Comparative analysis of information and consultation in five countries

The international conference ‘Information and consultation at the workplace and new perspectives for labour in Europe’ took place in Bulgaria on 28–29 October 2010. The conference was part of the year-long INFORMIA project and was promoted by the country’s trade unions. Its aim was to analyse the system of information and consultation in the workplace in four EU Member States and in one candidate country, and to offer an exchange of experience and best practice examples.

Background

The conference was the final step of the project INFORMIA (Improvement of the process of workplace information and consultation for better employees’ and workers’ representation in Europe). It was promoted by the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and funded under Budget heading 04.03.03.03, ‘Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities DG’ of the European Commission (EC). The project aimed to analyse the system of information and consultation at the workplace in four EU Member States (Bulgaria, France, Ireland and Italy) and one candidate country (Croatia) and to offer a transnational exchange of experience and best practice examples among the partner countries.

Main partners

The project partners were CITUB, the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), the Union of the Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia (UATUC), the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Congress), the Institute for Economical and Social Researc h (IRES) of the General Italian Confederation of Labour (CGIL) and the French institute Les Mondes du Travail. The project started on 1 December 2009 and finished on 30 November 2010.

The conference was attended by delegations from all five partner countries, as well as representatives of the EC, BUSINESSEUROPE and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). Participants also included academics and consultants from Bulgaria and other EU-Member States, and representatives of the heads of CITUB and BIA.

The main purpose of the conference was to present and discuss the results of the national surveys conducted in the five countries, and the conclusions of a transnational report prepared on the basis of the national reports.

Main trends

The comparative analysis of the state of information and consultation in the partner countries emphasised the following main trends.

  • In all countries taking part in the project, the European directive on information and consultation in the workplace was adopted and implemented by 2006, Ireland and Bulgaria being the last countries to do so.
  • The influence of the European acquis communataire on national industrial relations systems is mainly positive.
  • The number of companies where workplace information and consultation systems exist is larger in countries where the systems were established before 2006, in Croatia, France and Italy.
  • In most of the partner countries the results of information and consultation depend on the quality of information shared by the employer with the employee representatives, and on their capacity to use the information.
  • Coordination between the various structures of employee representation at the enterprise level, including trade unions and works councils/groups for information and consultation, is usually weaker in the countries where experience of using the new structures is shorter.
  • The opinions of trade union representatives regarding information and consultation in the workplace range between moderate scepticism to moderate optimism.
  • The employers and employer associations that participated in the survey, from Bulgaria and Croatia, generally support the process.

Issues discussed at the conference

A number of issues were discussed at the conference, including:

  • information and consultation systems in the 27 EU Member States, based on Eurofound data;
  • the EU framework for information and consultation under the strategy Europe 2020 and the new Treaty of Lisbon;
  • impact of the global financial crisis on industrial relations;
  • after the crisis – corporate restructuring;
  • information and consultation in the workplace – challenges to the social partners;
  • the legal framework of information and consultation.

On the last day of the conference, there was a special discussion dedicated to information and consultation practices in Bulgaria.

Commentary

On the basis of the conference discussions, some more general conclusions can be drawn:

  • the information and consultation process usually works better in big companies;
  • those companies that foster workplace information, consultation and employee participation are usually more effective in their business;
  • there are no acceptable innovations in the information and consultation process regarding the consequences of the crisis;
  • there are still some problems in national legal frameworks and in the EU framework regarding the right to information and consultation;
  • in Bulgaria (196Kb PDF), most of the workers and employees still do not know their exact information and consultation rights and are still not involved in this process,
  • the coordination of the implementation of all EU directives for information and consultation, including all directives concerning transnational companies at the EU level, would be desirable as means of improving implementation results and exchange of experiences.

Ekaterina Ribarova, Institute for Social and Trade Union Research (ISTUR)

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