European Works Councils: Contested and still in the making book coverFollowing the adoption of Council directive 94/45/EC (the EWC directive) more than 1,250 EWCs were established. This industrial relations institution was intended to ensure transnational information and consultation were available to worker representatives within MNCs that met the thresholds of the legislation. Initially the quality of information and consultation met neither standards required by the directive nor those specified in EU Charters and Treaties. In consequence, a recast directive (2009/38/EC) was adopted with the intention of remedying the shortcomings of the initial legislation. By means of survey evidence this book demonstrates that the recast directive has also failed to ensure EWC operations of the required standard. In particular, the timing and utility of information and consultation is inadequate with the result that most EWCs are institutions of information rather than information and consultation.

The book also shows that EWCs are contested institutions. BusinessEurope prefers voluntary rather than legislative solutions and, only when politically compelled, enters into meaningful negotiations on legislation with the objective of limiting the coverage of the measure and the obligations it imposes on management. Managers have also developed strategies to use EWCs to achieve corporate objectives. Consistent with these approaches European policy-makers have limited any legislative change to improve information and consultation even when research that they have commissioned illustrates the shortfalls. In contrast, trade unionists have campaigned for legislative change to ensure adequate standards of information and consultation, while also taking action to promote trade union involvement in EWCs, to articulate EWCs with other institutions of labour representation and to provide training to EWC representatives. This book traces how this contestation underpins the development of EWCs and assesses how this contestation is likely to impact the future development of EWCs.