Select Committee on European Scrutiny Eleventh Report


COM(01) 701

Commission Opinion on the European Parliament's amendments to the Council's common position regarding the draft Directive establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community.

Legal base:Article 137(2) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Document originated:27 November 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 28 November 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 3 January 2002
Department:Trade and Industry
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 19 December 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (22879) — : HC 152-vii (2001-02), paragraph 13 (21 November 2001)
To be discussed in Council: January 2002
Committee's assessment:Legally and politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared


  4.1  The draft Directive requires undertakings in the Community with 50 or more employees to put in place arrangements for informing and consulting their employees on a range of matters. The detailed procedures are to be determined by the Member States, subject to certain minimum standards.

  4.2  Negotiations on the draft Directive have been protracted: the previous Committee first considered the proposal almost three years ago. The UK has never been happy with its general tenor, but agreed last June to join the consensus for a Council Common Position. However, at its second reading, the European Parliament (EP) proposed a number of amendments to the Common Position text.

The document and the Minister's letter

  4.3  The document refers to the Commission's original opinion on the EP's amendments. In his letter, the Minister for Employment Relations and the Regions (Mr Alan Johnson) explains that it has now been overtaken by events. Despite the Commission's view that it could accept a few of the amendments either in whole or in part, the Council rejected them all on 12 December. The conciliation process was therefore formally invoked.

  4.4  The Minister then updates us on events, saying:

    "During the process of preparing for conciliation, the Commission came forward with a package of four compromise amendments, which the Parliamentary side indicated would be acceptable to it. At this point, the Parliamentary side also requested the inclusion of a declaration on employee rights. The Council and Parliament formally agreed to these amendments to the Common Position in a Conciliation Committee on 17 December.

    "The amendments and Declaration are set out in Annex A. In the Government's view Amendments 1-3 are cosmetic and impose no additional obligations compared with those already in the Common Position. The same is true of the Declaration, in any case non-binding, which simply refers to the existing jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice, which already binds all Member States. Amendment 4 reduces the transitional period for firms with 50 to 99 employees from 4 years to 3 years (in addition to the transposition period of 3 years). The Government considers that a total period of 6 years from the date of adoption of the directive is sufficient time to allow for the UK undertakings concerned to adapt to the new requirements.

    "The text will now pass to jurist-linguists for textual and linguistic tidying up. Following that, the Council and the European Parliament will separately consider the text at third reading. Subject to approval by both institutions, we expect the directive to be adopted in January."


  4.5  It is encouraging that the protracted negotiations over this proposal are drawing to a close. We are also pleased to learn that the Government considers that the total period of six years which firms with 50 to 99 employees will have to adapt to the new requirements will be sufficient.

  4.6  We thank the Minister for the exemplary way in which he has kept us informed of developments on this measure and ask him to let us know when the Directive is finally adopted. We clear the document which, as the Minister has explained, has been overtaken by events.

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Prepared 17 January 2002