European Works Council established at Deutsche Post

In July 2003, an agreement to set up a Deutsche Post World Net Forum (DPWN Forum) was signed by the central management of the German mail and logistics multinational, Deutsche Post AG, and a special negotiating body made up of trade union and employee representatives from the company's subsidiaries in Europe. The DPWN Forum covers subsidiaries of the Deutsche Group in 28 European countries and is composed of an employee-side European Works Council Forum (EWCF) with 50 members and a 25-member European Management Forum (EMF).

On 23 July 2003, an agreement on the establishment of a European employee representation body within the framework of a so-called Deutsche Post World Net Forum (DPWN Forum) was signed in Brussels between the German-based postal services and logistics multinational Deutsche Post AG and a special negotiating body consisting of employee representatives from 17 countries. The agreement is based on Article 6 of the EU Directive on European Works Councils (EWCs) (94/45/EC). The DPWN Forum is composed of a European Works Council Forum (EWCF) with 50 members and a European Management Forum (EMF) with 25 members. Whereas the EWCF consists of employee representatives from the various countries and operations of Deutsche Post AG, the members of the EMF are managers representing different business units and areas of activity, appointed by the company.

The agreement covers more than 300,000 employees in more than 450 companies and subsidiaries of Deutsche Post AG in 28 European countries: the 15 current EU Member states, the 10 candidate countries, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Development of negotiations

Negotiations started in summer 2000 when the German group works council of Deutsche Post AG, the works council of Nedlloyd Road Cargo Luxemburg, the United Services Union (Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft, ver.di), Union Network International (UNI) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) took the initiative and made an application to form a special negotiating body (SNB) under the terms of §9 of the German Act on European Works Councils, with the aim of establishing an EWC. It took about a year to establish the SNB and a further two years of negotiations to achieve an agreement. Employee representatives had initially favoured the establishment of an EWC made up only of employee representatives, which would meet bilaterally with management (in line with the German works council model), whereas management had sought a joint body of management and employee representatives, as had already been established at the DHL logistics company before DHL was taken over by Deutsche Post. The breakthrough in the negotiations came with agreement on a compromise of setting up a joint forum composed of two legally independent sub-bodies - the EWCF and the EMF - with particular information and consultation rights.

Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Deutsche Post employees - more than 200,000 - work in Germany, the German employee representatives, led by the chair of the group works council and ver.di member, Margrit Wendt, agreed to have only eight representatives out of 50 on the EWCF. This willingness of the German employee representatives to accept a formula for the distribution of EWCF seats which favours the participation of employee representatives from all countries covered, rather than reflecting the weight of Germany in the overall workforce, is reported to have been seen as 'trust-building' and very helpful in creating an atmosphere of solidarity on the employees' side during the years of negotiations.

Main provisions of the agreement

The members of the DPWN Forum will have a four-year term of office, starting with the constituent meeting planned to take place in December 2003.

The members of the employee-side EWCF will be elected or appointed according to the national implementing regulations for the EWCs Directive. If there are no such regulations in any country, the members of the EWCF will be elected by the employees concerned. The EWCF has at least one employee representative from each country where Deutsche Post has operations. Additional representatives are allocated to countries according to the following distribution formula:

  • up to 1,000 employees - one delegate per country;
  • 1,001 to 5,000 employees - two delegates per country;
  • 5,001 to 10,000 employees - three delegates per country;
  • up to 20,000 employees - four delegates per country; and
  • more than 20,001 employees - eight delegates per country.

Both the EWCF and the EMF will elect their own chair and both chairs will jointly represent the DPWN Forum. The two chairs and six additional members - of whom three are appointed by the EWCF and three by the EMF - will form a select committee responsible for the coordination and preparation of the DPWN Forum meetings, as well as the business of the body in the periods between the meetings of the Forum.

The DPWN Forum and thus the EBRF and the EMF will ordinarily meet twice a year. In the event of urgent matters arising, additional meetings can be scheduled.

The DPWN Forum is competent for cross-border matters that have an impact on at least two countries concerned. The company is committed to providing information and consultation on the following issues:

  • the economic and financial situation of the group;
  • the development of the business and of production and sales;
  • the development and probable trends of employment;
  • investment programmes;
  • fundamental changes in organisation;
  • the introduction of new working and production processes;
  • the relocation of operations, establishments or significant parts thereof, and transfers of production;
  • mergers or demergers;
  • the cutting back or closure of operations, establishments or significant parts thereof; and
  • collective redundancies.

The select committee may jointly add further topics to the agenda in exceptional circumstances. In the event of extraordinary circumstances affecting employees’ interests, the company will inform the select committee instead of the DPWN Forum in good time, providing it with the required documentation, and, on request, consult it. Extraordinary circumstances are defined as being in particular:

  • the relocation of operations, establishments or significant parts thereof;
  • the closure of operations, establishments or significant parts thereof; and
  • collective redundancies

If the EWCF considers it necessary, it may establish working groups to prepare and examine in-depth issues relevant to the work of the EWCF meeting. Working groups should preferably fulfil their tasks via the telephone or by e-mail. but the chair of the EWCF may decide on to call a meeting of a working group if this is considered necessary.

The EWCF has the right to have access to one permanent external expert and further experts if required by extraordinary circumstances. The international trade union organisations UNI and ETF have the right to participate in the meetings of the DPWN Forum, with one representative each.

Members of the EWCF have the right to visit all locations of the group in the country they represent and also in neighbouring countries, needing only to inform management beforehand. Members of the EWCF are entitled to eight days of further training per year and the right to a range of facilities to help them fulfil their tasks. When exercising their function, they shall be entitled to the same protection provided for employee representatives by the national legislation and/or practice in force in their country of employment. No discrimination against members of the EWCF is allowed and no dismissal of a member of the EWCF is possible without the select committee being informed and consulted by the company beforehand.

Commentary

The agreement to establish a European employee representation structure for the employees of Deutsche Post in is a major step forward towards a coordinated transnational representation of employees' interests in one of Europe's largest companies. A notable feature of the agreement is that not only employees from the EU Member States but also those in the candidate countries and the other three countries of the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) will be represented. Major achievements in the eyes of employee representatives are the right of the EWCF to establish working groups without the consent of the employer, and the entitlement to further training for the members of the EWCF.

After its constitution in December 2003, the major challenges ahead for the DPWN Forum in general and the EWCF in particular will be to handle the problems likely to arise from the international restructuring of Deutsche Post, which is expected to follow the period of expansion of the group. The group has acquired a great number of companies over recent years which must now be integrated. (Heiner Dribbusch, Institute for Economic and Social Research, WSI)

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