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Across Europe

Each country has a different experience and different characteristics. This section summarises some of the key features of the way that industrial relations are organised across Europe.

Board-level Representation

Employee representatives make up one third of the members of the supervisory board in companies with more than 200 employees. But new legislation, passed in 2006, allowed single tier boards for the first time, and here employee rights are much weaker.

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Information and Consultation

The rights pertaining to information and consultation of the workforce under Community law are currently some of the most fragmented in the EU legislative body. In total, more than 15 directives deal with information and consultation in some kind of a general or specific sense. Currently four major European directives form part of the social acquis in this regard: the directive on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work (89/391/EC), the directive on European works councils (2009/38/EC); the directive on employee involvement in the European Company (2001/86/EC), and the European framework directive on information and consultation (2002/14/EC). Besides this general frame, a range of directives secure the right of information and consultation of workers in specific situations, such as in case of collective redundancies (98/59/EC) , transfer of undertaking (2001/23/EC).

European-level Representation

In most cases the union or unions choose the Polish representatives for the bodies linked to European Works Councils or European Companies. The exception is board members, who are to be elected by all employees.

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European-level Representation

European representatives from Hungary for both European Works Councils and the European Company are chosen by the works council, or central works council, if there is one. Only the appointment of board members to a European Company is different – they are chosen by the SE representative body.

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Key Facts

Collective Bargaining Coverage 10-15%
Proportion of Employees in Unions 15%
Principal Level of Collective Bargaining


Workplace Representation

union (or works council)

Board-level Representation

yes: (formerly) state-owned companies

Company Board Structure


Sources: see individual country sections; where a range of figures has been quoted, the lower number has been taken

National Industrial Relations

National industrial relations differ significantly from one European country to another, thereby making harmonisation at EU level extremely difficult. The ongoing internationalisation of business makes the European dimension of social dialogue and cross-border cooperation among worker representatives and their unions more and more important. This section seeks to contribute to better mutual understanding by offering basic information on different key aspects of national industrial relations backgrounds.

Compare Countries

This tool allows you to compare countries, for example with regard to their national systems of trade unions, collective bargaining and workplace representation.

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