European Works Councils and Employees in Switzerland

Project description

Since 1994, companies with at least 1'000 employees in the EU and with at least 150 employees in at least two member states respectively can be obliged to install a "European Works Council" (EWC) as a body of employee participation ("information and consultation") on group level. Attempts on a political level to implement the so-called EWC directive in Switzerland have failed so far. Nevertheless employees in Switzerland as well as Switzerland-based companies are affected by the directive - on an unknown scale: Neither the number of Swiss companies with an EWC nor the number of cases in which employees at Swiss sites of domestic or foreign transnational companies are represented on a voluntary basis are known. Swiss employers are mainly concerned about a "system change through the back door", whereas employee organisations and trade unions in Switzerland are considering EWCs as rather useful for their purposes. With an empirical stocktaking of current EWCs with Swiss participation, the project fills an information gap. Case studies of affected companies and their EWCs respectively examined whether the scope of action of management and / or employees and trade unions have significantly changed in the context of EWC. This is not only relevant for research on industrial relations in Switzerland, but also for the discussion on a "Europeanization of Industrial Relations" and on opportunities for employee participation in transnational companies in general.


The project sponsored by the Swiss National Science Foundation had been running from November 2012 until April 2015.

Project director
Prof. Dr. Patrick Ziltener, University of Zurich

lic. phil. Heinz Gabathuler, +41 44 242 38 10
gabathuler.heinz [at]

Results and Publications

Patrick Ziltener / Heinz Gabathuler (2016): Europäische Integration auf Unternehmensebene: Die Schweizer Beteiligung an Europäischen Betriebsräten (EBR). Swiss Journal of Sociology 42(1), 159-174
(DOI: 10.1515/sjs-2016-0008)

Europäische Integration auf Unternehmensebene

Patrick Ziltener / Heinz Gabathuler (2016): Swiss multinational companies and their European Works Councils: European voluntarism meets Swiss voluntarism.
European Journal of Industrial Relations 22(4), 353-369
(DOI: 10.1177/0959680115619715)

Patrick Ziltener / Heinz Gabathuler (2016): When do European Works Councils become useful to employees? Lessons learned from the Alstom / Switzerland case. Transfer 22(4), 491-504
(DOI: 10.1177/1024258916667016)

First results of the empirical stocktaking of Swiss representations in EWCs had been published in the July / August 2013 issue of "Die Volkswirtschaft" / "La Vie économique", the magazine for economic policy edited by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs:

German Version

French Version

The results of the empirical stocktaking as well as preliminary findings from the case studies have been presented at the Industrial Relations in Europe Conference (IREC) 2014 in Dublin:

Swiss Representation in European Works Councils

Further results of the research project - namely on Transnational Company Agreements - had been presented at the Industrial Relations in Europe Conference (IREC) 2015 in Göteborg:

European Works Councils and transnational company agreements on restructuring (PDF, 327 KB)

Conclusions on the significance of EWCs from an employees' and trade unions' perspective in Switzerland had been published in German language in November 2015 in the Yearbook of the "Verein Denknetz":

Europäische Betriebsräte, Arbeitnehmende und Gewerkschaften in der Schweiz (in German)