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Paths to Transnational Solidarity

Identity-Building Processes in European Works Councils


Hermann Kotthoff and Michael Whittall

With national industrial relations systems struggling to keep apace with the global and mobile nature of capital, the emergence of the European works council has caught the imagination of both practitioners and scholars of this institution in the last two decades. European works councils find themselves at the centre of an ever emerging European industrial relations landscape, offering employees of multinationals within the European Economic Area the opportunity to work together in regulating employment conditions. An in-depth empirical study of five European works councils, this book offers a unique look into factors which promote and hinder the development of solidarity amongst employees. With a sociological bent, this volume is a must for EWC delegates struggling to deal with geographical, cultural and historical factors that undermine relations between them.
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Chapter 1: Introduction


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This study follows on from earlier work by one of the present authors that looked at the first decade of the development of European Works Councils (EWC) following the adoption of the European Works Council Directive in 1994 (Kotthoff, 2006a). This research noted a high degree of variability both in the forms of EWC activity and in EWCs’ effectiveness as an instrument for employee interest representation. Five types of EWC were proposed.1 Although a small minority of EWCs were found to have approached the standard of representation characteristic of German works councils, a much larger proportion proved to be either relatively inactive or were only symbolic in nature. A similar degree of variation has also been identified by other researchers (Lecher et al., 1999; Marginson et al., 2004; Weiler, 2006). Where there was a low level of effectiveness, this was not primarily a function of the modest scope provided by the EWC Directive and nor was it principally attributable to management resistance. Rather, the main factor was seen to lie in the fact that different national contingents had little sense of mutual dependence and only a limited notion of what value a transnational representative body might offer. There was often little cross-national communication between country contingents and only a meagre awareness of any obligation to provide mutual support. They were, and remained, largely alien to each other. Precisely the converse was the case in those few EWCs that had attained a...

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