Trade unions and transnational regulation in Europe: developments and limitations

Valeria Pulignano (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Publication date: 5 October 2010



The purpose of this paper is to consider the situation of workers' rights in the context of European Works Councils (EWCs) in the metalworking sector.


The paper examines the preconditions, forms and patterns of trade union transnational coordination under the regime of cross‐border competition and, in particular, its transnational implications for employment regulation in multinationals in Europe. The paper is based on evidence from the metal sector at the European Union level in the direction of establishing a framework for transnational bargaining at company level in Europe.


The paper argues that workers' representation rights at the European level (EWCs) and their resources can be very important in supporting the trade unions' bargaining activity in a situation of cross‐border negotiation in multinational companies. In the absence of a legal framework, the very recent engagement by the European trade union movement to coordinate bargaining across borders, while stipulating agreements at the European company level (European Framework Agreements) for common regulatory purposes, represents a “necessary” and “essential” – although not “sufficient” condition – for transnational collective bargaining.


The paper ties the formation of EWCs to the early European project of a “social Europe”.



Pulignano, V. (2010), "Trade unions and transnational regulation in Europe: developments and limitations", Employee Relations, Vol. 32 No. 6, pp. 574-589.

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