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EWCs’ continued involvement in transnational company-level agreements

As in previous years, more and more EWCs have been actively negotiating arrangements and agreements with company management. The Workers Participation Bulletin continues to monitor and report on these developments. 2013 has seen the conclusion of a few particularly innovative agreements designed to capture the complexities of articulating processes of information, consultation and negotiation across different levels—from the local to the European and global levels. We report here on recent agreements signed at Air France/KLM, Enel, Lafarge, Groupama and Deutsche Bahn.

  • Air France/KLM: on 12 June 2013, management and the EWC signed an innovative framework agreement on articulation and restructuring. It serves to better equip the company and its employee representatives to cope with impending restructuring along the periphery of the company (i.e, small commercial sites and branches outside France and the Netherlands). Essentially, the agreement amounts to an articulation agreement as foreseen in the EWC Recast Directive: it maps a process whereby a planned site-by-site review and likely adaptation of activities and staffing (outside of France and the Netherlands) can be dealt with more or less autonomously by the responsible actors at each site while at the same time ensuring an anticipatory coordinating and monitoring role for the EWC and its Select Committee. The new agreement builds upon the experience of a previous framework agreement for the reorganization of sales agencies signed in 2010.
  • Air France/KLM: on 10 July 2013, the company signed a new Social Rights and Ethics Charter with the EWC, which replaces the previous Charter signed in 2008. The new Charter provides for the application of its principles and fundamental social rights on the company’s relations with all subcontractors all over in the world. The parties agree to disseminate the Charter as widely as possible among the workforce. The Charter also provides for a dispute settlement mechanism, with a special Contact Person to be named to receive employee claims. The EWC is to be informed out any such claims, and the Select Committee may take up the issue with management.
  • ENEL: following a renegotiation of its EWC agreement in 2011, the EWC negotiated an international framework agreement (IFA) on core labour standards. This IFA is complemented by a new Global Works Council, which besides monitoring compliance with the IFA also enjoys remarkably substantial rights to information. The agreement provides for a clear division of responsibilities and competences for each level and a coherent system for articulating across all levels: at the local level, bargaining and representation rights are guaranteed for the trade unions; at the European level, the rights and responsibilities of the EWC are clearly protected; finally, at the global level, the newly established Global Works Council, which covers Russia and Latin America in addition to Europe, enjoys comprehensive rights to information about a catalogue of issues that is roughly comparable to that of an EWC. The agreement was signed by relevant trade unions and their federations (IndustriAll Global Union, Public Services International (PSI) and the Italian unions Filctem-CGIL, Flaei-Cisl and Uiltec-Uil. The trade unions are clearly in the driver’s seat at the global level; they determine the composition of the Global Works Council, for example. The IFA fulfils all union standards, such as the inclusion of explicit references to ILO conventions, and guarantees the unions’ central position in the dialogue with the Global Works Council.
  • Lafarge: On 23 May 2013, central management, the EWC and the European Federation for Building and Woodworkers EFBWW signed a declaration on well-being at work. The declaration is an appendix to a 2011 company agreement on occupational health and safety, which already introduced various measures, such as health and safety committees or working groups on training, informing employees, and medical check-ups for staff. The new agreement aims mainly to raise awareness about well-being among supervisory staff. Objectives include better management of change by actively taking into account the human impact of restructuring plans, or ensuring that employees have the skills and resources they need to perform their tasks. The agreement establishes a dialogue-oriented approach to the risks associated with manufacturing processes, or about sanitary problems and their impact on the local communities. The EWC along with the members of the Health Committee are responsible for monitoring the implementation of the agreement.
  • Groupama: on February 15, 2013 the EWC signed a joint statement on the quality of life at work, which defines the group’s guidelines on discrimination and equal opportunities, diversity, and well-being at work (including stress and violence at work). The Joint Statement was co-signed on behalf of UNI Finance represented by the secretary of Groupama’s EWC, a representative of the Italian trade union Uilca. The statement lays out three goals: preventing discrimination and promoting equal opportunities at work; promoting diversity as an ethical approach and source of development for employees and support for employing people with disabilities; well-being at work (physical, mental and social well-being, prevention and management of stress situations at work and condemnation of all forms of harassment).
  • Deutsche Bahn’s Central Works Council together with the EWC opened negotiations with management in June 2013 about offering a profit-sharing scheme to all Deutsche Bahn employees. Until now, only German employees had been entitled to participate in the scheme based on an agreement which has recently expired. The scheme is meant to generate the profit-sharing bonus payment more or less automatically on an annual basis and will most likely take the form of an open-ended agreement. Management explains the initiative by pointing out that in the light of its growing need for staff, it seeks to be an attractive employer. The involvement of trade unions in this process is at the moment unclear, but will be monitored and reported about in future.
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