Four questions on Works Councils

They represent the workers and defend their rights before the company. They are only compulsory when the workforce exceeds 1,000, although with 50 employees they are already advisable.

They represent the workers and defend their rights before the company. They are only obligatory when the staff has more than 1,000 employees, although at 50 they are already advisable.

1 What is a works council for? What are its functions? What do they regulate?

According to Article 63 of the Workers’ Statute (ET), a works council is the representative and collegiate body of all the workers in the company. Its raison d’être is to defend the interests of the staff.

It is, in short, the form of employee participation in the company’s business and decision-making, since the committee “has the right to be informed and consulted by the employer on matters likely to affect the employees”.

It also has the power to take administrative or legal action within limits set by the statute.

2 Do all companies have a committee of workers’ representatives, and what does it depend on?

No, nor are they obliged to do so except in companies with more than 1,000 employees, following European regulations, although it is customary and advisable to have one for 50 or more.

The number of works council members varies according to the number of employees, following a scale set out in Article 66 of the Workers’ Statute. For example, from 50 to 100 employees, five members; from 101 to 250, 9; from 251 to 500, 13; from 501 to 750, 17; from 750 to 1,000, 21, and from 1,000 employees onwards, 21 plus 2 per 1,000 up to a maximum of 75.

3 In my company there are going to be committee elections, how are they formed and who elects them?

Elections for committee members can be held in general or in part. When they are to renew representation at the end of the term, they can only be held after three months have elapsed.

They can also be partial elections when there are resignations, revocations or adjustments of representation due to an increase in the number of employees. According to Article 69 of the ET, “staff delegates and members of the works council shall be elected by all workers by personal, direct, free and secret ballot”.

They may be elected by all employees of the company who are over 16 years of age and have been working for at least one month. Workers over 18 years of age and with at least six months’ seniority shall be eligible, unless another term is agreed in a collective agreement, with a minimum seniority limit of three months”.

In the election for personnel delegates (in companies with less than 50 workers), each worker may give his vote to a maximum number of candidates equivalent to the number of positions to be filled. Those who obtain the highest number of votes shall be elected. In the event of a tie, the longest-serving worker shall be selected.

4 I have been asked to be part of a committee, what obligations and benefits, if any, do I have?

The members of the works council have some guarantees as workers. These are set out in Article 68 of the Workers’ Statute.

These include priority for remaining in the company over other workers in the event of suspension or termination for technological or economic reasons; not being dismissed or sanctioned during the exercise of their functions or within one year of the expiry of their term of office.

They also have a credit of paid monthly hours for the exercise of their representative functions.