The European Works Council (EWC) is an important tool for top management, according to Lehner, who emphasizes the importance of mutual exchange and solidarity. Since 1994, companies operating across borders within the EU have been able to establish an EWC by meeting certain criteria such as having more than 1,000 employees and over 150 employees at least two locations in several EU countries. Currently, around 900 of the potential 2,500 EU-wide business groups have established an EWC, with 30 to 40 new ones added each year. Many large banks, industrial companies and Strabag in Austria have an EWC. The legal framework for this was last updated in 2009.
The EU Commission recently proposed changes to the co-determination rights to strengthen the EWC. The main focus is on improving information and consultation rights. Euro works councils must be involved in transnational developments before company-level decisions are made. The proposal also includes the requirement for a balanced gender ratio in the appointment of the works council. ÖGB President Wolfgang Katzian, who is also President of the European Trade Union Confederation, supports the proposal but points out the need for uniform sanctions for non-compliance. Currently, sanctions vary by country and Katzian suggests setting uniform sanctions at 2% of global sales. Additionally, he believes that confidentiality guidelines need to be clarified to determine what information company management can classify as confidential.
In conclusion, Lehner views the European Works Council as a valuable tool for top management that fosters mutual exchange and solidarity among workers across Europe. While there have been recent changes proposed by the EU Commission aimed at strengthening its powers and ensuring greater transparency and participation for workers on transnational issues, it remains unclear how these changes will be implemented and what impact they will have on companies operating across borders within Europe.