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GDF Suez Transnational Collective Agreement on Health and Safety: EWC as negotiating agent and the relevance of the ETUF leading role

WP C.S.D.L.E. “Massimo D’Antona”.INT – 119/2015

The text is a reworked version of the master thesis submitted on 12 September 2014 at the Berlin School of Economics and Law. The empirical research has been entirely conducted on the occasion of the thesis research.

Moreover, the analysis included in Chapter 4 has already been partially published in “The relationship between European Trade Union Federations and European Works Councils, with a focus on their role as bargaining agents“, Leonardi S. (eds) (2015) EURACTA2. The Transnational company agreements. Experiences and prospects, Associazione Bruno Trentin. EURACTA 2 (European Action on TCAs), promoted and coordinated by Associazione Bruno Trentin, has involved a network of social research institutes, universities and trade unions form various European countries. The final outcome is a rich report, which includes several case studies on transnational collective bargaining at EU level as well as theoretical contributions.

European Works Councils and European Trade Union Federations (ETUFs) are often competing for the role of negotiators of transnational collective agreements (TCAs) at (multinational) company level. EWCs have been concluding a substantial number of texts, while ETUFs have signed a lower number of agreements, but they have developed mandate procedures to ensure that national trade unions are fully represented in the negotiating process. Especially interesting is the IndustriAll-Europe mandate procedure (previously EMF procedure) which is addressed in the working paper. The problems the EWC can encounter while negotiating a TCA, without an active role of the European Federation, are worthwhile to be investigated. For that reason the negotiation of the Health and Safety agreement at GDF Suez has been chosen as a case study. Indeed, the TCA at stake has been negotiated by the EWC, without the involvement of the ETUFs and it has been concluded notwithstanding the opposition of the Italian representative sitting in the Special Negotiating Body of the EWC. The empirical evidences collected have provided a very complex picture and their assessment has highlighted the specific weaknesses that can characterize a negotiation conducted solely by the EWC. An attentive analysis of the IndustriAll-Europe mandate procedure (which has also inspired the “optional legal framework” presented in 2014 by the ETUC) has shown to what extent and in which respect the application of a well structured mandate procedure and the leading role of the ETUF, in the negotiation of a TCA, can strengthen and bring together the employee’s side in the negotiation phase.

author(s): Frosecchi, Giulia
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