European Works Councils

European Works Councils (EWCs) are forums for transnational workers solidarity. EWCs can influence multinational companies´ decisions when they are grounded in a strong trade union network.

The EFBWW supports EWCs with support and practical advice.The EFBWW – together with the other European  sectoral trade union federation und the ETUC – demands a revision of the EU´s EWC directive in order to strengthen the rights of EWCs.

Where can workers in transnational companies commonly defend their rights and interests beyond national borders? In a European Works Council. In the construction and wood sectors there are about 80 active EWCs. The EFBWW provides them with support and practical advice

EWC´s rights - Information and consultation

In the EU´s internal market, multinational companies in the construction, building materials and wood sectors employ a large workforce. Thus, it is paramount for workers and trade unions to make solidarity a European reality. In an EWC, workers have the right to be informed and consulted about developments and decisions of the company.

The workers from all EU countries in which the company is active should be represented in the EWC. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for national trade unions to appoint EWC members when seats are given to a country. The stronger the presence of trade unions in the EWCs, the better the conditions to influence the strategies of multinational companies. Solidarity of workers can be accomplished if a structured trade union network exists. Moreover, especially for trade unions coming from Central and Eastern Europe, EWCs can be an additional opportunity to recruit and organise members.

The topics EWCs can discuss with management are numerous. Just to name a few: The trend of employment, investments, new working methods, health and safety, subcontracting, transfers of production, mergers, cut-backs or closures of undertakings, or collective redundancies.

Legal background and additional information

EWC agreements are concluded and implemented on the basis of EU directive 2009/38/EC and according to the law of the country in which the company has its main seat. Workers have the right to an EWC when a transnational company employees at least 1000 employees, of which at least 150 work in two states each. Unfortunately, some EWC agreements are still governed by the old EU directive 94/45/EC, which gives lesser rights to the workers.

If an EWC operates within a company based on a European Company Statute (Societas Europea or SE) according to Directive 2001/86/EC workers might also have the right to participation in management boards. However, these rights depend on the rights of the works council(s) that existed before the company was transformed or merged into an SE.

Overall, roughly 1100 EWCs have been established since the early 1980s when the first EWC directive of the European Union came into force. The EWC database of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) provides comprehensive up-to-date information on EWCs, including existing EWC agreements, legal analysis, court cases, history and statistics.


The EFBWW supports EWCs in the construction, building materials and wood sectors in several ways:

  • National EWC coordinators of the EFBWW help EWCs fulfilling their tasks, in cooperation with the national trade union of the coordinator and the EFBWW secretariat. The EFBWW has developed internal Guidelines for Trade Union Coordinators in EWCs.
  • The EFBWW provides practical tools which can be used by the workers´ representatives: The EFBWW´s Practical Guide on Information and Consultation for EWCs is available in several languages. New EFBWW projects on Strategies on Targeted Information and Consultation for health and safety, demographic change, skills and qualifications, and subcontracting and on Workers´ Rights in Supply Chains in the Construction Industry will develop new tools at service of EWCs. The projects receive funding from the European Commission and will be completed by 2021.
  • We support the EWC members in our sectors to receive the education and training they need to fulfil their tasks. Among others, we cooperate with the EWC training department of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI).
  • Strong EWC agreements are needed for EWCs to work effectively. The EFBWW has developed internal Guidelines for contents of EWC agreements.
  • The EFBWW organised a webinar with Bruno Demaître from the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI). The webinar gave recommendations for European Works Councils (EWCs) through Covid-19 and Brexit. The video recordings of the webinar are now available:


The EFBWW is strong contributor to the ETUC´s More Democracy at Work campaign. The goal is to push the European Commission, Parliament and Council to revise the EU´s framework for information, consultation and participation in favour of workers. Particularly, the EFBWW demands a revision of the EWC directive 2009/38/EC. Together with the other European sectoral trade union federations and the ETUC we have formulated 10 demands to change the directive.

The EFBWW calls for:

  • effective  and  dissuasive sanctions WHEN COMPANIES DISREGARD EWC RIGHTS, including a right to a temporary suspension of company decisions.
  • Ensuring  access  to  justice AND LITIGATION FOR  EWCs  and  Special Negotiating  Bodies  (SNBs).
  • The role of “representatives of competent recognised Community-level trade union organisations” TO be reflected in the subsidiary requirements.
  • Efficient   coordination   between   local,   national   and   European levels. AN EWC must deliver its opinion before consultation is finished, be able to communicate with the national level AND HAVE THE necessary resources and rights, such as access to sites.
  • A  comprehensive  definition  of  “controlling  undertaking”  to  include  contract management, franchise systems and joint ventures. Objective criteria to determine the location of the “representative agent” and “central management” to avoid regime shopping and use of letterbox companies.
  • STOPP exempting old, so-called voluntary (Pre-Directive,  “Article  13”)  agreements. END  Double  standards  AND BRING  them  into  the  scope  of  the  Directive.
  • Improve and clarify the rules for negotiations with SNB (clear timeframe for the first SNB  meeting,  pace  of  SNB  meetings,  clear  obligation  of  central  management  to establish an EWC if subsidiary requirements are to apply.
  • The concept of “transnational character of a matter” (recitals 12 and 16) should be consolidated and incorporated in the main body of the Directive.
  • Prevent the abuse  of  confidentiality  clauses  by  clarifying  more  precisely  on  what grounds,  under  what  circumstances  and  how  long  a  company  may  withhold information.
  • Strengthen  the  subsidiary  requirements  to  improve  thepractical  functioning  of  the EWC (e.g. rights and means of Select Committee, enlarged list of topics).

European Federationof Building and Woodworkers

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