The companies, many of them household names, are alleged to have ignored European legislation which will force them to establish systems to consult their workers.
The TUC cites British Aerospace, GEC, Grand Metropolitan, Thorn and Vickers as among the companies who have failed to negotiate works councils.
John Monks, General Secretary of the TUC, concedes that many of the companies may be seeking to establish structures without union involvement, but he points out that most of them recognise the unions.
A European directive coming into force on 22 September stipulates that all organisations with 1,000 employees in the European Union with at least 100 in two countries must set up works councils. Owing to the opt- off from the Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty, British workers do not have to be included in the count or involved in the consultation process.
Mr Monks said yesterday that unless the 40 companies began to negotiate seriously with employees' representatives they would face the imposition of a standard model for negotiating a works council structure. The TUC said that while British workers can be excluded from the councils, no company has yet registered its intention to do so.
The TUC calculates that the directive applies to 114 British companies, 20 of which have now reached formal agreement with trade unions. A further 41 are either negotiating or consulting with the unions about the establishment of a council. Another 13 are believed to be moving towards agreement on a works council system.
Mr Monks said: "Time is running out for the 40 companies who seem to be refusing to have anything to do with a works council structure. There will be no hiding place from the European directive after 22 September. The UK government is powerless to protect them from its decisions.
"Voluntary agreement clearly offers the best route for UK management and companies from every sector have been happy to negotiate appropriate arrangements in advance of this deadline."
Under the European legislation organisations can tailor the consultative procedures to their own needs if they reached agreement before 22 September.
After that date special negotiating bodies have to be set up which will operate within stringent European laws.
TUC list of 40 without EU works councils
Albert Fisher Group
General Electric Company
London International Group
Queen's Moat Houses
Robert Stephen Holdings
Tibbett & Britten Group
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