April 24, 2020
As we slowly exit “lockdown” in countries across Europe and return to work in offices and factories over the coming months, the new normal may preclude the possibility of meetings with European Works Councils.
We cannot see EWC in-person meetings resuming anytime soon, perhaps continuing into 2021. Leaving aside any restrictions on cross-border travel that governments may continue to enforce, what responsible company is going to ask 20 to 30 managers and employees’ representatives to go through airports or train stations to come together in a hotel, full of other guests from who knows where, for a meeting that can be done as easily on-line?
There will be pushback and objections, but it is not the members of the EWCs, union coordinators, or expert advisors who will be held responsible if, as a result of attending an EWC meeting, a colleague contracts the virus and dies.
Zooming to the future: Thankfully, the technology, including interpretation technology, now allows for effective on-line meetings in a way that was not possible even five years ago. It will require time and training to get it right, but on-line meetings are the only sane and safe option for now. All is changed, and EWCs have to change as well.