First ever CAC ruling under UK European Works Councils law

In July 2004, the Central Arbitration Committee issued its first decision on a complaint made under the Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 1999, which implement the European Works Councils Directive in the UK.

On 15 July 2004, the UK’s Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) published a decision concerning employee complaints relating to the process of establishing a European Works Council (EWC) at the British Council, the UK’s international educational and cultural organisation. This was the CAC’s first ever decision under the Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees (TICE) Regulations 1999, which implement the EU Directive on EWCs (94/45/EC) in the UK. An earlier complaint to the CAC, in January 2001 (case EWC1/2001, between British Polythene Industries plc and the Graphical, Paper and Media Union), was withdrawn without a decision being issued.

The British Council case (EWC1/2004) concerned three separate complaints. Two were from British Council employees working in Spain and Portugal respectively who challenged their exclusion from the nomination and election process for a UK representative on the special negotiating body (SNB). The CAC pointed out that the TICE Regulations specify that complaints about defective balloting arrangements in the UK may only be made by employees who are employed in the UK. As neither of the complainants was employed in the UK, the CAC ruled that it had no jurisdiction to address their complaints.

The third complaint concerned the British Council’s failure to provide information on the number of its employees within each member state of the European Economic Area, which was requested by an employee. The CAC considered that, although the British Council believed that the request had been overtaken by events once moves to establish the SNB had been set in train (see below), the complaint was 'well founded' in that the requested information had not been provided. The CAC ordered the British Council to comply with the complainant’s request within one month of the date of its decision.

According to European Works Councils Bulletin (issue 53, September/October 2004, p.1), negotiations are currently under way between the SNB, made up of representatives from 26 European countries, and British Council management over establishing an EWC and related information and consultation structures. The SNB talks were reportedly initiated by an e-mail forum for teachers in British Council language schools. The first meeting of the SNB was held in May and the next is due in October.

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