These extraordinary circumstances require timely information, consultation and participation of worker representatives at European and national level, before any corporate decision is implemented.
As Europe gradually emerges from two months of lockdown, European workers and industries are facing one of their greatest social and economic challenges in decades, on top of the climate emergency. Confronted with heavy financial losses, massive liquidity problems, disruption of production, drops in demand, some at risk of bankruptcy, companies in many sectors are now urgently adapting their operations and strategy.
IndustriAll Europe and its affiliates have been monitoring companies’ behaviour in our sectors with great attention and concern. Colleagues in charge of company policies in our member organisations came together weekly in online meetings. They exchanged their observations and information about how companies engaged in dialogue with national and European worker representatives to cope with the COVID-19 crisis. It soon became clear, unfortunately, that more and more companies take dramatic decisions without any prior dialogue with workers and their trade union representatives.
In several countries we hear of announcements to cut thousands of jobs without informing European and local works councils, let alone giving them the possibility to discuss alternatives with real decision-makers. We hear about companies adopting Europe-wide cost saving plans with major impacts on salaries and working conditions without engaging in discussions with trade unions at local and transnational level.
Luc Triangle, General Secretary of industriAll Europe comments: “Such behaviour is ill-judged. We would like to recall how social dialogue proved its worth during the early phases of the COVID-19 crisis. The agreements reached throughout Europe at national, sectoral and company-level on short-time working schemes and other instruments really helped cushion the effects on workers’ jobs and income. The dialogue with trade unions and health and safety representatives has also provided for a safe return to the shop floor in many companies where protocols for work resumption were defined jointly.”
IndustriAll Europe and its affiliates therefore warn against using the unprecedented pace and scale of this crisis as an excuse to call off social dialogue in companies. On the contrary, this crisis will not be overcome without the full involvement of workers and their trade union representatives. Together, they must find the best ways to mitigate impacts on jobs and sites in a socially responsible manner and to ensure their company’s future. In particular, industriAll Europe recommends that delegates in European works councils (EWC) and works councils of companies under the European Company Statute (Societas Europaea – SE) request an extraordinary online meeting with simultaneous interpretation at the earliest convenience, to be informed and consulted on the potential impact of the COVID-19 crisis on workers’ interests. Further practical recommendations to members in EWCs and SEs have been issued jointly by the European Trade Union Federations.
“Workplace democracy does not stop with the COVID-19 crisis! These extraordinary circumstances require timely information, consultation and participation of worker representatives at European and national level, before any corporate decision is implemented.”