The annual conference of the Institute of Personnel Management: Brussels may abandon works council directive

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The Independent Online
A SIGN that Brussels may be abandoning its controversial attempt to impose a European-wide system of works councils emerged at the IPM conference yesterday, writes Barrie Clement.

Hermanus van Zonneveld, a senior European Commission official, told the conference that he was opposed to the introduction of a directive on the issue - a line consistently adopted by Britain.

Mr van Zonneveld, head of the Working Conditions and Labour Law division of the EC's employment directorate, said he was strongly in favour of voluntary agreements between both sides of industry on the establishment of groups which provide a forum for workers and management to take joint decisions. They would be better able to deal with complex structures in various industries than a piece of EC legislation.

Progress on the voluntary front was already being made. Managers in many companies had been thinking seriously about the issue and unions had held numerous meetings with employees of multinationals, Mr van Zonneveld said. The European debate over works councils had been going on for 20 years. Since last December no progress had been made and there had been no serious discussion, he said. It was now 'high time' that decisions were made.

An alternative to the voluntary approach would be to allow more discussions in EC forums which would continue to attract the British vote.

The commission, however, might decide to use the 'social protocol', which would mean that a directive would only need a qualified majority, but would only apply in the countries which voted for it. While Britain has declared its opposition to a directive, it was known that Germany and Portugal had reservations, he said.

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