Within the »WIM 2: Workers involvement – Straight to the challenges« project, run by the Association of Employers of Slovenia, three project meetings were held last May in Podgorica, Zagreb and Skopje.
The purpose of the meeting of the project leader with the national expert working group is to prepare the starting points for the development of the participation model and the frameworks for the integration of the role of the employee representatives into the decision-making processes. The project activities of the national working group will not be limited only to the promotion of employee participation in the decision-making processes but also to seeking concrete solutions capable of being subsequently transposed into the legal system in the process of approaching the European integrations.
In each country, the working group consists of employer representatives, i.e. the employers’ associations, employee representatives, organised in representative trade unions and government representatives, i.e. the relevant ministry. The aim of such tripartite structure is to ensure that the European workers’ participation legislation is transposed in a manner closest to all three players or in a most acceptable way thus having the greatest chance of really working, once transposed into the national legislation. The partners start from the premise that the shared challenges can be best addressed through mutual agreement.
The transposition of the directive on workers’ participation is not solely an obligation of the countries aiming at EU membership. A well thought-out transfer of the concrete contents and their implementation mean a more stable business environment and consequently a clear signal for the potential investors. This, of course, is an external aspect. Properly organised relations in terms of information on all aspects of management relevant for the workers and on anticipated management decisions as well as consultations with the employee representatives prior to making any decisions, considerably affecting the sphere of labour relations, however, constitute an indispensable internal aspect of workers’ participation. Indeed, the project partners believe that this is one of the fundamental building blocks of the high quality collective and individual employment relations.
The activities of the national working group vary from country to country, taking into consideration the existing situation and the applicable legal frameworks: the Montenegrin legislation does not yet contain any legal bases for setting up works councils and their operation, whereas the Macedonian legislation provides the frameworks for setting up the European works councils but not the frameworks for setting up and operation of works councils in unrelated companies with no transnational element.
A further problem in Montenegro and Macedonia is the definition of the role of works council vis-à-vis trade unions. Some trade unions fear they may lose the role of employee representatives. It is necessary to point out that a trade union does not represent all employees but only the interests of its members, also forming the trade union’s business intention. It is true, however, that a representative trade union, both in Macedonia and in Montenegro, may enter into collective agreements of general application, valid for all employees. It is a challenge to prepare draft legal frameworks in order to set up a body conceptually and actually representing all employees rather than being a membership organisation. Another challenge is to clearly define the areas of participation thus making a distinction between the participation and the regulation of the workers’ rights and obligations.
Contrary to both above mentioned countries, Croatia has fully transposed the directives on workers’ participation, both through works councils and the European works councils. Even more importantly, all forms of workers’ participation work in practice. Therefore, the project activities with the Croatian project partners are somewhat different. The focus of the activities with the Croatian project partners is on the implementation of autonomous European framework agreements. The tripartite group seeks an optimum way within its task for their implementation, whereby it examines in particular the possibility of transposing the company-level collective bargaining through the workers’ participation models. The works council as a representative of all employees could become responsible for the implementation activity.
The project activities comprise a wide range of activities, with an important change in the approach being the initiative of the national social partners (and project partners at the same time), who unanimously formulate the draft regulatory framework with the aim of submitting it to the competent authority. Such activities provide a proactive approach to seeking solutions rather than waiting for them.
With financial support by the European Union.