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European-level Representation

National representatives on bodies linked to European Works Councils and the European Company are generally chosen in a way which reflects the existing structures of the country concerned – either by the union, or by the works council. However, in seven countries they are elected by all employees.


Choosing the special negotiating body


The mechanisms for electing national representatives to bodies playing a role in European Works Councils or the European Company largely reflect other national arrangements for representing employees at the workplace. For example, in Germany, where works councils are the key body at workplace level, it is works councils who choose the German members of the special negotiating body (SNB) for both the EWC and the European Company. In contrast, in Sweden, it is the unions the company negotiates with who choose.


However, there are six countries which have opted to choose these European representatives through an election by all employees – either at a general meeting or by secret ballot.


Only one country, Norway, has different arrangements for the choice of EWC and European Company SNB members. For the EWC, they are elected by all employees; for the European Company they are chosen by the unions in the workplace.


Leaving Norway on one side, in total, there are six states – Austria, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – where the SNB members are chosen by the works council. There are a further ten states – Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden – where they are chosen by the union, although the precise arrangements differ. For example, in Portugal they are chosen by the unions in agreement with the works council and in Romania, they are chosen by the existing employees’ representatives, who are defined in the legislation as the trade union representatives, unless there is no union. In Denmark, they are chosen by the cooperation committee, which is essentially a union body, while in Finland the legislation is not specific, although in most cases they will be chosen by the unions.


This leaves three states – the Czech and Slovak Republics and Latvia – where they are chosen jointly by all employee representatives, whether union or non-union, and seven states – Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Ireland, Malta, Slovenia and the UK – where they are elected by all employees – either at a general meeting or by secret ballot.


These are the arrangements for the SNBs. In most cases the arrangements for EWCs and SE Representative Bodies set up under the fallback procedure are very similar. But there are often greater differences in the way national employee representatives at board level are to be chosen under the fallback procedure. These are examined in the country sections.






EWC and European Company SNB chosen in the first instance by






Works council






Works council






Employees (at general meeting) although can be transferred to unions






All employees (secret ballot)






Union in workplace



Czech Republic



All employee representatives (both union and works council)






Cooperation committee (largely union body)






All employees (elected at meeting)






Employees (no details in legislation)






Unions on basis of support in works council elections






Works council






Union in workplace






Works council






All employees (election)






Unions plus RSU (union committee in workplace)






All employee representatives (both union and non-union)






Union in workplace – by the works council only if there is no union






Works council (employee delegation)






All employees (secret ballot)






Works council






All employees for the European Works Council SNB but the unions in the workplace for the European Company SNB






Union in workplace






Unions in agreement with works council






Union in workplace – by other employee representatives only if there is no union






All employee representatives (both union and works council)






All employees (secret ballot at meeting)






Unions which together have a majority on works council






Unions the company negotiates with



United Kingdom



All employees (secret ballot) unless there is already a committee itself elected by secret ballot.




L. Fulton (2015) 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.