Chapter 8: Worker Protection and Participation
This chapter will focus primarily on the various ways in which EU labour law seeks to create or preserve opportunities for workers, as a group, to have a say in what goes on at their workplace. As we shall see, collective involvement of the workforce in decision-making can bring benefits for both the employer and the workers. For the workers, participation can provide opportunities to redress grievances and improve satisfaction at work. For the employer, worker participation can be costly but can also improve loyalty and job performance, and lead to better-informed decision making. Although mechanisms for workforce participation can be quite general in nature, they come into particularly sharp focus when there are changes to the firm: changes of ownership or legal structure, mergers, insolvency and redundancies. In these situations, participation mechanisms provide workers with an opportunity to argue against job losses or changes to their terms and conditions of employment. As we shall see, the law sometimes offers substantive as well as procedural protection in these situations. The chapter is divided into three parts. In the first part, we will examine three directives from the 1970s, on collective redundancies,1 insolvency,2 and changes in the ownership of the business (the ‘transfer of the undertaking’).3 These directives were designed to address workers’ concerns at a time of serious economic crisis in the EU and, arguably, to reduce their resistance to change. We will also consider some of the EU’s other policy approaches to these problems, particularly the...
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