More democracy at work is a must and not an option. There will be no Social Europe, no Just Transition, no fair and inclusive transformation without the full involvement of workers, from the shopfloor to the boardrooms.

“Nothing about us, without us” is the motto of the +100 trade unionists who participated in a European conference on how to shape the transformation of multinational industrial companies, organised by industriAll Europe on 10 & 11 February.

A company restructuring is no longer an exceptional circumstance. It has become a daily reality for trade unions and workers, and a regular feature of our industries. European industry workers and companies are confronted with changes on an unprecedented scale and pace. The jobs of millions of workers will evolve in the coming years under the cumulative effect of digitalisation, adaptation to climate change, ever-growing and unregulated globalisation, as well as ageing societies. The COVID-19 crisis comes at an already challenging time.

The conference fitted in with industriAll Europe’s proactive approach to prepare worker representatives for company restructurings: do not wait for restructurings to occur, anticipate them, and build strong trade unions and (European) works councils in each multinational company at the earliest possible stage. The cross-border coordination of information, consultation procedures, and trade union actions is an absolute prerequisite in this context if we want to shape restructuring and change in a socially responsible way that leaves no workers behind.

Luc Triangle, General Secretary of industriAll Europe, said:

‘’We must be ready to face the restructurings that will result from the green and digital transitions. The magnitude of change will be enormous, and unions must be prepared to shape changes in multinational companies and to counteract strategies aimed at pitting workers, sites, and countries against one another.

An ever-stronger trade union solidarity and cross-border coordination is vital. Securing that trade unions and the local, national and European Works Council of a multinational company pool resources will help foster mutual trust, unity, the ability to act together and to quickly react to any critical situation that may arise.”

The industriAll Europe conference allowed an exchange of experiences and learning from concrete practices developed by trade union representatives in multinational companies, including joint initiatives with employers (including Safran, Nystar, Bayer, Renault, ENI, and others), and employers’ association, Eurogas.

Luc Triangle, continued:

“We wanted to hear about good practices of social dialogue in companies, because when properly applied and complied with, workers’ involvement in the strategic decision-making process of a company, at local, national and European level, plays a crucial role in protecting workers’ rights, quality jobs and working conditions, ensuring companies’ long-term sustainability and fair anticipation and management of change.”

During their mini-training sessions, the conference participants discussed industriAll Europe’s recently developed* guides for practitioners on how to coordinate trade union representatives and members of local, national and European Works Councils in companies. The guides also focus on how workers’ representatives and unions can enter dialogue with management on the consequences of digitalisation and decarbonisation on jobs and working conditions. The guides will shortly be available in different languages for the members of industriAll Europe’s affiliated trade union organisations.

The conference concluded with a panel session, which allowed trade union members to share their views with EU leaders (from the ETUC, the European Parliament and the European Commission), including how to strengthen EU rights to information, consultation and participation in a company’s strategic decisions. Expectations run high in the +600 European works councils supported by industriAll Europe across Europe, for political initiatives aimed at securing compliance and enforcement of their rights before courts.

Luc Triangle, concluded:

“More democracy at work is a must and not an option. There will be no Social Europe, no Just Transition, no fair and inclusive transformation without the full involvement of workers, from the shopfloor to the boardrooms. Now is the time for the EU institutions to commit to binding initiatives which will make our rights to anticipate change and to be informed and consulted on company’s strategies a reality!”

IndustriAll Europe conference agenda: DE, EN, FR
Contact: Andrea Husen-Bradley (press and communication), Aline Conchon (senior policy adviser)

* Guides were developed as part of the EU-funded project ‘Anticipate & shape: improving effective workers’ involvement in the massive transformation of industrial MNCs’