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Document C2001/144/17

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the "Proposal for a Council Directive establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community"

OJ C 144, 16.5.2001, p. 58–59 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)

No longer in force, Date of end of validity: 11/03/2002

C2001/144/17

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the "Proposal for a Council Directive establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community"

Official Journal C 144 , 16/05/2001 P. 0058 - 0059


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the "Proposal for a Council Directive establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community"

(2001/C 144/17)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS,

having regard to the Proposal for a Council Directive establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community [COM(1998) 612 final - 1998/0315 (SYN];

having regard to the decision of the Council of 18 October 2000 to consult the Committee, in accordance with the first paragraph of Article 265 of the Treaty establishing the European Community;

having regard to the decision taken by its president on 8 November 2000 to instruct Commission 5 for Social Policy, Public Health, Consumer Protection, Research and Tourism to draw up the relevant opinion;

having regard to the decision taken by its president on 8 November 2000 to appoint Mr Brown (UK/AE) as rapporteur-general, under Rule 40(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

unanimously adopted the following opinion at its 36th plenary session on 13 and 14 December 2000 (meeting of 13 December).

Initial comments

The Committee of the Regions

1. Welcomes the proposal for a Council Directive in the important area of informing and consulting employees in the European Community. The COR believes that consultation between employers and employees is essential to maintaining good industrial relations and argues that it is important to develop a consensual rather than an adversarial approach to relations in the workplace.

2. Believes that moves towards greater employee consultation is crucial in a fast moving world which is increasingly influenced by technological change and globalisation.

3. Believes that a European framework for consultation and information of employees is important as all employees enjoy freedom of movement throughout the European Union as a result of the Single European Act. However, the Framework needs to take account of subsidiarity and Member State traditions in employee relations. This is a crucial consideration because two Member States do not yet have a statutory system of consultation and information flows between employers and employees.

4. Argues that the creation of a general framework should give Member States and social partners a significant amount of flexibility in developing procedures to incorporate the framework in national policies.

5. Notes that this Directive is designed to supplement Community Directives on collective redundancies, the transfer of undertakings and the European Works Council Directive and the COR believes that this Directive will further strengthen the European Social Model.

The economic, social and legal context for the proposal

6. Agrees that the adaptability of workers is an important aspect of the European Employment Strategy. The Lisbon European Council set a new strategic goal for the European Union which was "to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion". One of the EU's greatest strengths is its workforce and the adaptability of workers will be crucial to the achievement of this goal.

7. Notes that the Directive will cover a wide area of industrial relations and would include issues such as lay-off, short-time working, relocation and terms and conditions of service. In order to prevent distortions of competition, the notion of "workers" should be interpreted within the meaning of Article 39 of the EC Treaty.

Objectives

8. Feels that a Directive is necessary to fill the gaps and overcome the shortcomings in the employee information and consultation provisions currently in force at national and Community levels. While the objectives stress the need to inform and consult employees on economic and strategic developments affecting the company, the Directive also stresses the need to develop flexibility in work organisation within a framework of security and the need to enhance employees' awareness of the need to adapt. The COR welcomes these objectives and is particularly supportive of the need to stress an increased flexibility and the need to adapt amongst employees. The COR believes this is more easily achieved with a spirit of cooperation and consultation.

The proposed provisions and their impact on national systems

9. Argues that the draft Directive will have significant effects on two Member States which currently do not have a statutory or negotiated legal framework establishing information and consultation procedures. It will also have an impact on the thirteen Member States which have put procedures into place.

10. Believes that the Implementation of the Directive will need careful thought so that subsidiarity and different Member State traditions are respected. The length of time given to Member States for the introduction of the Directive will also be an important consideration.

11. Stresses the importance of Article 5 in ensuring that confidential commercial information is respected and that the Directive does not disadvantage employers by disclosing information which would be advantageous to their competitors.

The proposed Directive and Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs)

12. Agrees with the European Commission that this Directive should not apply to SMEs employing less than fifty employees.

13. Agrees with the European Commission that the benefits of the framework will spring from the increased commitment of employees to deal with change. The improved competitiveness that change brings to the enterprise and its work organisation will also be an important factor.

Brussels, 13 December 2000.

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Jos Chabert

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