Metalworkers’ federation completes project on European Works Councils

The Czech Metalworkers’ Federation OS KOVO will soon have completed its second project on European Work Councils (EWCs). Both projects on EWCs have been funded by the European Commission. According to OS KOVO, the presence of numerous foreign companies in the Czech Republic, amounting to approximately 280 companies to date, was the reason for carrying out the two projects.

With the enlargement of the EU, the provisions of the EU Directive on European Works Councils (EWCs) (Directive 94/45/EC) were automatically extended to the new Member States (NMS), including the Czech Republic (CZ0409102F). For the directive to apply, a Community-scale enterprise must employ at least 1,000 employees within the Member States and at least 150 employees in each of at least two Member States.

The OS KOVO trade union (Odborový svaz KOVO, OS KOVO) currently has 63 representatives on EWCs, and wishes to extend a number of other EWCs to include representatives of NMS. It should be noted that the entry of new members from the NMS to existing EWCs is not necessarily automatic.

Training employee representatives in two multinationals

For those undertakings where an EWC already exists, new representatives must make preparations for their membership at European level. In the event that an EWC has yet to be established, it is necessary to take steps to find agreement on the establishment of an EWC. This was the subject of the first project, which was carried out in autumn 2004 and spring 2005.

Two companies operating in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Železiarne Podbrezová a.s. (on the Czech side ŽDAS a.s., Škoda Plzen TS a.s. and TTS Svinov, s.r.o.) and HTC Holding (on the Czech side Zetor Havlíckuv Brod, a.s., Zetor Motory Brno and Zetor Traktory Brno) met the criteria for establishing an EWC. Seeing this, OS KOVO decided to submit a project to the European Commission to train employee representatives from these companies in EWC issues. From the Slovakian side, OZ KOVO was the main partner for this project, cooperating with other trade union representatives of the Belgian Christian Metalworkers’ Union (Christelijke Centrale der Metaalbewerkers van België/Centrale Chrétienne des Métallurgistes de Belgique, CCMB) and of the Austrian Metalworking and Textiles Union (Gewerkschaft Metall-Textil, GMT).

The project was hailed as a success. However, the situation in one of the companies, HTC Holding, remained unsatisfactory from the trade unions’ point of view. The management of the holding did not support the establishment of an EWC, and at present, members of OZ KOVO are taking action against the company’s management. The company’s management believes that the company does not fall within the scope of Directive 94/45/EC, and has therefore refused to take any steps to establish an EWC. In the Železiarne Podbrezová group, procedures to establish an EWC are due to commence in the near future.

Strengthening relations with partner organisations

During the first half of 2006, the second project on EWCs was initiated. The project’s objectives were twofold. Firstly, it aimed to provide OS KOVO representatives with all relevant information available on EWCs in Timken, Mittal Steel, Tecumseh, Gorenje, Ronal and Hayes Lemmerz. Secondly, it aspired to strengthen relations with partner organisations in Romania (Solidaritatea Metal and Metarom), Bulgaria (NFTINI Podkrepa CL), Slovenia (Trade Union of Metal and Electro Industry of Slovenia, SKEI), and the European Metalworkers’ Federation (EMF) in Brussels, and most especially with potential EWCs members in those trade unions.

The project included the production of a CD-Rom which contains information on EWCs and related issues, such as: employee representation, legislation, a model EWC agreement, and examples of good practice. Seminars were held on these issues for OS KOVO members. Representatives of the British trade union Amicus, the Central Organisation of Industrial Employees (CO-industri) from Denmark, GMT and the German Metalworkers’ Union IG Metall – all of these organisations operate successfully in EWCs – participated fully in these seminars.

According to the President of OS KOVO, Josef Stredula, who is also a member of the project team, the first project achieved its objectives and the second project has now followed suit. Important bridges are being built between trade union representatives from multinational undertakings, operating in EU Member States.

Jaroslav Hála, Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs

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