Collective agreements and working conditions
Collective bargaining plays a major role in determining terms and conditions of employment and any changes in working conditions. This is illustrated by Council Directive 91/533/EEC of 14 October 1991 on an employer’s obligation to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the contract or employment relationship, which offers employers an alternative to individual detailed written statements specifying the prescribed terms and conditions. Instead, employers may refer to the relevant collective agreement. The directive makes such a reference to collective agreements, explicit and direct. Among the ‘essential aspects of the contract or employment relationship’ to be included in the written document provided by the employer under the Directive are ‘the collective agreements governing the employee’s conditions of work’.
The collective dimension of changes in working conditions is also reflected in Directive 2002/14/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 11 March 2002 establishing a general framework for informing employees and consulting with them in the European Community. Information and consultation are critical when working conditions are likely to be affected by developments affecting the undertaking in which the worker is employed. Article 4(1) requires Member States to determine the practical arrangements for exercising the right to information and consultation, and Article 4(2) specifies the scope of information and consultation procedures.
In accordance with these provisions, changes in working conditions are subject to a process of both individual notification and collective information and consultation.