The European Social Model Comes to Britain
AbstractThe EC framework directive on information and consultation will have to be implemented for undertakings in the UK employing at least 150 employees or establishments employing at least 100 employees by 23 March 2005. Unlike most other Member States, the UK does not have a mandatory regime of workplace representation. EU law is shaping an economic model incorporating mandatory information and consultation of employees and their representatives. The interpretation and application of the new directive by the Commission and the European Court will be shaped by their understanding of this ‘European social model’, while a Convention on the Future of Europe is deliberating on what it means to be a citizen of the European Union. The directive's object and principles are analysed. The directive requires a nine‐stage process: (1) transmission of information/data, (2) acquaintance with and examination of data, (3) conduct of an adequate study, (4) preparation for consultation, (5) formulation of an opinion, (6) meeting, (7) employer's reasoned response to opinion, (8) ‘exchange of views and establishment of dialogue’, ‘discussion’, ‘with a view to reaching an agreement on decisions’, and (9) ‘the employer and the employees’ representatives shall work in a spirit of cooperation and with due regard for their reciprocal rights and obligations, taking into account the interests both of the undertaking or establishment and of the employees'. The implications for the structure of employee representation and the potential scope for Member States to determine the practical arrangements for exercising the right to information and consultation, and, in particular, the position when Member States entrust to management and labour the task of defining practical arrangements are explored. The role of the Blair government in weakening the directive, and its consequences, are described. The conclusion considers the scope for a form of ‘British industrial relations exceptionalism’ in the European Union.