Lessons have been learned about the manipulation of Community law together with the deliberate misconceptions of national law on worker information and consultation on the part of companies such as Renault.
The purpose of the directives on information and consultation is to allow effective information and consultation of the employees so that they can influence the decisions of the management of the undertaking and their social consequences. To be effective, information and consultation must be genuine and take place in good time, before any irrevocable decision is taken. Consultation, moreover, must be organised with a view to reaching an agreement. This imposes compliance with the obligation of good faith in implementing the consultation process.
The so called Renault Vilvorde case represents a milestone in clarifying the meaning and scope of European information and consultation rights. On 28 February 1997, Renault had announced to close its Belgian plant in Vilvorde, entailing 3,100 job losses directly and about 1000 among its sub-contractors. Also in France 3,000 dismissals were announced. Renault didn’t deem it necessary to consult neither the French and Belgian unions nor its European Works Council (EWC) prior to the ultimate decision. In the following months the Belgian and French courts made very clear that Renault did not fulfil its obligations to information and consultation under national and European law and annulled the closure decision on this ground.
On 6 March 1998, an amendment to the Renault [EWC?] agreement was signed between the French, Belgian and Spanish union bodies and the Renault management. This agreement took account of the decisions of the courts that had ruled against Renault after the closure of the Vilvorde plant and stipulated that “in the event of a planned exceptional decision which has transnational consequences and is of a nature such as to affect significantly employees' interests, the European group committee will meet in extraordinary session. In this situation, the European group committee [the select committee of Renault’s EWC] will be consulted within the meaning of Article 2 of the [EWC] Directive of 22 September 1994 - that is to say the establishment of a dialogue and an exchange of views at an appropriate time such that the elements of the discussion can still be taken into account in the decision-making process.”
Further reading: Schomann, I., Clauwaert, S. and Warneck, W. (2006). Information and Consultation of workers in the European Community. Implementation report of Directive 2002/14/EC. Report 97. ETUI-REHS, Brussels.