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EWC bodies currently active, by sector of activity

The population of EWCs is not spread equally across all sectors. The sectors with most EWCs are metals and chemicals and the service sector. These together represent more than three quarters of all active EWC bodies. In sectors such as textiles, transport and public services, the numbers of EWCs are significantly smaller and the number of newly created EWCs tends to increase slightly over time. Generally  speaking, the reason for the variation in numbers of EWCs between sectors is their differing characteristics. Specifically, one of the main reasons for these significant sectoral differences in terms of EWCs is the presence of multinationals covered by the directive. An important factor is also whether companies in the given sector operate on sites with a high concentration in terms of employee numbers (thereby facilitating worker organisation), such as big factories or production facilities, or whether the workforce is spread out, as is the case in the transport or building industries. In some sectors, the prevalence of family companies, in which management-worker relationships have traditionally been non-institutionalised, represents another obstacle to an increasing proportion of EWCs.

The sector of activity of multinational companies was identified as early as 2004 by Marginson and Gilman* as one of the sources of constraint on the choices made by management and employee negotiators in concluding an EWC agreement (Marginson and Gilman 2001: 95). The ETUI database of EWCs corroborates this. Historically, the highest number of EWCs has been in multinational companies in the metal sector, followed by the chemical, building & woodwork and hotels & agriculture sectors. Similarly, various branches of the service sector, when added together, have a large share of companies with EWCs. In general, traditional branches of industry, such as the metal sector – characterised by large factories, gathering large numbers of employees in one place – make it easier to organise employees and launch the establishment of EWCs. Other sectors, with smaller companies and much more dispersed workforces (e.g. transport and textiles) often find it more difficult to coordinate the establishment of EWCs. In these sectors, there are also fewer large companies which meet the requirements of Directive 94/45/EC, thereby resulting in a smaller number of EWCs.

* Gilman, M. and Marginson, P. (2004): ‘Negotiating European Works Councils. Contours of constrained choice’, in: Fitzgerald, I. and Stirling, J. European works councils: pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will?, Routledge, 2004, ISBN 0415309867, 9780415309868

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