Figure 4.6 BM 2017 Jagodziński and Hoffmann

Employees in Europe have had the right to a voice in company decision-making that concerns their jobs and working conditions for over 25 years. The principles laid down in the Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers in 1989 have since been further specified and developed. Thanks to almost 40 pieces of EU legislation laying down fundamental rights to information and consultation, democracy does not end at the factory gate or the office door (see Figure 4.6). Usually, these rights are exercised regularly via employee representation bodies or trade unions active at the workplace. Whether that employee representation is called Betriebsrat, RSU, comité d’entreprise or ondernemingsraad, and whether or not it is a trade union body, workers’ rights to have a voice in the company are comparable across Europe. Next to this systematic involvement of employees, EU law also grants rights of involvement when it comes to very specific issues and situations, such as employment contracts, the use of temporary, fixedterm and part-time work, and dealing with changes of ownership and collective redundancies. If a company changes owners, merges with or is taken over by another company, then the employee representatives have the right to know about the plans and their potential consequences. Furthermore, employee representatives must be informed and consulted about all measures taken by companies to protect workers from dangerous or risky working conditions. This applies to measures such as work equipment and protective clothing, and also covers workplace risks associated with lifting heavy loads, noisy environments, mechanical vibrations, chemicals, carcinogens, biological agents and electromagnetic fields. There are specific approaches to the specific risks faced by construction workers, pregnant or breastfeeding workers, and workers in the mining, drilling and fishing sectors. These rights are essential tools to ensure the close involvement of the workforce at the local level. However, the rights of employees working in a multinational company to be informed and consulted do not end at the national border. Indeed, within multinational companies these rights can be used in conjunction with one another to great effect. Management must inform and consult with representatives from the whole workforce across Europe about any issues or measures that have possible consequences in different countries, or measures that are decided by the central management. For trade unions and employee representatives, European Works Councils (EWCs) also provide a vital forum in which to discuss their common issues with management, and to communicate and coordinate with one another the strategies they are pursuing at the individual sites of the company. If a company is being restructured, then workers’ representatives have important involvement rights at the local level. Since these rights are more or less the same across Europe, all workforces in a multinational company can expect to be treated the same; if the representatives of employees of a multinational company in/ from various countries are aware of these rights, they can use them together in order to avoid being played off against each other by management. This rich palette of common rights across the EU sets the benchmark for participation. It is in the implementation and enforcement of these rights that cleavages are seen between countries, between sectors, and between large and small workplaces. These gaps present significant impediments to the effective articulation of these rights across borders within European-scale multinational companies