In June, the global trade union federation, Uniglobal, reported that 35 trade union representatives and EWC delegates from a number of multinational companies met to share experiences and discuss coherent strategies. The role of the trade unions was described as “crucial” with Uniglobal commenting that “working together” was the only way to “boost our bargaining power towards MNCs”.

In our experience, trade unions are helping EWCs to push the pressure points with employers and, given the boost to EWC rights following recent changes in the law, this collaboration needs to be taken seriously. These legal changes include greater rights to demand in-depth information about a proposed restructuring or corporate change and sufficient time to prepare an opinion, which could include counter-proposals, and to receive a response to that opinion from management. The expectation is that the EWC should be involved before any decision has been taken to allow genuine consultation to take place.

Unions are already harnessing these legal changes to make in-roads into qualifying organisations currently without an EWC and to transform existing EWCs, particularly those older more informal EWCs which may have escaped attention until now. Trade union strategy is to upgrade these agreements to bring them in to line with the recent legal changes. As many of these older EWCs were not designed to be evergreen and are renewable after a certain term, affected companies should be prepared for requests for wholesale renegotiation, to include, for example, the strengthened information and consultation duties. As a result, the requirement for a considered and strategic approach to negotiating and managing an EWC has never been greater.