Agreement on European Company Statute and working time in road transport industry
In December 2000, political agreement was reached by the EU Council of Ministers on two outstanding social policy issues – an extraordinary Employment and Social Policy Council reached agreement on the worker involvement provisions relating to the European Company Statute, while the Transport Council concluded a deal on working time in the road transport industry.
An extraordinary Employment and Social Policy Council of Ministers was convened under the French Presidency on 20 December 200 in order to examine a revised text of the draft Directive on the worker involvement provisions of the European Company Statute. This development followed the consensus reached on this issue at the Nice European Council summit of 7–11 December 2000 (EU0012288F). Ministers duly reached the unanimous political agreement required to progress this draft Directive and the Regulation on the company law aspects of the Statute, which will now be forwarded to the European Parliament (EP) for an Opinion. The texts will subsequently be sent back to the Council of Ministers for adoption – possibly at the Employment and Social Policy Council scheduled for 6 March 2001 (the Council is not, under the decision-making procedure to which the European Company Statute instruments are subject, obliged to incorporate any of the amendments the EP may make). The draft Directive and Regulation will come into force three years after adoption. The draft Directive will require negotiations between management and employee representatives in each European Company over the worker involvement arrangements to be applied, with statutory reference provisions applying where no agreement is reached. Full details will be provided in a future EIRO feature.
The December extraordinary Employment and Social Policy Council also held an informal exchange of views on the proposed Directive establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community (EU9812135F). French labour minister Elisabeth Guigou noted her optimism that the necessary qualified majority for adoption of this proposal would be achieved during the incoming Swedish EU Presidency (EU0012287F).
Political agreement was finally reached at the Transport Council of Ministers held on 22 December 2000 on proposals to extend some of the protection of the 1993 working time Directive to the road transport sector. Agreement had been blocked over the issue of whether to include independent drivers in the scope of the proposals (EU0010271N). The text finally agreed by the Council builds on compromise proposals issued by the European Commission on 10 November 2000. It excludes independent drivers temporarily – the European Commission will, two years after the implementation of this proposal, review the exclusion and its effects. The proposals sets the average working week at 48 hours over a four-month reference period. Maximum weekly working time is set at 60 hours and a break of at least 30 minutes must be taken after six hours of work, or 45 minutes after nine hours of work. In the case of night workers, the maximum working day is 10 hours. The text states that derogations to the maximum working week, rest periods and night work can be made by Member States or by collective agreements, with the proviso that compensatory rest is awarded. It also states that reference periods for averaging out weekly working time may not exceed six months.