Interview with Manfred Lock, SNB chairman at Takeda
SNB = Special Negotiationg Body
Question: How was the establishment of the EWC initiated?
Lock: In February 2008 we heard by chance of a French request for establishment, from a trade union which later, ironically, was not represented in the special negotiation body due to the balance in majority. Although initially it did not sound very interesting from a German perspective. We, as Takeda works council members, were able to hold an inhouse EWC seminar, with a view to first of all forming our own opinion. Following this it became clear to me, that the German work council had to participate.
Question: How and why did the change in opinion occur?
Lock: Companies are more and more European in their set up and structure. Decisions are frequently not made in the local country but are simply implemented there by management without any decisional freedom. As an employee representative if I wish to obtain timely information or to present alternatives then I must be able to discuss and argue, at the level where decisions are made.
In a nutshell, after consultation the German work council made a resolution to also make a request for the establishment of a EWC and thus created the condition under which central management in London had to start the election process for the members of the Special Negotiating Body and to open negotiations within 6 months.
Question: How did the negotiations go and why did they last so long?
Lock: Central management is located in London and the negotiations were conducted by the English (European) HR manager. Two Japanese managers and the national HR managers were also present at the beginning. At some stages we were five employee representatives facing up to eight managers. There are surely several reasons why the negotiations took so long. On the one hand both co-determination and information and consultation rights were confronted with a considerable lack of understanding by management in the UK. On the other hand the management there must also understand that employee representatives are able to conduct certain negotiations on an equal footing. What appears completely natural for a German or French HR manager, is in no way comprehensible for a British manager even more so on British soil and under British legislation. The comprehension process took a considerable amount of time.
The actual negotiations were obviously characterized by differing positions on the individual points. The pace of negotiations increased only in spring 2011 because management had no real interest either in failure, since possible complicated legal proceedings would have obstructed any further cooperation.
Question: From an employee representatives' viewpoint what steps can be useful along the way?
Lock: The most important and helpful point turned out to be that one should first of all train national employee representatives. We, as German work councils members, are relativley alone in Europe with our system of co-determination and we and the other representatives must learn and understand, why we discuss and argue the way we do. Only then can one understand, why the French colleagues argue in this manner or why the English colleagues have little understanding for French or German demands.
Question: What are most important strong points in the EWC agreement?
Lock: One success for sure is that we were able to incorporate the most important changes from the new Directive. An agreement was reached on the definition of information and consultation as well as for transnational matters and the obligation for the employer to supply information. Furthermore the transnational responsibility of the EWC as well as the rights to training, to experts and for union support. There will be a steering committee meeting four times annually and able to dialogue with management.
Naturally we had to „bite the bullet“ on other issues; the first council is limited to 10 members and the adaptation clause was removed. We can however correct this after the first term of office of four years, since we have included provisions for a one-sided termination and renegotiation phase.
Question: What advice would you give to other work councils members subject to British legislation?
Lock: You have definitely to get technical assistance on board. You have to really go ahead and get it!!
Most companies have been set up for a long time on a European or even global level. We must also take this step and bring our national employment rights and achievements up to this level. If we do not manage this, then everyone can imagine, in the light of the ever expanding EU, how things will consequently turn out. And, invest time as European employee representatives to get to know and understand one another. Nothing is more favorable to an employer, set on dissaproving, than a quarrelsome or divided council.
Manfred Lock has been employed with Takeda Pharma since 1991, works council chairman of Takeda Pharma Germany, supervisory board member and SNB chairman, member of the chemicals worker trade union IG BCE.
Manfred Lock was interviewed by Bernhard Stelz on 19th July 2011.