Social policy at European Union level is clearly centred on work. The objectives mentioned in Article 136 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) are: the promotion of employment, improved living and working conditions, so as to make possible their harmonisation while the improvement is being maintained, proper social protection, dialogue between management and labour, the development of human resources with a view to lasting high employment and the combating of exclusion.
The legal base for the European Community’s supporting and complementing action is Article 137 TEC, where one of the fields mentioned is the information and consultation of workers, to which the codecision procedure applies (Article 251 TEC).
Recast Works Council Directive
Directive 2009/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees (Recast) has now been published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) 16.5.2009 L 122/28.
The objective of the recast Directive, with EEA relevance, is:
1. The purpose of this Directive is to improve the right to information and to consultation of employees in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings.
2. To that end, a European Works Council or a procedure for informing and consulting employees shall be established in every Community-scale undertaking and every Community-scale group of undertakings, where requested in the manner laid down in Article 5(1), with the purpose of informing and consulting employees. The arrangements for informing and consulting employees shall be defined and implemented in such a way as to ensure their effectiveness and to enable the undertaking or group of undertakings to take decisions effectively.
3. Information and consultation of employees must occur at the relevant level of management and representation, according to the subject under discussion. To achieve that, the competence of the European Works Council and the scope of the information and consultation procedure for employees governed by this Directive shall be limited to transnational issues.
4. Matters shall be considered to be transnational where they concern the Community-scale undertaking or Community-scale group of undertakings as a whole, or at least two undertakings or establishments of the undertaking or group situated in two different Member States.
5. Notwithstanding paragraph 2, where a Community-scale group of undertakings within the meaning of Article 2(1)(c) comprises one or more undertakings or groups of undertakings which are Community-scale undertakings or Community-scale groups of undertakings within the meaning of Article 2(1)(a) or (c), a European Works Council shall be established at the level of the group unless the agreements referred to in Article 6 provide otherwise.
6. Unless a wider scope is provided for in the agreements referred to in Article 6, the powers and competence of European Works Councils and the scope of information and consultation procedures established to achieve the purpose specified in paragraph 1 shall, in the case of a Community-scale undertaking, cover all the establishments located within the Member States and, in the case of a Community-scale group of undertakings, all group undertakings located within the Member States.
7. Member States may provide that this Directive shall not apply to merchant navy crews.
A European Works Council or a procedure for informing and consulting employees must be established in the enterprises defined.
Community scale undertaking
‘Community-scale undertaking’ means any undertaking with at least 1 000 employees within the Member States and at least 150 employees in each of at least two Member States; Article 2(a).
Community scale group of undertakings
‘Community-scale group of undertakings’ means a group of undertakings with the following characteristics:
— at least 1 000 employees within the Member States,
— at least two group undertakings in different Member States, and
— at least one group undertaking with at least 150 employees in one Member State and at least one other group undertaking with at least 150 employees in another Member State; Article 2(c).
Directive 2009/38 repeals Directive 94/45/EC, as amended, with effect from 6 June 2011, when the time to transpose the provisions of the new Directive into national law has ended.