© 2004
EU Enlargement - What does this mean for the EWC?

FotoFoto Since May 1st, 2004 ten new member states, the so-called CEE countries, with about 75 mio. inhabitants belong to the European Union: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia as well as Malta and the southern part of Cyprus. On January 1st, 2007 Romania and Bulgaria with 30 mio. inhabitants followed. Croatia will join on July 1st, 2013, negotiations are currently under way with Turkey and Iceland.

New EU countries take on the European legislation with the accession and thus also the European works council.

The EWC Directive was transposed into national legislation in all joining member states, also in Romania and Bulgaria. Therefore employee representatives of European-scale companies have got an improved possibility to aim at obligatory minimum standards under inclusion of the Central and Eastern European sites.
Summary of the national EWC laws

Of altogether 2,318 companies falling under the scope of the EWC Directive around the half has subsidiaries in one or several of the accession states. In March 2008 this was 946 companies in Poland, 756 in Czechia and 726 in Hungary, all other countries play a far more minor role. However, an EWC has been established only in about the half of these companies. These figures show clearly that the establishment of European works councils with inclusion of the new EU countries still will be an enormous piece of work. Perhaps it is to reconsider also about structure and size of existing councils.

The efforts of German trade unions and works councils often concentrate on the first time establishment of employee representations in the subsidiaries of the EU joining countries to create the basis for the election of EWC delegates.

The first hurdle to set up an EWC consists often in finding a contact person in the accession countries. There are hardly any workers' representatives and only little experiences with trade unions and works councils primarily in the so-called "greenfield sites" (locations which were set up newly "on the green meadow"). It is not regarded as simple to persuade native managers to talks: the smaller the site, the more laborious the propaganda work. Says Manfred Warda from the German chemical industrial union IG BCE: "On a large scale, existing councils have tried to integrate representatives from Central and Eastern European countries within the last years as far as possible".

Also in the metal industry Western European EWC members have already gained experience, established contacts and helped on-site to build up employee representations. With the EU accession "the workers' representatives of the joining countries get away of the children's table", confirmed Marika Varga from the German metal industrial union IG Metall. In 58 out of 150 metal and engineering companies delegates from the EU joining countries were already represented as an observer in the EWC before May 2004, since then they have got the full membership status. Their mandates has become more transparent and the election procedures can be adapted to EU standards.

Exemplary initiatives

An EWC agreement for the Italian bank UniCredit was signed in January 2007. It applies not only to the EU countries but also to Switzerland, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, San Marino, Russia, the Ukraine and Turkey.
Further information

Workers' representatives of the transport sector from six countries met in the Romanian seaport Constanţa in May 2007 to inform themselves about the formation of European works councils und its competences.
Further information

Labour law and trade unions in the new EU countries

During the last years before EU accession all CEE countries have brought their labour legislation into line with the EU standards on a considerable scale. This study examines the developments of the nineties and the current state in eight countries according to a uniform pattern. Besides the labour law the structures of workplace representation and collective bargaining are illuminated as well as the different styles of management.

Earlier than in other transformation countries, works councils which orientate themselves at the German example were already introduced 1992 in Hungary and a year later in Slovenia. Since 2001, there is a regulation also in Czechia on "employee councils" which served as an example for the legislation in Slovakia and Latvia (both 2002) as well as in Lithuania (2003). Until 2007 Poland and Estonia were the only countries where the employee representation was run exclusively by trade unions.

Heribert Kohl/Hans-Wolfgang Platzer
Industrial relations in Central and Eastern Europe
Transformation and integration. A comparison of the eight new EU member states
Brussels, 2004, 422 pages, ISBN 2-930352-52-3, 27 €     → Further information

The consultancy firm wmp-consult in Hamburg has introduced results of an EU financed research project in April 2005:

Eckhard Voß
"Marriages of Convenience"
EU Directives on employee information and consultation and trade unions in the new member states

Country reports in our newsletter EWC News:

Country report Czechia
New labour code and EWC work   → Read this report

Country report Turkey
Turkey: a topic for the EWC?   → Read this report

Diese Seite in deutscher Sprache
Cette page en francais