Companies within the European Union with at least 1,000 employees and at least 150 of those employees in two member states are required to hold European Works Councils (EWCs).

These are designed to provide information and consultation for employees as required by the 1994 European Works Council Directive (Directive 94/45/EC). In May 2009, the European Parliament and the Council reached an agreement on a recast Directive, which is expected to replace the existing text by Spring 2011.

What are European Works Councils for?

European Works Councils are designed to ensure that as companies go through more ‘Europeanisation’, the needs of the whole work force are reflected. So in terms of industrial relations across a large European multinational, European Works Councils are a great innovation. They are also quite an undertaking to arrange.

The directive requires the formation of a special negotiating body, made up of employee representatives from a number of the member states represented in the company. It’s up to the company’s central management and special negotiating body to agree how the EWC will be formed and function.

This includes among other things:

  • The signatory parties
  • Coverage
  • Composition
  • Numbers and seat allocation
  • The terms of office
  • Functions and procedure
  • Venue
  • Frequency and duration of meetings
  • Financial and material resources
  • Duration of the agreement and the procedure for its renegotiation
  • Issues for information and consultation
  • Experts
  • Confidentiality
  • Select committee operations
  • Employee-side pre-meetings
  • Rules on deputies to employee representatives
  • Languages policy and interpretation provided
  • Procedure for agreeing the agenda
  • Procedure for drawing up minutes or other records
  • Communication to employees generally

Communicating the outcomes

There are several elements involved in the preparation and follow through for such large numbers of people where large amounts of money and time have been invested.

Typical linguistic projects involved are:

  • Putting together agendas, intranets, presentations, speaker lists, directions, menus, etc. – all of which will require translation
  • Arranging interpreters, including equipment (e.g. booths and headsets) to ensure clear communication throughout the Works Council
  • Transcriptions or detailed minutes of all meetings to ensure that all agreed actions and resolutions are recorded accurately
  • Translations of the transcriptions or minutes

With the outcomes and discussions concerning so many people, and not all of them speaking the same languages, it’s vital that professional linguists are involved.