GMB Experts in the World of Work
Join GMB today
 Follow @GMB_union

European Works Councils

On 23 June, 51.9% of the British electorate voted in favour of leaving the European Union.

Official withdrawal negotiations have not yet been launched, and there is still a huge amount of uncertainty over what Britain’s future relationship with the EU will be.

This includes the continued involvement of UK workers in European Works Councils (EWCs), and the role of UK representatives within EWCs.

We have produced a special EU update on what Britain's withdrawal from the EU means for European Works Council reps. It is available to read and download in the Additional Resources below.

The 1994 European Work Councils Directive, updated in 2009 by the recast Directive, provides the right for workers in multinational companies operating in Europe to meet and to receive information and consultation. The legislation covers all EU-based multinationals with at least 1,000 employees and with 150 employees in each of at least two Member States. About 10 million workers across the EU have the right to information and consultation on company decisions at European level through these EWCs. GMB represents workers in over 120 EWCs where we have over 150 seats. Many of our reps are now very experienced and have held senior positions within EWCs, such as Chair and Secretary, and have been very influential in key management decisions.

GMB@Work in Europe for stronger and more effective European Works Councils

The original European Works Councils Directive was adopted in 1994 and came into force in the UK in January 2000; the 2009 recast has been fully operational since 2011. Well functioning and effective EWCs provide employees with high quality, useful and relevant information and genuine consultation in a timely and meaningful manner. They can be a positive and valuable tool during company restructuring, and in the process of a merger or take-over.

GMB European and National Officers offer ongoing support, advice and information to new and existing EWC reps and help and support in negotiating EWC agreements, in cooperation with our EU trade union industry federations.

The amended Directive includes: stronger definitions relating to the timing and manner of information and consultation before decisions are made; clarity on the transnational nature of decisions; the right for representatives to have training; and a new recital stating that Member States must ensure "effective, dissuasive and proportionate" sanctions against employers in breach of the directive.

UK Implementation

In the UK, the recast EWC directive is implemented by the Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees (Amendment) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010 No 1088). In our response to the UK Government consultation on the implementation of the EU Directive (see Additional Resources below), GMB raised serious concerns that the Regulations failed to meet the spirit and provisions of the recast Directive. Our European trade union federation colleagues also supported GMB's view that the proposals were inadequate and responded to the consultation to raise their concerns as well.

Trade union guidance

EWC guides have been produced by three of the EU trade union sector federations to which GMB affiliates: UNI Europa (commercial services), IndustriAll Europe (manufacturing, chemicals, energy, and textile and clothing) and EFBWW (European Federation of Building and Woodworkers). These guides are available in the Additional Resources below.

You can also download our GMB EWC factsheet in the Additional Resources.

Further background details on EWCs are also available on the ETUC website and the ETUI website.

For more information please contact the GMB European Office:

Share this page

Additional Resources

What Brexit means for EWC reps (Aug 2016)

download pdf496Kb (pdf) - 02 August 2016

GMB EU update - What Britain's withdrawal from the EU means for European Works Council reps

GMB EWC factsheet

download pdf182Kb (pdf) - 25 May 2016

European Works Councils - GMB factsheet

GMB response to BIS consultation (Feb 2010)

download pdf153Kb (pdf) - 12 February 2010

Our response to BIS' consultation on the EWC recast Directive

UNI Europa Guidelines on European Works Councils

download pdf462Kb (pdf) -

The objective of these Guidelines is to define a UNI Europa approach applicable to all UNI Europa sectors on matters related to European Works Councils (EWCs).

IndustriAll — EWC Negotiations: Main Priorities Procedure and Content

download pdf360Kb (pdf) -

European Works Councils have been a cornerstone of the three industriAll European Trade Union founding organisations’ work.

EFBWW Practical Guide for EWCs on Information and Consultation

download pdf1140Kb (pdf) - 10 June 2016

In 2009, the Directive on European Works Councils (2009/38/EC) was revised with a view “to improve the right to information and to consultation of employees”. With this in mind, the European Works Council (EWC) was understood to be “a council established [...] with the purpose of informing and consulting employees”. This project has the same purpose and is intended to investigate the information and consultation practices of European Works Councils (EWC), the better to formalise them.