Interview with Bernd Schneider, EWC chairman at Freudenberg
Question: How did the initiative for health mapping at Freundenberg come about?
Schneider: We went with three colleagues on a mapping seminar and we found the idea – especially the direct articulation
of employee groups – very appealing and have tried it in our company. To our surprise, we then got an award for the best
idea in occupational health and safety, and for best practice worldwide within the Freundenberg group. This encouraged us
to use it for the international work and to make it an EWC topic.
Question: How deals the EWC with the health mapping?
Schneider: We train employee representatives to health managers in all European countries that have representation bodies.
We started with the EWC members and their deputies, who become multipliers in their respective countries. This is funded
including through our EWC budget which is provided by the employer.
With the management of the seal and vibration control technology division we are currently negotiating a memorandum in
order to design conditions for the mapping and training steps uniformly across Europe. A kind of steering
committee with participation of the employer should also be formed.
We conduct two training sessions each year for the EWC, where we incorporate the health mapping repeatedly. And the EWC
informs employee representatives in all countries about it on a regular basis in its newsletter.
Question: What is the role of external consultants?
Schneider: They train the health managers, support the project during the launch phase or when difficulties arise and
they will participate in the steering committee.
Question: What can learn other European works councils of that?
Schneider: We are experiencing in practical terms, how different cultures in Europe can work together constructively on
common issues and projects. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to strengthen cooperation within the EWC as well as
between individual countries. For example, German works councils go to the Netherlands, France or Austria, Swedish
colleagues go to the north of England, etc. This direct exchange is not only fun, but leads also to a better networking
of local works councils - even without the institution EWC. This is a great benefit for all.
Bernd Schneider is EWC chairman in the chemical group Freudenberg and works council member in the seal and vibration
control technology division of the parent plant in Weinheim (Germany). He is a member of the chemical workers union
Bernd Schneider was interviewed by Werner Altmeyer on 19th December 2007.