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International EWC Conference in Vienna

In autumn 2015, the EU Project “EWC: Fit for Change” started under the lead of the GPA-djp. The project’s target included the development a transnational network of experts and training modules for the further development of skills of European Works Councils in restructurings in corporate groups.

A total of three transnational seminars were organised during the project:

  • “Setting the Picture”, June 22nd to 24th, 2016, Vienna
  • “Prepared for Change”, November 28th to 30th, 2016, Esher/London
  • “Strategically into the Future”, June 24th to 26th, 2017, Amsterdam

In these seminars, European Works Council members from several European countries and different sectors worked intensively on the organisation of work of their EWC bodies and on strategies for upcoming challenges. In this process, the project team developed manuals and training units that will be used for the training and further training of EWCs.

Content-related retrospective …

The contents of the seminars were summarised in the context of the final conference. Peter Wilke (wmp consult – Wilke Maack GmbH) explained how “change” was defined in the project and which dynamics are developed by company restructurings. Norbert Kluge (Hans Böckler Foundation) and Reinhard Günzl (Adescon) went into further detail regarding the role of employee representatives in such processes. Jonathan Hayward (Unite – the Union) completed these inputs with the role and the perspectives of trade unions.

Also, the seminar participants were assigned a central role. In a conversation with Bob Fazakerley (Unite – the Union), they talked about the contents they had picked up from the seminars and how they have implemented them into their work.

… political discussion …

The exchange with Peter Scherrer, Deputy General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), was particularly productive. He presented the European Works Council members with an overview on the political processes regarding the revision of the EWC Directive and the related changes promoted by the ETUC. The focus on the improved enforceability of the existing rights was particularly welcomed by the participants.

By the same token, the EWC members reported on their practical experiences and challenges and shared their expectations and demands towards the ETUC with Peter Scherrer.

… and a view on the results

The participants were already able to pick up the print versions of the project results at the conference. Eckard Voss (wmp consult) presented the manual for EWC members in companies under restructuring that arose out of the project. Nicola Sekler (pedagogical and didactical project support) presented a booklet with the tested training modules and the respective descriptions that can be used in future EWC further training measures.

Bruno Demaître (ETUI) pointed towards the educational offers of the European Trade Union Institute and outlined, how the insights from the project are already being used there. Moreover, video interviews with experienced European Works Council members were conducted in the margins of the conference that should help future EWC members to understand the workings and strategies of such a body better. Wolfgang Greif (GPA-djp) summarised the conference results.

67 participants from 10 countries

The final conference took place in Vienna from June 22nd to 23rd. In addition to the seminar participants, also other EWC members were present to learn from the project results. The conference was moderated by Ingrid Stipanovsky (former EWC chair) and Sophia Reisecker (GPA-djp), who have both also accompanied the entire project.

Corporate groups from the following sectors were present: Pharmaceutical, metal, telecommunications, commerce, energy, paper, postal and logistics, finance, IT and tourism. The conference participants come from: Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, Slovakia, Belgium, Poland, Spain, Hungary and the Netherlands.