What are the tasks of works councils?
The main purpose of establishing works councils is to represent the interests of employees. The works council is responsible for agreeing with the employer:
- rules and procedure for providing information and conducting consultations;
- mode of resolving disputes;
- principles of incurring costs related to the election and operation of the works council, including costs related to the provision of necessary expertise.
Moreover, the works council may agree with the employer, in particular:
- a number of members of the works council other than those specified above, but not less than 3 members of the works council;
- rules for covering costs related to the assistance of persons with specialist knowledge, used by the employee council;
- rules of dismissing members of the works council from work depending on the number of employees.
The above arrangements should ensure conditions for informing and conducting consultations at least equal to those specified in the Act and should take into account the interests of the employer and employees. If there is a works council in a given workplace, the employer is obliged to inform it about issues related to the functioning of the workplace. As a consequence, this is to lead to the transfer of data to employees and their familiarization with the subject of the case. On the basis of the presented data, the works council can thoroughly investigate each case. Information within the meaning of the Act means the provision of data enabling the examination of the case. It is believed that it should be in writing so that board members can investigate the matter and prepare for consultation. The employer informs the council about:
- activity and economic situation of the enterprise and the changes envisaged in this respect; • the state, structure and anticipated changes in employment as well as activities aimed at maintaining its level;
- activities that may result in significant changes to the work organization or employment framework. It should be emphasized that the employer, in particularly justified cases, may not disclose information to the employee council. The exception is limited to information the disclosure of which could, according to objective criteria, seriously disturb the activities of the undertaking or establishment or subject it to significant damage. It happens that the employer is obliged to consult certain undertakings with the council.
Consultations are based on a bilateral exchange of views on a specific topic. Contrary to information, the obligation to consult concerns only the state, structure, anticipated changes in employment, its basis and work organization. Therefore, there is no obligation to consult the activity and economic situation of the enterprise. Importantly, the employer is not obliged to take into account the position of the works council. Consultation is therefore conducted in good faith and should respect the interests of crew members.