The agreement establishing the European Works Council at Cargill was signed on 7 February by the US food and agriculture corporation. The anticipation agreement that previously governed the functioning of the EWC was abandoned by staff representatives in November 2015, so that an agreement under the 2009 directive, which is more favourable to employee representatives, could be struck.

The agreement remains governed by UK law. It will apply for a period of five years, after which point it will become open ended. The company’s UK business will remain under the scope of the deal, regardless of its position in the European Union or European Economic Area. Countries where the firm has more than five employees may send a representative to the EWC. For countries with fewer than five employees, those workers will be represented by EWC members from the country of their choice (under the previous agreement, this was the choice for countries in which fewer than 24 workers were based).

EWC oversight of member elections. As well as being afforded the information and consultation rights under 2009 EC Directive (which were not granted under the previous, anticipation agreement), the council plays a role in the election process for European representatives, under the deal. The election process will jointly be initiated by management and the EWC select committee. If the approach in a particular country is to elect EWC members, the select committee will inform workers as to the importance of the EWC. The election process in each country will be determined by the EWC representative(s) and the company’s management in that country. In the absence of an EWC member in that country, the select committee must be informed upfront. Candidates must neither be favoured nor disadvantaged, with the select committee and central management obliged to ensure that this principle is respected by local management and representation, and that the latter correctly implement a designation or election process. If the select committee has any doubts as regards the designation or election process, it will inform the management and a solution will be sought. Workers with certain managerial responsibilities may not put themselves forward as candidates for selection. The election will take place under the supervision of an “independent electoral committee”. If a EWC member is dismissed, the select committee must be informed and has the right to be present.

Meetings, training, visits. The EWC will meet once per year at a plenary meeting, which will last three days, consisting of a preparatory meeting and follow-up meeting either side of the plenary. Meanwhile the select committee will meet three times per year and will be able to engage with local workers in the countries where meetings are held. In exceptional circumstances, the select committee may request that a “more appropriate” level of management attends a meeting. If the company’s management refuses, it must provide an explanation. If two-thirds of the EWC members request it, an exceptional meeting must be held. While procedures must adhere to local regulations, the information and consultation procedures must be conducted at a European level. The EWC may also invite up to two experts to their meetings and has the right to two days of training per year, as well as a budget that must be negotiated with the company management.

Link with national representation. Cargill management and EWC members in each country should “ideally” meet twice a year, to exchange opinions and information related to the work being done by the EWC, to ensure better follow-up as well as to prepare for the plenary meeting. Finally, EWC members must have the necessary means to pass on information to workers and to pass on opinions and requests from employees to the management. Representatives will be able to use a common intranet web-space as well as local notice boards to share information; they will also have the right to access establishments located in the country they represent, provided they inform local management at the site, and can be accompanied by a member of the select committee.