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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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4.2.5 The EWC and the steering committee: the protagonists in action


Given the much smaller gap in the number of members and frequency of meetings between the EWC and steering committee, drawing a distinction between these two bodies is not as important at Ford when compared with the other case study companies in this research. The EWC has a somewhat higher frequency of meetings than at other companies and the steering committee a much lower frequency. EWC meetings were described by our respondents as formal rituals, an opinion we also arrived at following our participant observation of these sessions. Each country reports on the employment situation at its operations, followed by a presentation of the general topic, and finally proposals are collected for the presentation at the next meeting. It is rare that a meeting has to deal with a pressing matter requiring decision. The frequency of meetings was only stepped up ← 134 | 135 → during the periods in which the European Framework Agreements were being negotiated.

One Belgian member said:

My problem is that the issues on the agenda are not the ones I’m interested in. I always make a clear distinction between the official part and the unofficial part. What takes place during the official part, okay. But when we have a meal in the evening, then quite different things come up, and people say things that don’t crop up in the official session, where you’re not really confident to express your feelings and what you really think about something because you don’t want...

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