employee involvement – New ETUC position paper

In the position paper the ETUC calls for a rethinking of the role of workers’ involvement in companies at European level ‘as business goes global and ignores national boundaries’. The ETUC formulates the ambition to come forward with an agenda to promote worker participation and to provide the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament with an elaborated proposal for European standards for employee involvement. This standard should help to prevent the registration and location of the company seat being organised with a view to avoiding worker participation. The starting point here is the fact that employee influence is a fundamental right under the EU Treaty (TFEU). more

European Company (Societas Europaea, SE) / SCE

ETUI handbook on the European Company (SE) for practitioners

The ETUI has published a new handbook on the European Company (SE). It has been designed first and foremost to help practitioners to prepare and conduct negotiations on agreements on employee involvement in SEs. The handbook introduces the SE and its mechanism of employee involvement, explains the negotiation procedures and provides ‘tips and tricks’ for adequate preparation for negotiations. Based on the experience of numerous experts, it also gives an overview of key aspects of an SE agreement and includes an extensive set of overviews, graphics and comparative tables. more

More than 1000 SEs registered – News from the European Company Database (ECDB)

In December 2011, the number of SEs in the ETUI’s ECDB for the first time surpassed the number of 1,000 registered SEs: 25 European countries now host European Companies. In the past three months, the first SEs appeared in Italy and Malta and there is an SE again in Finland. Whereas Germany is home to almost half of the normal SEs, the Czech Republic still has the ‘highest score’ with regard to the overall number of SEs. Little is known about the employee figures of the Czech SEs, as a result of which a large proportion of them are classified in the database as UFO SEs. more

Social partners reply to consultation on the possible review of the SE Directive

In July 2011, the European Commission consulted the European social partners on the basis of a consultation document on the possible review of the SE Directive. The document identified three problematic areas concerning the rules on employee involvement contained in the SE Directive. The social partners replied in October 2011. BUSINESSEUROPE recommended that the Commission give priority to simplifying the SE Regulation, while the ETUC asked for a continuation of the dialogue on improving the SE rules (both the Directive and the Regulation). It is now up to the European Commission to react. more

Commission publishes summary of responses to SCE study consultation

The Regulation on the European Cooperative Society (SCE) requires that the Commission present a report on its application five years after its entry into force. The Commission therefore launched a study, which was finalised in October 2010. The responsible Directorate General Enterprise (the SME section) launched a web-based consultation on the functioning of the SCE in mid-April 2011, to which the ETUC has contributed with a critical assessment. In November 2011, the European Commission summarised the 32 contributions received in a synthesis document. In only three contributions were criticisms raised against the involvement of employees. more

The European Foundation Statute (EFS) – New developments in sight

DG Internal Market launched a public consultation in 2009 on a possible Statute for a European Foundation (EFS). At the same time, a feasibility study for an EFS was made public. At a hearing before the European Parliament in January 2010, Commissioner Barnier declared the creation of an EFS for non-profit organisations a priority. Currently, DG Internal Market is finalising the impact assessment process which it has to undertake before submitting any legislative proposal. Once adopted by the European Commission, the proposal has to be shared with the Council of Ministers of the 27 Member States for review and approval and to the European Parliament for its consent. More information on the EFC can be found, for example, on the website of the European Foundation Centre.

European Works Councils (EWC)

Transposition of the recast directive on EWCs

Six months since the deadline (05/06/2011) for transposition of the recast directive on EWCs 2009/38/EC, not all member states have yet completed the process of transposition into national law. Greece, Luxembourg, Italy, Iceland and Liechtenstein are thus in violation of the directive. In the majority of cases, the directive was transposed shortly before the deadline or just after (Poland, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland, France, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta, Romania). ETUI analyses of these transpositions are forthcoming. For more details see the overview table prepared by the European Commission..

European company law and corporate governance

European Commission launches consultation on corporate restructuring

The European Commission has started a consultation entitled ‘corporate restructuring: what lessons from the crisis?’ The aim is to identify successful practices and policies in the field of restructuring and adapting to change. The results will feed into the upcoming employment package, with the goal of improving cooperation between workers’ and employers' representatives, government, local and regional authorities and the EU institutions. The deadline for submissions is 30/03/2012. The ETUC submitted an initial response to this consultation.

EP vote scheduled for report on proposed 14th company law directive

An own-initiative report from the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) on the proposed 14th company law directive is scheduled for a single reading in the European Parliament plenary session on 1–2 February. This directive, which would regulate the cross-border transfer of seats, was initially proposed by the European Commission, but the initiative stalled due to lack of political support. After discussion in committee and amendments, the matter will now be taken up again in plenary. The procedure file on this initiative is available on the EP’s website.

Incorrect transposition of CBM Directive – EU Commission prosecutes Netherlands

The European Commission has referred the Netherlands to the EU's Court of Justice for an incorrect transposition of the EU Directive on cross-border mergers. The Commission criticises in particular that the ‘Dutch legislation does not allow workers in the establishments in other Member States of a company resulting from a cross-border merger registered in the Netherlands to take part in the appointment process of members to the company's supervisory board’. The case was prompted by a complaint from a Dutch trade union in 2008. More information can be found in the press release.

New EU Communication on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

On 25 October 2011 the European Commission published a new Communication on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The document includes a new definition of CSR and a strategy for the years ahead. The full document, entitled "Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committe of the Regions: A renewed EU strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility" can be downloaded from the EU Commission’s website.

Reports from conferences and workshops

Results of ECGI Conferences on Corporate Governance

Papers and presentations from two recent conferences co-sponsored by the European Corporate Governance Institute are available online. One of these was a conference on Corporate Governance after the Crisis on 13–14 January 2012. The papers for the most part represent mainstream thinking about the causes of the crisis and possible solutions for the future. Another conference co-organised by the European Corporate Governance Institute was held in December in Washington (8th conference in the Transatlantic Corporate Governance Dialogue (TCGD)). Some presentations are also available online.

Worker Participation 2030 – European Scenario Workshop

The scenarios Worker Participation 2030 undertake an adventurous exercise: casting a long look forward into the future, namely the year 2030. The aim of this European scenario workshop was to reflect and exchange on different environments in which worker participation might have to operate in the future. During the workshop which took place from 29.11. to 1.12.2011 in Düsseldorf, participants explored the four alternative futures of Worker Participation 2030, jointly reflected on their implications and exchanged views on strategies and priorities for today. more

SE’s in stormy weather – EWPCC conference in Warsaw

The third annual EWPCC conference for SE workers’ representatives, experts and trade union coordinators took place in Warsaw on 15–16 November 2011. 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 the recent initiatives of the European Commission affecting workers’ rights to information, consultation and participation. The second day concentrated on the need for a more sustainable model of corporate governance. Documents and presentations related to the conference are available on the EWPCC website. more

XI European Corporate Governance Conference

The 11th European Corporate Governance Conference took place on 15 November in Warsaw. Debates concentrated on two main issues: board diversity, especially in terms of gender diversity, and the desired type of regulation of corporate governance. Thanks to the organisation of a live survey, participants had the opportunity to express their views on several pre-selected questions. Results showed that a majority of participants were in favour of hard law measures on a number of specific topics, such as the regulation of corporate governance in financial institutions, compulsory external evaluation of boards in listed companies or the right to challenge board decisions. In contrast, self-regulation is still largely favoured when it comes to replacing voluntary codes by hard law or to regulation of executives’ and directors’ remuneration. A large majority (68 per cent) rejected the need for a European code of corporate governance.

European Panel 2011: Worker Participation – Building a more democratic and social Europe

On 8–9 November 2011, the European Panel Conference took place in Brussels. The main topic of discussion was worker participation and especially board-level employee representation on the occasion of the sixtieth birthday of German Montan codetermination. In his opening speech, Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg and President of the Euro Group, emphasised that ‘worker participation is the practical application of the cardinal virtues of the EU social market economy’. On his side, Dietmar Hexel, member of the Federal executive board of the DGB, called for true equal participation of workers at board-level and stressed the contribution of codetermination to more long-term-oriented and sustainable companies.

EWPCC Workshop: Sustainable development and the analysis of financial data

Succeeding previous initiatives, the EWPCC and the ETUI Education department organised a third workshop for experts and trainers of board-level employee representatives in Hamburg (26–28 October 2011). After discussions about the general need for training and cross-cultural aspects, the seminar focused on training tools for sustainable development and the analysis of financial data. more


ETUI publications

Conchon, A. (2011) ‘Board-level employee representation rights in Europe? Facts and trends’, ETUI Report, 121.

The report describes and analyses the ins-and-outs of board-level employee representation [BLER] both across Europe (employees’ right to be represented on the board of their company is enshrined in 17 Member States and Norway) and at European level (the cross-border mergers directive and the European Company-SE and European Cooperative Society-SCE statutes provide for worker participation rights). Although BLER is an integral part of the European social model, as revealed by the presentation of regulations in force in Member States and in EU law, this publication reports serious grounds for concern with regard to the safeguarding of existing BLER rights. more

Stollt, M. and E. Wolters (2011) Worker involvement in the European Company (SE) – A handbook for practitioners, ETUI, Brussels

See article above. more

WP.eu – Country reports on Financial Participation (FR and DE translation)

The German and French translation of the update on financial participation section on worker-participation.eu is now online. The section provides information on the national systems of financial participation in each of the 27 EU member states, basic data on profit-sharing and employee share ownership, the legal background, trade union positions and further links. German - French - English

WP.eu – History of the European Private Company (SPE) statute

This new online table provides an overview of the legislative proposals on the SPE (Societas Privata Europaea) and links to the key documents. So far, no political consensus has been reached on legislative measures. Lately, the EP has taken up the file again (see above). more

Other publications

Briône, P. and C. Nicholson (2012) Employee empowerment: towards greater workplace democracy, London: CentreForum

In early January, the Liberal Democrat UK think-tank CentreForum published a report advocating greater employee involvement and industrial democracy in the UK, but as parallel mechanisms to trade union action. One of its recommendations advocates immediate legislation on employee representation on board remuneration committees. This report thus follow a growing trend in the UK for such board-level employee representation (see, for instance, House of Commons 2009; State Department for Business, Innovation and Skills 2011; and High Pay Commission 2011). The report can be found here.

Eidenmüller H. and J. Lasák (2011) ‘The Czech Societas Europaea Puzzle’, ECGI Law Working Paper n°183/2011

Horst Eidenmüller and Jan Lasák conducted the first in-depth empirical study in Czech Republic in 2010, aiming at better understanding the ‘mystery’ of the surprising SE phenomenon in this country. The authors conclude that the simplified corporate governance structure allowed by the SE statute constitutes the main driver for establishing a normal SE, and not the wish to circumvent employee participation rights. The authors reason that the high incidence of shelf SEs is partly the result of too optimistic expectations on the part of the incubators of the market demand for SEs. The article is available free of charge.

EUROFOUND (2011) Employee representation at establishment level in Europe. European Company Survey 2009.

EUROFOUND has published a study on the characteristics and extent of worker representation at the establishment level in different European countries, including representation through works councils and trade unions. The report is based on two sources of information: The findings of the 2009 European Company Survey (ECS); and country fact sheets produced by the national correspondents of the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO). It provides a comprehensive mapping of worker representation structures in Europe. The data from the ECS has also been used to construct the ETUI’s European Participation Index (EPI). The report can be downloaded from the EUROFOUND website.


9 February 2012, Brussels – ETUI conference ‘Beyond the crisis: Developing sustainable alternatives

5–6 March 2012, Brussels – SEEurope network meeting

7–9 March 2012, London – EWPCC Seminar ‘Financial analysis and business economics’

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© ETUI aisbl, Brussels 2012. All rights reserved. We encourage the distribution of this newsletter and of the information it contains for non-commercial purposes and provided the source is credited. The ETUI is financially supported by the European Union. The European Union is not responsible for any use made of the information contained in this publication.

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