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Workplace Representation

Employee representation at the workplace is through the unions, although legislation does provide for employee representatives to be elected if there are no union members. Workplace union structures potentially play a key role in collective bargaining but they also have significant consultation rights.

 

Union organisations at the workplace are the main body for employee representation. And, although by law employee representatives can be elected where there are 20 employees and no union is present, in practice this is very rare. Legislation implementing the EU directive on a general framework for information and consultation, which was passed in December 2006, is unlikely to change the situation. However, the changes introduced by the Social Dialogue Act in 2011 have made trade union operations more difficult as a union can now only be set up by at least 15 individuals in the same company. In the past, it was 15 individuals in the same industry or occupation.

 

The arrangements for employee representation at workplace level are governed both by legislation and by clauses in collective agreements.

 

Numbers and structure

 

The numbers and structure of trade union representation at the workplace depend on the rules of the union.

 

However, if there are no union members in a company and it has more than 20 employees, the employees are entitled to elect representatives at a general meeting. The legislation does not stipulate how many should be elected, stating only that the number should be mutually agreed with the employer, in relation to the number of employees.

 

Tasks and rights

 

One of the key roles of the workplace trade unions is in negotiating collective agreements – although they must now represent more than half the workforce to be able to do this – but they also have rights to be informed and consulted, and in some areas they need to agree before changes can be made.

 

In the area of information and consultation, there is a general obligation on the employer to consult with the union on decisions “likely to affect substantially their rights and interests” (Romanian Labour Code) and on a number of issues there are specific requirements to do so. These include holiday arrangements, health and safety issues, an annual training plan and internal company rules. The union should also be consulted on redundancies where it has a right to make proposals for avoiding dismissals or cutting their number. (The employer must respond to these proposals, giving reasons for the redundancies within 10 days, as well as consulting the unions on a “social plan” to reduce their impact.) In the case of business transfers, both the company transferring the business and the one receiving it should consult the union. The union should also be consulted on the introduction of flexible working arrangements and on the use of any social fund the company may have, for example, for providing a canteen. The union’s information and consultation rights have been strengthened by legislation implementing the 2002 EU directive on a general framework for information and consultation at national level. This was passed in December 2006 and came into force on 1 January 2007 and states that the employer should inform and consult about the recent and probable future development of the business, the current situation and likely changes in employment, and issues likely to lead to substantial changes to work organisation or contractual relations.

 

In a few areas, the union must give its consent before changes can be made. Two of these are where employees are asked to work for more than 15 days continuously, and in setting work loads. Health and safety training should be agreed with the union and the health and safety committee, and the union should also agree pay incentive schemes and short-term unpaid lay-offs to cope with low levels of work.

 

The workplace union is also entitled to support union members in dispute with the employer and the union can represent them in court.

 

The tasks of employee representatives, who can only be elected if there are no union members, are to ensure that employees’ rights are complied with, to participate in drawing up the company’s rules and generally to promote the interests of employees. The specific consultation rights of the workplace union organisation also pass to the employee representatives, where they exist.

 

This situation is not changed by the legislation implementing the EU directive on information and consultation. Although it refers to the rights being given to employee representatives, it also makes it clear that these employee representatives are union representatives except where there is no union. The arrangements for informing and consulting employees are to be established by collective agreement.

 

Election and term of office

 

The choice and term of office of workplace union representatives depend on the rules of the union.

 

Employee representatives in workplaces where there is no union are elected by the employees’ general meeting – provided that at least half of the employees vote. The legislation does not set out any specific election or nomination procedures. Their period of office is two years.

 

Protection against dismissal

 

A change in the Labour Code which was introduced in 2011 has reduced the protection against dismissal provided to union representatives at company level. Whereas in the past they could not be dismissed in relation to their union activities during their period of office and for two years following this, under the current Labour Code this protection only lasts during their period of office. The have also lost protection against being dismissed for other reasons.

 

Time off and other resources

 

The rights of elected union representatives at the workplace to time off now depend on a collective agreement at company level. The previous right to five days off was removed by the Social Dialogue Act. The time off for employee representatives, which was 20 hours per month, must similarly be fixed in a collective agreement or a direct agreement with the employer.

 

The employer should also provide space for the union to carry out its activities, as well as access to office equipment such as a fax.

 

Representation at group level

 

The legislation does not provide for any form of employee representation above company level.

 

L. Fulton (2013) Worker representation in Europe. Labour Research Department and ETUI. Produced with the assistance of the SEEurope Network, online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.