EU-Level: Recasting the information and consultation directives?
The European Commission has indicated the possibility of its reviewing and simplifying the existing directives on information and consultation. The European-level social partners have been consulted and have given their responses. Plans, however, appear to at least be on hold.
In April 2015, the Commission started a social partner consultation under Article 154(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) regarding consolidation of the EU directives on information and consultation of workers. There are currently three such directives:
- Directive 98/59/EC on collective redundancies;
- Directive 2001/23/EC on transfers of undertakings;
- Directive 2002/14/EC on a general framework for information and consultation of workers.
Differences in terms of scope, definitions and thresholds used in these directives have prompted some demands at EU level that the legislation be reviewed and simplified. See, for instance, the consultation document First phase consultation of social partners under Article 154 TFEU.
European Commission's review of legislation
A 'fitness check' carried out by the European Commission in 2013 stated that 'the three I&C Directives as amended appear coherent and mutually reinforcing. There is no evidence of any duplications or contradictions resulting in problems in their practical implementation.'
In the above-cited consultation document, the European Commission stated that two measures could enhance the legal clarity of the legislation and promote greater awareness of it:
- a potential recasting of the three directives into one single piece of legislation;
- the addition of specific provisions defining the concepts ‘information' and ‘consultation’ in the three directives.
However, it warned: 'care should be taken to avoid that the alignment of the definitions brings about an unjustified regression of workers' protection’.
Questions posed to social partners
In the framework of the consultation, the Commission asked the social partners:
- whether they considered the description of the issues presented in the paper to be correct and sufficient;
- whether they believed the Commission should launch an initiative to revise or recast the three directives and – if so – what its scope should be;
- whether the social partners would consider initiating a dialogue under Article 155 TFEU in this context.
On 11 June 2015, in advance of the deadline for consultation of stakeholders, the Commission published its planned initiative 2015/EMPL/007 on a consolidation/recasting of the three directives (in the Employment policy area). The adoption of this initiative was scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2015. However, it seems this recasting is no longer going ahead, as it is not mentioned in the Commission Work Programme 2016.
Social partner responses to consultation
In response to the consultation, the main employers’ stakeholders firmly opposed a revision or recasting of the directives, arguing that the existing directives work well for both employers and workers. They also stated that each directive deals with different issues, a fact that conflicts with the stated goal of harmonising the concept of information and consultation across all directives. (Links to the social partners' responses are appended at the end of this section.)
Trade union stakeholders tend to favour including the public sector in the scope of the directives, with a preference for a framework agreement under the sectoral dialogue. Only in the absence of such an agreement are they in favour of extending the scope of application of the three directives to the public sector – not through a recasting, however, but by means of a separate revision of the directives.
The Social Dialogue Committee for Central Government Administrations argued that information and consultation is a fundamental social right, one that all employees are entitled to regardless of whether they work in the public or private sectors. As a result, on 21 December 2015, the Committee negotiated a common framework on information and consultation for central government administrations under Article 155 TFEU.
Employer organisation responses – links
- BusinessEurope response to social partner consultation (PDF)
- UEAPME response to social partner consultation (PDF)
- CEEP response to social partner consultation (PDF)
- CEEMET response to social partner consultation (PDF)
Trade union responses – links
- CESI response to social partner consultation – press release
- CESI response to social partner consultation – answer to first-phase consultation (PDF)
- ETUC position paper on new framework for information and consultation
- EPSU response to social partner consultation
- CWU submission to social partner consultation (Microsoft Word document)