Seminar: European Works Councils in transnational travel and tourism companies
Turin, 13th – 14th March 2000
Report on results
1.Opening and welcoming
Raffaele Vanni, Chairman of the ETLC, and Kerstin Howald, ETLC co-ordinator, welcomed the participants (see Appendix for the list) and introduced the seminar.
The process of concentration manifested by companies in the tourism industry has, in recent years, speeded up due to, amongst other things, take-overs of hotel chains, alliances between airline companies, and in particular, the trend towards integrated tourism companies offering the whole chain of tourist services: travel arrangements, transport, accommodation and entertainment at the destination, etc.
These massive restructuring measures are often not without consequences on employment and working conditions in the tourist companies if, for example, jobs are lost as a result of mergers, or if market-leaders exert price-pressure on other providers.
European Works Councils have been set up in many of the transnational tourism companies. European Works Councils are an important instrument when it comes to making the interests of employees heard in cross-border restructuring processes. To date, the existing EWCs have worked in isolation from one another, particularly when they operate in different sectors, for example in transport or hotel chains.
The aims of the seminar are:
-improved understanding of the conditions prevailing in the tourism sector and its various sub-sectors;
-a review of previous work carried out by the existing European Works Councils;
-the exchange of experiences regarding the functioning of EWCs with the aim of improving their operation (learning best practices from each other);
-building up a network in order to react more quickly in the event of restructuring measures or industrial conflicts in tourism companies;
-identification of innovative measures to avoid/deal with conflicts in transnational concerns resulting from restructuring measures.
2.Challenges for the European travel and tourism industry in the 21st century
As the representative for the World Tourism Organisation had cancelled his appearance at short notice, Kerstin Howald gave a short introduction regarding scope, market shares, branches and employment in tourism; she also outlined the trends in and effects of the concentration process within tourism and working conditions in selected branches of tourism.
Following on, Dr. Willi Schoppen, member of the management board of C&N Touristic AG, gave a contribution regarding the future of the European travel and tourism industry, in which he sketched developments, perspectives and strategies from the point of view of a tour operator company. (Appendix: copies of Dr. Schoppen’s slides in German)
The tourism industry is of great importance to the overall economy (>6% share of the gross domestic product) and has attractive growth rates that are higher than the average rate of economic growth.
The constantly changing market is of enormous potential to tour operator companies, but also constantly poses new challenges.
The proportion of package tours varies between 60% in Great Britain, 50% in Germany and 25% in France and Belgium, meaning that there are massive market opportunities for tourism companies.
If tourism grows overall by 5-6%, then organised tourism (package tours) increases on average by 10-12%.
Because competition amongst tour operators is predominantly in the lower market segment (cheap holidays, last minute offers), pressure is being increasingly brought to bear on the profit margins of those companies, with high growth rates that often not necessarily result in higher sales and profit.
Thanks to the increasing integration of their business activities and thereby of the various added value stages, tour operator companies are creating the pre-conditions for a stronger competitive position, for higher yields (by optimising capacity utilisation and absorbing profits from complementary business) and for more closely matching the requirements of customers.
Due to high expectations with respect to their growth, tourism companies are becoming increasingly attractive to investors. Many of the large travel agents are already listed on the stock exchange or are trying to achieve this goal in the near future, one of the reasons being to cover the increased need for capital experienced by integrated tour operators (e.g. for the acquisition of new planes or hotels).
In the following discussion, Dr. Schoppen fielded the critical questions asked by participants. The participants voiced their concerns that with the stock market flotation of tourism companies, the danger exists that also in these companies shareholder interests will become increasingly predominant, i.e. that short-term profit gains will take precedence over a long-term economic perspective.
Other questions related to the effects that the process of integration and consolidation in the tourism industry would have on employment figures and working conditions.
3.European Works Councils in transnational travel and tourism companies – a quantitative evaluation
Annemarie David from Infopoint of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) provided an overview of the EWCs that have to date been set up in travel and tourism companies:
The majority of EWCs were set up before September 1996 (agreements according to Article 13 of the EWC Directive), and only 4 EWC agreements have since been concluded according to Article 6.
In geographical terms, most of the EWCs cover only the European Union, but a high percentage also includes the entire European Economic Area, single agreements also including Switzerland and the east European accession countries.
Many of the EWCs deal with issues extending beyond those provided for in the Directive, such as for example, matters of health and safety, working conditions, equality, training and further training as well as trade union rights.
It was possible to establish the presence of experts in 68% of the EWC agreements.
In 53% of the EWCs, training courses had taken place.
Overall, the amount of information regarding the work of the EWCs in the area of transport and tour operators is not very high. Once again, the relevant European Trade Union Confederations are called upon to make the corresponding information available.
4.Employee participation in transnational travel and tourism companies – the role of European Works Councils and how they operate
Representatives of the European Works Councils established at TUI, Scandic and ClubMéditerranée reported on current practice in the existing EWCs, taking into account the following points:
·the content of the EWC agreement and how it came into being; composition of the EWC; available resources; how EWC meetings are conducted
·what has been achieved to date in the EWC; quality of the information provided by management; accountability; consultation processes
·experience gained with respect to restructuring processes or industrial conflicts; involvement and reaction on the part of the EWC
·usefulness of the EWC for the work of employee representatives and trade unions at both national and local level
What has been achieved to date in the EWC has only partially met the expectations of the employee representatives. Because of the infrequency of meetings and often, the lack of communication channels between EWC meetings, true co-operation amongst employee representatives and a common method of proceeding are often difficult to achieve.
Even when management approve the initiatives proposed by employee representatives, they then often do nothing towards putting them into practice.
In the case of Scandic, management had to date not been prepared to provide professional simultaneous interpreting services in booths – as a result of which, the whispered consecutive interpreting had greatly hindered communication.
On the other hand, within the ClubMéditerranée experiences have been positive so far; management had consulted the EWC with regard to closing-down operations and restructuring processes, and measures were agreed upon jointly.
When the EWC agreement was being re-negotiated, the ECF-IUF representative in the ClubMed EWC was granted 20 working days for his co-ordination activities, and the company provided an annual budget of 200,000 FF for the training of EWC members.
In the discussion, it was pointed out how important it is for employee representatives who are members of trade unions to sit on EWCs, so that the EWCs can meet the challenge of their role in the concentration processes. As part of the revision of the EWC Directive, care should be taken that in future when nominating EWC members, structures that already exist to represent employees are not circumvented.
Trade unions must be persuaded that the security of jobs can no longer be protected on a national level only, but that cross-border international solidarity is necessary.
Regarding the fact that EWCs have so far not met expectations with regard to how they operate, it was pointed out that the EWCs are a recent phenomenon and are still at an early stage of development. It is important for employee representatives to decide what they wish to achieve with the EWC and to develop a joint strategy.
The EWC should jointly decide what information it needs and to request this from management, in writing, prior to meetings, so that the employee representatives can together analyse this information in preparatory meetings, thus preparing for their meeting with management.
For consultations in the event of restructuring measures, employee representatives in the EWC should together draw up a code of conduct.
The aim should be that in the EWC, agreements with management are entered into focussing on issues such as equal opportunities, training and further training, health and safety, and that then these agreements are jointly put into practice.
The co-ordinator drew attention to the brochure published by the ECF-IUF entitled "European Works Councils in Practice – Examples of Best Practice", in which many of the results achieved in EWCs are documented. Seminar participants shall be sent a copy of the brochure together with the minutes.
5.Information and communication network for EWCs in transnational travel and tourism companies
In working groups, the participants elaborated proposals on the following topics:
A.Expectations placed on the network
The network should provide an improved and speedier means of communication; the present method is often characterised by chance information and contacts.
The network should not only be virtual, but also enable interaction and face-to-face meetings of participants.
In close co-operation with national and international trade unions and employee representatives, a targeted employee policy for the tourism sector should be pursued in the network.
B.Role of the network in the event of industrial conflicts, restructuring measures, take-overs, job losses, etc.
The network should serve to speedily transmit information regarding mergers, take-overs, and restructuring measures, etc.
Employee representatives in the affected companies should be brought together as quickly as possible in order to discuss the consequences of the measures and together, to decide on a strategy for proceeding further.
In the event of conflicts, e.g. when there are job losses, solidarity action should be homogenously co-ordinated through the network.
The network should draw up a code of conduct regarding procedures in the event of restructuring measures.
C.Type of information to be exchanged
Information on the following topics should be made available:
-transnational travel and tourism concerns (structure, employees, etc.)
-EWCs (names, addresses of the employee representatives, contacts, etc.)
-economic and employment information regarding the sector and the company (e.g. type of employment, collective agreements, etc.)
-EU regulations affecting the sector
-recruitment of trade union members
The network should compile a database, which is regularly updated.
EWC members should be able to consult a pool of experts who have experience of EWCs, mergers, etc.
At least once a year, tourism events should be organised, because this type of exchange is extremely important.
In order to implement networking successfully between EWCs and trade unions, internal communication within the individual EWCs also needs to be improved.
In the discussion, it was pointed out that both setting-up and updating a database would take up considerable time and manpower.
Much of the information mentioned can be found in various places. Therefore, the wheel should not be re-invented; it is rather a question of making existing sources of information available and networking them.
As a first step, an e-mail list of participants would be drawn up and made available. This list should be constantly extended, e.g. by adding the names of employee representatives and the relevant trade unionists of other EWCs in travel and tourism companies.
It is also important to include in the network those transnational companies where no EWC has yet been established.
The ETLC will be instructed to follow up the network project.
European Works Councils
In a global economy, the interests of employees can only be appropriately represented by looking beyond the confines of local and national boundaries.
a)Transnational companies where no EWC has yet been established:
Although the EWC Directive and the national implementation laws require transnational companies to set up EWCs, it nevertheless appears necessary to raise awareness amongst employee representatives and trade unions and convince them of the usefulness of EWCs.
An overview of all transnational travel and tourism companies under an obligation to form EWCs should be drawn up. The relevant European Industry Federations should, in the case of companies with cross-sector activities, define priorities in close cooperation.
The majority of EWCs are still at an early stage. Employee representatives in EWCs must become more pro-active and not only passively consume information given by management. To this end, employee representatives should consider what they want to achieve with the EWC, what information they require from management and what they want to do with it.
Restructuring measures are the most serious case for an EWC. In this instance, it will show whether management meet its obligation to consult and whether employee representatives can work in solidarity. It is important that consultation at the various levels is co-ordinated. In the EWC it could be agreed that no agreements are reached with management at national/local level until consultation is carried out at European level, with the aim of preventing employee representatives being played off against one another.
Knowledge about the industrial and employment conditions prevailing in the various countries is also important, so that information from management can be verified (e.g. regarding the profitability of different locations).
The work of the EWC must be made visible, which is why reporting to all employees is of importance. The aim should be concrete results for all employees; for example, why should positive regulations in one country not be extended to employees in other countries? Another possibility of increasing the political weight of the EWC could be agreements with management regarding, e.g. a company’s policy on equality.
In order for the EWC to really become an instrument representing employee interests, the functioning of the EWC must be further improved. For detailed examples, see under point 4 of the aforementioned document "European Working Councils in Practice – Examples of Best Practice".
There is unanimity regarding the goals of the network:
-improved and speedier communication
-improvement of the information flow
-active role of trade unions and employee representatives in the event of restructuring measures and conflicts
As a first step, making contact could be speeded up by drawing up an e-mail and address list of seminar participants.
The ETLC will evaluate the results of the seminar and discuss the possibility of putting the forwarded proposals into practice.
The meeting was closed by Raffaele Vanni, Chairman of the ETLC, by stating that, if we knew earlier that a joint trade union policy on tourism could be useful, then today, in the light of the developments in tourism companies, there is no more doubt that co-ordination is needed.