IR Notes 4 - 26 February 2014
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  Interview
Rüdiger Lütjen, president of European Works Council of Group Airbus

How is the information and consultation process progressing in connection with the restructuring of Airbus Group?
Our European works council is having to get to grips with the largest restructuring of the company since it was founded. It affects all four countries and all the divisions. We are currently in the information phase, during which we have received a large amount of data from management – about the new organisation, the formation of the Defence & Space division, the loss of jobs in each country, the group strategy etc.. We have appointed the experts who will support us in our work: a French institution, which is examining the strategy, and a German organisation, which is concentrating on the economic and financial aspects. Based on all these elements, we are currently preparing a list of questions for management to which we expect to receive answers. The works council is also in constant contact with our European colleagues. We have not yet started on the consultation phase.


What form are the information and consultation processes taking between European and national levels?
We have agreed with the management that the information phase can begin at both European and national levels. This permits information to be shared from the European down to the local level, and we on the EWC this way find out details of the projects that are planned at a local level. At each EWC meeting we have an information item about what is happening in each country. On the other hand, we intend to conduct negotiations about the consequences of the restructuring at a national level, as soon as the EWC has concluded its consultation phase and delivered its opinion. We have based our position on French legal precedents in particular, so that the local negotiations cannot be commenced until the employees' representatives have heard the opinion of the European works council. We are asking company management for an extension of certain legal deadlines that apply to information and consultation at a national level so that the EWC has enough time to complete the consultation phase.


How will the restructuring affect the employee representative bodies at European level?
Company management has announced the conversion of the group to a European company (SE) by January 2015, that is to say, we will negotiate on the establishment of an SE works council. The restructuring of our organisation will therefore be taken into consideration at this point. However, our immediate priority is the restructuring plan, in order to safeguard jobs and the future of the locations.


How do you intend to safeguard jobs?
For us it is very important to reach an agreement with the management at a European level, be it in the form of a contract or a declaration of commitment on the part of company management with regard to the entire restructuring plan, to avoid redundancies, preserve locations, safeguard investments, organise solidarity between locations etc..  We must create a European framework which offers support to employee representatives at national level, particularly our British and Spanish colleagues, who have less negotiating clout than their German or French counterparts, in order to negotiate on the effects of the restructuring at a national level.

 
  Agenda

6-7 March
Porto
International Congress on Occupational Safety and Health at Work.


7 March
Brussels
Seminar organised by the European Association for Comparative Economic Studies (EACES) and the ETUI « Comparative perspectives on the European labour markets »


20 March
Paris
EUROGIP Discussions: "Encourage companies to prevent occupational risks: which devices in Europe".


20 March
Brussels
Entretiens Economiques Européens 2014 round-table conference organised by the Confrontations Europe think-tank on "Valorising human investment: training, mobility, employment in Europe


24 March
Logroño (Spain)
Conference on "Work-life balance: a shared responsibility" organised by the EU Committee of the Regions.


11 April
Manchester
Middlesex University is organising a seminar entitled "Work-life balance, fairness and social justice in recession".


26 to 28 May
Copenhagen
The Danish National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NRCWE) is organising the 3rd International Wellbeing at Work conference.

 
  Appointments

  • Jean-Philippe Lhernould was appointed professor at the university of Nantes with effect from 1 February last. He is attached to the UMR CNRS "Law and social change" research laboratory and will continue as a Liaisons sociales Europe collaborator (contact: lhernould@univ-nantes.fr). He has collaborated on Liaisons sociales Europe for many years and is a member of the IR Share team responsible for input to the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.

  • Richard Gartside has been appointed firm-wide human resources director of the consulting firm BearingPoint, which employs 3,350 collaborators worldwide, including 800 in France. More.

  • Jean-Louis Vincent has been appointed as director of human resources at SNCF Geodis. He had previously been the HR director of Geodis France.

 

IR Notes is a fortnightly newsletter produced by IR Share and its network of experts, and is available in several European languages. It offers Europe-wide monitoring of employment law, labour relations and employment policy. It is available by subscription for 15 euros per month (excluding tax), via the IR Share website. IR Share is a privately- owned, independent, apolitical company whose aim is to inform and assist all players involved in social dialogue within and outside Europe. It has been the correspondent organisation for France and Luxembourg of the Dublin Foundation since 2009 and for Bulgaria since 2014.

 

Lead story
Hard landing for the European social model in the United States

The employees at Volkswagen's car plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee voted by 712 to 626 against the establishment of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union in their plant during a ballot held from 12 to 14 February and overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, the federal authority responsible for industrial relations. The result epitomises the difference in industrial relations between the New World and Europe, as the target company in this case was in favour of the union's introduction, unlike the majority of attempts by American trade unions to penetrate "non-unionised" plants, even when they belong to multinationals which have signed a framework agreement recognising trade union rights and the right to collective bargaining: 1. The local management had ultimately accepted the arrival of the UAW union and had decided to adopt a genuinely neutral attitude towards the ballot, or even to encourage the union's establishment. 2. The UAW had received the backing of the powerful German trade union IG Metall and Volkswagen's world group council to set up a works council, thus allowing the site to be represented at group council level; this is Volkswagen's only plant outside China not to have such a body. Thus, despite a favourable management and a world agreement imposing on the social partners a model of industrial relations based on consultation, dialogue and negotiation, there was nothing doing. The 1,338 employees of the plant were targeted by pressure from the local authorities and the federal state which wished to prevent the "cancer" of unionisation from being introduced in a foreign-owned vehicle assembly plant. The IndustriAll international trade union federation, in a press release, deplored the interference. The "European social model" is certainly not welcome on North American soil.


1. European Union
Legislation

  • Seasonal workers directive: On 17 February the Council definitively adopted the directive which establishes the conditions of entry and residence of non-EU citizens coming to the EU for seasonal work. The Member States will have two-and-a-half years to transpose the text into national law following its forthcoming publication in the Official Journal.

  • Harmonisation of the directives concerning "chemical products": On 20 February the Council adopted legislation designed to amend five directives governing the health and safety of workers and, more specifically, their protection when exposed to harmful chemicals in order to align their provisions with regulation 1272/2008 on the classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures. The five directives concerned (92/58, 92/85, 94/33, 98/24 and 2004/37) are all based on the current legislation on the classification and labelling of chemical substances which, under the terms of regulation 1272/2008, will be repealed with effect from 1 June 2015. The European Commission has welcomed the adoption of this directive. "These modifications further strengthen the protection of workers against risks related to the use of dangerous chemicals at work, aligning the EU legislation to highest international standards and ensuring full consistency of health and safety law," stated László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.


Social update

  • Application of social legislation: The European Commission has referred cases against several countries to the European Court of Justice: 1. Luxembourg has been singled out for failing to implement the fixed-term work directive in national legislation correctly with regard to staff in the entertainment sector. 2. Italy is not applying the working time directive correctly to doctors in the public health services. Other states have received reasoned opinions, which is the procedure that precedes any referral to the European Court of Justice: 1. Cyprus, for not implementing into national law the directive on the prevention of injuries from sharp instruments in the hospital and healthcare sector; 2. Spain has been requested to respect the right of forensic doctors to limits on their working hours and minimum rest periods; 3. Italy has been requested to apply Annex II of directive 93/103/ED concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for work on board fishing vessels; 4. Slovenia must transpose into national law the directive on parental leave; 5. Slovakia must ensure that all employers are obliged to designate workers to carry out workplace health and safety prevention and protection activities.

  • Benelux social summit: The heads of governments of the three Benelux states (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) held a social summit on 13 February, which was essentially devoted to the fight against social dumping, benefit fraud and options for protecting employees against all forms of abuse in the field of social policy (see Joint declaration, in English). For their part, the trade unions of the three countries (LCGB, OGBL, FNV, CNV, MHP, FGTB, CSC, CGSLB) on the occasion of the summit also adopted a joint declaration denouncing the "worrying initiatives" taken by the European Commission. The signatories backed their governments' decision to step up the fight against social dumping related to the posting of workers.

  • Joint declaration by BDI and Medef: The German employers' organisation BDI and its French counterpart Medef on 5 February adopted a joint declaration to set out industry's proposals in both countries to "strengthen competitiveness and create more jobs in Europe". The text calls for a reduction in the cost of labour by lowering taxes and social contributions, greater flexibility on the labour market and an extension of working lives. The signatories argue for the promotion of apprenticeships and an increase in the number of working hours.


Intersectoral social dialogue

  • Undeclared work: On 29 January, the European Commission launched the second-stage consultation of the European social partners on enhancing cooperation between Member States of the European Union on the prevention and deterrence of undeclared work. The document notes that the social partners do not wish to initiate a collective negotiation procedure at European level on this subject and outlines the Commission's proposals to strengthen the fight against this phenomenon.


Sectoral social dialogue

  • Banks: The social partners of the banking sector on 31 January signed a joint declaration on enterprises' social responsibilities.

  • Catering sector: The European social partners have published a joint press release calling upon the Member States to strengthen the provisions contained in the recent directives relating to public procurement, in particular by ruling out the possibility of basing tenders solely on price, and providing a clear definition of "abnormally low tenders".

  • Private guarding services: The European social partners – CoESS and UNI Europa – have launched an update of their Selecting best value manual, published in 1999, as part of a project financed by the European Commission.

  • Crystalline silica: The social partners of the different sectors involved in the Nepsi project aimed at enhancing the protection of employees against exposure to the dust from crystalline silica sand have launched the third reporting campaign since their multisectoral agreement was signed on 25 April 2006. It will take place from 15 January until 14 March. The last assessment in 2012 covered 6,400 sites and 500,000 workers.

  • Electricity: The European social partners – Eurelectric, IndustriAll and EPSU – have published their first follow-up report on their joint position adopted in 2009 concerning corporate social responsibility. The document in particular recommends the formation of joint bodies to manage and anticipate change which has an impact on training, health and safety, diversity and equal opportunity policies and the employment implications of climate change.


Case-law

  • Collective redundancies: Italy has been condemned by the European Court of Justice in connection with the implementation of directive 98/59 relating to collective redundancies. In fact, Italian legislation excludes the dirigenti category of managers and senior managers when calculating the number of redundancies which the employer intends to make and the procedural guarantees relating to the information and consultation of workers at the workplace. The Court found this exclusion to be in breach of EU law (Application in English).

  • Parental and maternity leave: The European Court of Justice reiterated that a female employee on unpaid parental leave may apply for maternity leave if she becomes pregnant again. In fact, according to the principal whereby "a period of leave guaranteed by European Union law cannot affect the right to take another period of leave guaranteed by that law", the female employee must be able to access the benefits associated with maternity leave in the same way as if she had been working immediately before taking maternity leave. She must therefore be able to benefit from the maintenance of her full salary as envisaged by the collective agreement applicable to the company during the period of maternity leave to which she would have been entitled "had that period of maternity leave been preceded by a minimum period of resumption of work" (CJUE 13 February 2014, C-512/11 and C-513/11, Terveys).


2. Member States
Belgium

  • Redundancy reform: The social partners on 12 February concluded a collective labour agreement (CCT) No. 109 within the framework of the National Labour Council which reforms the law on redundancy. It aims on the one hand to provide the employee with the right to know the concrete reasons which have led to his redundancy and on the other hand to give the employee an entitlement to compensation if his redundancy is manifestly unreasonable.


Bulgaria

  • Labour law reform: The trade union movement has communicated the concerns of the Bulgarian trade unions about the proposed reform of labour law put forward by the government, which is designed to reduce the obligations on employers.


Czech Republic

  • Tripartite social dialogue relaunched: The tripartite body for social dialogue was consulted on 11 February about the general policy direction of the new government, which signals a relaunch of social dialogue in the country after a freeze that lasted from 2006 to 2013 under the conservative government. The new government, which was appointed on 29 January and is led by the socialist party, wishes to establish good relations with the social partners. The consultation took place ahead of the presentation of general policy to parliament, thus allowing the comments of the social partners to be taken into account. The social partners anticipate a period of enhanced social dialogue, while the government plans to take part in monthly tripartite meetings.


France

  • Posting of workers: On 25 February the National Assembly passed a draft law presented by socialist members of parliament to strengthen the controls and sanctions against businesses using posted workers in an abusive manner.

  • Supervision of work placements (internship): The National Assembly is examining a bill designed to regulate periods spent on work placements (internship).

  • Restructuring: The National Assembly is examining a further bill designed to oblige the managers of an industrial location belonging to a group with more than 1,000 employees to seek a buyer should they wish to close the site. A fine rising to up to 20 times the minimum salary per job lost is envisaged should companies fail to comply with this obligation.


Germany

  • Chemical and pharmaceutical industries: The social partners in this sector – the IG BCE trade union and the BAVC employers' organisation – on 5 February signed a pay agreement covering the sector's 550,000 employees. Salaries are to increase by 3.7 % subject to a deferral of one month after the date on which the agreement takes effect. The agreement is concluded for a period of 14 months. In addition, apprentices completing their training are to be retained on the basis of permanent contracts, under the supervision of the social partners. Employment on a temporary basis remains possible if justified by economic or personal reasons. However, it remains up to the employer to decide whether an apprentice should be kept on, and there is no obligation to offer apprentices who have completed their training a job.

  • Energy: The social partners in the main energy collective bargaining association – Ver.di and AVE – on 17 February signed a pay deal which provides for a 4.5% rise in salaries in two stages (2.4% from 1 February, 2.1% from 1 February 2015), for the 25,000 employees of the association (which includes E.ON). In addition, all apprentices will be offered employment contracts with a minimum term of 12 months from 2015, and 150 will be given permanent posts (see Ver.di press release).


3. Companies
Company-level negotiations

  • BMW: The German car manufacturer has signed an agreement on flexible working hours with its central works council and the IG Metall trade union which will apply to around one-half of the 79,000 employees (especially management, administrative and engineering posts) and provides for the following: 1. Improved system for taking hours worked into account: overtime done at home or when travelling can be credited to workers' time accounts and give rise to time off in lieu. 2. The right to switch off ("Recht auf Unerreichbarkeit") all forms of communication with the company (email and telephone). Similar agreements have already been signed at Volkswagen and in telecoms companies. However, the IG Metall trade union is calling for legislation to be passed on this subject, emphasising that a few exemplary agreements by major enterprises do not obviate the need for regulation (more on the IG Metall website).

  • Iberia: The Spanish airline company Iberia on 13 February signed an agreement with the Sepla pilots' union which paves the way for a pay cut of at least 14% for the airline's around 1,400 pilots. The management underscored the historic importance of this agreement in a press release. The text also provides for a pay freeze until 2015.


European Works Councils

  • FerroAtlantica: The Spanish industrial concern FerroAtlantica, which is owned by the Villar Mir group, on 5 February concluded the negotiation of an EWC agreement, according to an announcement by the Spanish trade union federation MCA-UGT. The group, a world leader in the production of silicon and manganese and ferrosilicon alloys, has 11 factories in Europe – five in Spain and six in France. The agreement will be signed on 9 April next.

  • IR Doc : European works council agreements recently added online on the IR Share website: Bull (1992, 2002, 2013), Safran (2013), Coface (2013).


Transnational agreements

  • Safran: The Safran group and the IndustriAll European trade union federation met on 17 February for their first session to negotiate a second transnational agreement, following on from the accord concluded on 28 March 2013 on the employment of young people. This time, the negotiators are tackling the subject of skills development and professional career paths.


Unions

  • Deutsche Post DHL: The national contact point (NCP) of the OECD in Germany on 30 January issued a ruling accepted by UNI Global Union and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), as well as by Deutsche Post DHL, thereby ending the dispute between the two trade union federations and the Deutsche Post DHL postal and logistics giant that has been ongoing since 2012. The ruling issued by the national contact point, to ensure follow-up of the efforts made in five countries where the OECD Guidelines have not been observed (Colombia, India, Indonesia, Turkey and Vietnam) and to improve the contacts between the complainants and the group, provides for the parties to meet at three-monthly intervals, which will allow social dialogue to be maintained and "opportunities to be created to resolve conflicts, particularly those relating to the right of association, in a direct and responsible way," underlined UNI Global Union. A record of every meeting is to be sent to the German NCP for the coming two years.


4. Studies and reports

  • Electricity: The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) has published a representativeness study for the electricity sector which identifies the representative employers' and trade union organisations in this industry.

  • The social impact of rescue in the countries aided by the Troika: The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs has adopted the own-initiative report presented by the Spanish MEP Alejandro Cercas (S & D) on the role and actions of the Troika (ECB, European Commission, IMF) in the four European countries which received financial support (Cyprus, Greece, Ireland and Portugal); there were 27 votes for, seven against, and two abstentions. The report will be presented in the March plenary session of the European Parliament.

  • Mental health in the United Kingdom: A report by the OECD on mental health and work in the UK underlines that mental health problems cost the country around GBP 70 billion each year, or roughly 4.5 % of GDP, in lost productivity at work, benefit payments and healthcare expenditure.

  • Finland: In its economic survey devoted to Finland, the OECD calls for further pension reform, allowing for a gradual increase of the retirement age and the end of part-time pensions, as well as measures to lengthen working lives and foster job retention for older workers.

  • Casual workers in the entertainment industry: While the French social partners are negotiating a renewal of the unemployment insurance scheme which they oversee, in particular by examining the specific arrangements for employees in the entertainment industry with short-term contracts, the Senate has published a comparative study of the unemployment regimes that apply to such workers in France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom.


Phrase of the fortnight
Multisectoral agreement

The European social partners of several business sectors can negotiate collective agreements covering a number of industries under the provisions of articles 154 and 155 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (see the European Industrial Relations Dictionary). The first and only agreement of this kind concluded so far is the "Agreement on workers health protection through the good handling and use of crystalline silica and products containing it" signed on 26 April 2010 by the social partners representing 15 industrial sectors and some 2 million employees. However, several business sectors have also adopted the "Multisectoral guidelines to tackle third-party violence and harassment related to work" dated 16 July 2010, following a cross-sectoral negotiation; the content of this document is very similar to what could have been a European collective agreement. See the European Industrial Relations Dictionary for further details.