© 2004
Interview with Sean Bamford, EWC coordinator of the TUC

FotoFotoQuestion: Which role does the TUC have in the EWC work?

Bamford: The individual trade unions tend to support the individual European works councils. The TUC takes on a coordination role between individual trade unions, with virtually all unions in the UK being affiliated to the TUC. One problem is that British unions are often in competition with each other and the question arises who will represent British workers on a particular EWC and what union are they drawn from.

Question: Which individual trade unions look after most EWCs?

Bamford: The largest trade union in the private sector is Amicus. It is therefore responsible for a large number of European works councils, much in the metal industry but also for banks and insurances and other sectors. The large general unions T & G and GMB also have substantial involvement. However even public service workers unions are being effected with privatisation.

Question: What does the support by trade unions look concrete?

Bamford: The support of the European works councils in the United Kingdom is less developed than in many countries. Still many new EWC bodies could potentially be established, although if this happened the TUC and many of our unions would not have the resources to support them. We also lack a good database which identifies British members on EWCs. Furthermore many British employers fulfil only the minimal standards and don't grant adequate facilities to the EWC.

Question: Are there special training offers for European works councils?

Bamford: The TUC has in recent years offered training for British EWC members. I myself have carried out many of these. However, we have little experience with in-house-training for individual European works councils.

Question: A British EWC is confronted with a restructuring by the employer. Where does he receive help?

Bamford: At first he goes to his local trade union official. The local official may well seek the assistance of the National or Regional office. We don't have any external advice offers in the UK like in other countries unless perhaps the Labour Research Department.

Question: Does the new EU Directive on information and consultation have effects on the EWC work?

Bamford: We expect profound consequences. British EWC members worked till now in a vacuum. At a domestic level unions generally were not informed and consulted in a systematic way. We hope to come closer to the continental standards with the new legal provisions and that British management changes its attitude towards consulting and informing the employee representatives. Hopefully, we can avoid the situation arising in relation to these new domestic rights that arose with Britain’s involvement in EWCs’ where many employers adopted a policy of grudging minimum compliance. These new rights are both good for British workers and good for the British economy.

Sean Bamford takes on the coordination of all EWC activities of the British trade union confederation TUC on October 1st, 2005. He started with his career as a trade union official of the railway union, was active at the National Education Centre of the TUC for 15 years and works in the national office of the TUC since last year.

The interview was carried out by Werner Altmeyer on September 16th, 2005.

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