La Commission de la Communauté économique européenne estime que la Communauté doit exercer ses responsabilités politiques par l'adoption d'une réglementation communautaire en vue d'assurer l'information et la consultation des travailleurs des grandes firmes à sièges multiples au sujet des projets du groupe. Le Traite instituant la Communauté permet d'édicter une réglementation contraignante allant plus loin que les codes de conduite volontaires tout en s'inscrivant dans leur prolongement.
In spite of OECD and ILO conventions, problems of information for and consultation of workers in large companies, particularly those with complex structures, remain. These two international bodies adopted guide-lines in 1976 and 1977 for multinational corporations to encourage them to inform and consult labour representatives on particular questions in order to allow them to understand Company policies or be able to negociate with management spokesmen concerning working conditions-related issues. These guidelines have been applied on a noncompulsory basis, and mecanisms of application and evaluation of the principles involved have been developed with the collaboration of ail interested parties. The evaluations make it possible to examine the impact of the principles and maintain a spirit of collaboration among those directly affected. The two conventions mentioned contain orientations and general principles, but their interpretation will have to be improved to avoid loopholes and ambiguity. The Common Market created within the EEC, devoted to harmonious and balanced development of business, excludes market differences between national legislations on questions influencing companies' economie decision-making. In almost all member countries, working conditions are regulated to protect employment and encourage social involvement. The social partners, however, do not completely control the «social dialogue» everywhere. Consequently, operations of the Common Market can be influenced by differences in the protection of labour resulting from Industrial Relations practices or legislation. In addition, operations of the Common Market may be affected by lack of information on decisions related to competition. The economic crisis, moreover, has introduced numerous industrial changes influencing stability and job perspectives. European workers have a right to participate in negotiating decisions which directly affect them. This legitimate interest in participation enters into conflict with local I.R. structures when companies organize and expand through transnational structures, thus separating decision making from the shops and firms where the workers are located. The non-compulsory nature of the above conventions satisfies neither labour nor government regarding companies' respect of guide-lines. As a result, the EEC has had to apply compulsory measures to guide and improve Industrial Relations in Europe, creating a climate of social dialogue favorable to investment and industrial change which is duly negotiated and accepted. This is the rationnel behind the EEC Commission's decision to table a proposition before the Council of Ministers entailing the adoption of uniform legislation by all member countries, as regards:
— regular annual information for labour in companies with complex structures about developments or future perspectives of particular aspects of business (employment, sales, investment, etc.);
— consultation with labour about the consequences of certain planned decisions which could seriously affect the interests of workers in related branch plants (head office moves, work methods). The text also proposes:
— protection in the case of confidential information;
— appropriate sanctions by member countries regarding abuses;
— joint supervision by central and local levels, the latter being the exclusive spokesman of labour's representatives;
— the right for these local levels to contact head office management in case of abuses related to compulsory information.
The latter point brings out the extraterritorial nature of the text, and has provoked reactions in industrial circles. Such reactions have made themselves felt since the measure was originally tabled in 1980. Subsequently, it was modified, following an intense debate in the European Parliament in 1982. The general effect has been to weaken what was considered by some to be an unrealistic and counter-productive measure for improving IR in Europe. The European union movement, which considers it too weak, protested against this campaign arguing that it protected multinationals against generally accepted EEC norms. In the face of such a battle, it remains to be seen whether the measures proposed will improve European I.R. Each side can find justification for its own point of view. What is certain, nevertheless, is that the questions raised are still very sensitive, in spite of the principles accepted in the guide-lines as well as in other European regulations. How can they be made more efficient and encourage the establishment of greater confidence between social partners? At the very least, it can be said that the process of discussing them will prove to be beneficiai in itself.
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