Select Committee on European Scrutiny Seventh Report


INFORMING AND CONSULTING EMPLOYEES


(22879)


Draft Directive establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community.


Legal base: Article 137(2)EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Department: Trade and Industry
Basis of consideration: EM of 16 November 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (22445) 9305/01: HC 152-i (2001-02), paragraph 25 (18 July 2001)
To be discussed in Council: 3 December 2001
Committee's assessment: Legally and politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared, but request to be kept informed

Background

13.1  We last considered this proposal in July, on the basis of an official letter which reported that the UK had agreed to join the consensus for a political agreement on the basis of a revised text tabled by the Swedish Presidency. On that occasion, we cleared the document, but asked to kept informed as the draft Directive progressed through its final stages.

13.2  The Minister of State for Employment Relations and the Regions (Mr Alan Johnson) has now sent us a copy of the common position text, together with an Explanatory Memorandum which addresses the amendments adopted by the European Parliament at its second reading in October.

The proposed European Parliament amendments

13.3  In his helpful Explanatory Memorandum, the Minister lists the amendments as follows:

    "New Recital 22a. Member States should take measures to guarantee that employee representatives are elected by employees or designated by employees' organizations only and have a minimum, renewable term of office.

    "New Recital 26a. 'More stringent, dissuasive penalties' and specific judicial procedures applicable in the case of decisions taken in 'serious breach' of Directive obligations must be established.

    "New Article 2(ea). A new definition of 'social partners', which term is used in an amendment to Article 5 and a new Article 9a.

    "Article 2(f). An expanded definition of the term 'information'.

    "Article 2(g). An expanded definition of the term 'consultation' so that it must take place 'during the planning stage' and allow influence to be exerted on the decision-making process.

    "New Article 3(3a). A new requirement to 'foster and promote social dialogue' in small and medium-sized enterprises who are outside the scope of the directive.

    "Article 4(2)(a) has been amended so that the coverage of information and consultation is extended to investment, production, sales, structure, strategic plans, changes to organisational structure and market developments.

    "Article 4(4). An amendment consequential upon the amendment to Article 2(f).

    "New Article 4(4a) and (4b). A new paragraph requiring the postponement of decision at the request of employee representatives in situations where the implementation of that decision would have significant adverse consequences for employees.

    "Article 5. Changes restricting the use of voluntary information and consultation arrangements that management and the workforce may agree upon.

    "Article 7. Increased protection and rights for employee representatives.

    "New Article 9a. A new provision requiring Member States to examine in co-operation with the 'social partners' appropriate ways to implement the principles in the directive in public administrations.

    "Deletion of Article 10 so that the transitional arrangements for firms with between 50-150 employees would no longer apply."

The Government's view

13.4  The Minister comments:

    "The Government is opposed to amending the Directive in the way the Parliament proposed. The Government believes that the common position agreed in June strikes the right balance in terms of offering flexibility in the implementation of the basic obligations. The Parliament's amendments tend to add to the basic obligations and detract from flexibility."

13.5  The Minister also tells us that the Council is expected to reject the proposed amendments. This rejection will trigger the conciliation process. It is not clear when this process will be completed.

Conclusion

13.6  We thank the Minister for keeping us informed of developments in negotiations over this controversial measure. We ask that he continue to do so. Meanwhile, we clear the document.


 
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Prepared 3 December 2001