European Parliament adopts resolution on draft information and consultation Directive

On 14 April 1999, the European Parliament gave a first reading to the European Commission's proposed Directive on the information and consultation of workers at national level. The Parliament proposed a number of amendments.

TheEuropean Commission tabled a proposal for a Directive establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community on 11 November 1998, following the refusal by the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE) to enter into European-level negotiations on the subject under the provisions of the Maastricht social policy Agreement (EU9812135F). The information and consultation requirements contained in the draft Directive would apply to all undertakings with at least 50 employees, which is thought to imply a coverage of 3% of European Union enterprises, employing 58.2% of employees. The approach is to lay down minimum requirements while encouraging agreements between the social partners at the appropriate levels. The adoption of the Directive, highlighted as a priority by the German EU Presidency of the first half of 1999, will require the support of a qualified majority of Member State governments in the Council of Ministers.

At its plenary session on 14 April 1999, the European Parliament (EP) gave a first reading to the draft Directive, based on the report from the parliamentary Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. The EP, which expressed no disagreement with the proposed threshold of 50 employees, proposed numerous amendments which would, for example:

  • extend the Directive to cover the public sector;
  • remove the option open to Member States in the draft Directive of raising the workforce-size threshold to 100 in respect of the minimum information and consultation requirements on employment matters;
  • call upon Member States to establish mechanisms to encourage social dialogue in small firms that fall outside the scope of the proposal;
  • define more precisely what is meant by information and consultation, particularly by clarifying its timing and content;
  • tighten the definitions of the employee representatives to be informed and consulted and of the social partners who may implement the Directive's requirements through agreements;
  • provide that negotiated agreements would be subject to the minimum requirements laid down at national level;
  • clarify the importance of legal protection for employee representatives, in respect to dismissal, disadvantage with regard to their career, pay and training during their term of office and for six months thereafter; and
  • allow employee representatives to be assisted by experts of their choice.

The EP called upon the Council to incorporate the amendments in accordance with Article 189c(a) of the EC Treaty.

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