Towards a Legal Framework for Transnational Company Agreements (TCA)
A new study carried out by Silvana Sciarra, Maximilian Fuchs and André Sobczak for the ETUC was presented at an ETUC seminar in Frankfurt at the end of January 2014. In a nutshell, the authors of the report suggest that TCAs be included in the European social dialogue legal framework of the chapter on social policy in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. On this basis, ETUC adopted a resolution at its Executive committee meeting of 11–12 March 2014 on the issue, which should soon be available on the ETUC website.
The Report, based on academic literature and interviews of TCA practitioners, is aimed at developing opportunities for an optional legal framework, as well as at elaborating the steps that may lead to its adoption by the European Commission. In a nutshell, the authors of the report suggest that TCAs be included in the European social dialogue legal framework of the chapter on social policy in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. They further develop what the content of the optional legal framework could be, including (1) an ‘opt-in clause’ that would clarify the will of the parties to choose or not to benefit from the legal framework and, in the affirmative case, to secure legal certainty concerning the effects of the TCA; (2) a clause to limit access to defined signatory parties, thus not allowing EWCs to sign their own TCAs; (3) a clause to clarify and disclose the mandate of the signatory parties; (4) a clause to clarify the scope of application of TCAs; (5) a non-regression clause that would not allow changes in labour standards and working conditions agreed at national, sectoral or company level. However, the authors see no restriction on the signatory parties’ entering into concession bargaining when temporary measures are intended to fight the effects of economic and financial downturns; and (6) a clause on internal dispute settlement mechanisms, which would allow for an external method of mediation inspired by the Directive of 2008 on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters.
Given the large number of studies on the issues, the report may be seen as offering old wine in a new bottle (see for example ETUI (2012) Transnational collective bargaining at company level. A new component of European industrial relations?). However, the adoption of the resolution on the issue at the ETUC Executive Committee of 11–12 March 2014 is surely a sign of the last stage of ownership of a long-lasting process that may ultimately enrich the European social dialogue at both interprofessional and sectoral levels.