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17 May 2004

LRD publishes trade unionist's guide to the new European Union
As 10 new countries join the European Union from this month, LRD is publishing a complete guide to trade union structures and worker organisation in all 25 EU member states. Worker representation in Europe takes each of the 25 countries in turn and provides a description of the main trade unions and confederations, collective bargaining arrangements and structures for employee representation, including works councils and trade union bodies.

With growing economic ties and financial integration between EU countries, it becomes more and more important for trade unionists across Europe to make links and to learn from one another's experience. Many UK trade unionists will also have regular contact with their colleagues from other EU countries through participation in European Works Councils (bodies representing employees in multinational companies), as companies become increasingly global.

Worker representation in Europe illustrates the great variety of forms of trade union organisation in Europe, from countries with a single union confederation, such as the UK and Austria, to those where separate confederations are divided along largely political lines, such as in France or Poland. The levels of union membership also vary widely, from the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland and Sweden where more than three-quarters of employees are in unions, compared to only 19% in Spain, 15% in Lithuania and 8% in France. But as strikes in France have shown, the level of union membership is not the only indicator of trade unions' ability to organise.

This latest LRD guide also shows how the different bargaining structures operate in other countries, explaining who negotiates and over what issues. A large majority of EU countries now have a minimum wage (only seven do not), for example, and the booklet shows how this is set.

In some countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands, workplace representation is primarily through works councils elected by all employees, while in others (for example, the Nordic countries) it is through the trade unions, sometimes with extensive legal rights. Worker representation in Europe provides evidence that, despite these variations, trade union involvement is vital for effective workplace representation.

Notes to editors

1. Worker representation in Europe is published by the Labour Research Department, 78 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HF, price ?10.95/?20.00 (?22.00/?35.00 for employers or commercial organisations). LRD booklets are also available on subscription at an annual cost of ?30.95 (?76.95 for employers or commercial organisations). LRD publishes 10-11 booklets each year.

2. The Labour Research Department is an independent trade union and labour movement organisation founded 90 years ago. Around 1,800 trade union organisations, including 55 national unions, representing 99% of total TUC membership, are affiliated.

3. For press enquiries on this booklet contact Tessa Wright on 020 7902 9817. To order copies of the booklet telephone 020 7928 3649.

4. Full information about all of LRD's services and publications is available on the LRD website at www.lrd.org.uk.

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