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EWPCC Conference 2020: a flashback

On 11-12the Februrary the ETUI's European Workers' Participation Competence Centre (EWPCC) hosted its annual conference on workers' representation in transnational dimension. The more than 200 participants were workers' representatives, trade union officers and officials, experts, practitioners and policy-makers. The audience was presented with results of a large-scale survey among EWC and SE-works councils members, published recently in the book 'Can anybody hear us?' by Stan De Spiegelaere and Romuald Jagodziński (ETUI).

The conference, as every year, focused on building bridges between scientific research and practice. The goal of providing a forum for an exchange of practice, learning and discussions between workers' representatives, experts, researchers and policy-makers was particularly relevant as the presented study on EWC and SE works councils delivered a very rich food for thought. By presenting results of the study, ETYI researchers Stan De Spiegelaere and Romuald Jagodziński attempted to provide the participants with an opportunity to look into a mirror: they confronted the audience (mainly EWC and SE works councils members) with opinions they contributed to the survey earlier on in 2018. Surprises were alternated by confirmations of commonly shared impressions from the EWC and SEWC work.

After the initiation to the study participants went into topical workshops of their choice. These comprised: cooperation with management, training rights and practices, enforcement of EWC and SEWC rules (including seeking justice and access to litigation), confidentiality of information and consultation, and, lastly, communication within and beyond EWCs (including articulation with other levels of information and consultation) and resources for EWCs and SEWCs. A guest presentation on power strugles in negotiation set-ups between workers' representatives and management was delivered by Prof. Martin Euwema from the KU Leuven.

The workshops continued into the second day of the conference. They were followed by a presentation by Isabelle Schömann (ETUC Confederal Secretary) on democracy at work and the role of EWCs.

In the final part of the conference the question on the role of trade unions in EWCs and the importance of EWCs for trade unions was scrutinised. The sessions were launched by a presentation of the results of the survey, showing that while trade unions are essential for an effective operation of EWCs, the latter are not always delivering so much return on investment for trade unions in terms of recruitment, organising or promoting trade union agenda and rights. These findings were subsequently commented by a diverse panel of trade union officials working with EWCs, including Isabelle Schömann (ETUC Confederal Secretary), Olivier Rötig (Uni Europa, General Secretary), Sari Vaitinen (Fin Unionen), Doris Meißner (IG BCE) and Sławomir Adamczyk (Solidarność).

The conference was reported by the particiants largely as a very successful experience for all parties involved. Reportedly it provided opportunities for exchange of experiences, networking, challenged some opinions about EWCs, equipped the participants with a better understanding, new tools as well as arguments for their work, and finally, provided a stimulus for their further work as workers' representatives. The debates are also expected to be translated into and inform political consideration in context of discussions about possible amendments to the EU legal framework on EWCs.

Photos: © Ruben Loodts, February 2020 CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Visual harvesting: Juan & co.

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