Roberts, Ivor and Braaten, David. (1997) "Implementing social policy: An interdisciplinary study of the implementation of the Works Council Directive in the United Kingdom". In: UNSPECIFIED, Seattle, WA. (Unpublished)
Critics of EU social policy argue that a common policy is not feasible because national practices are so different and are deeply imbedded in national culture and history. It is the purpose of this paper to test this assumption by studying the implementation of the European Works Council (EWC) in the UK. Obviously, the test is a limited one and should be regarded as a first attempt. Its findings are highly tentative. In addition, the study provides some preliminary insights into the feasibility of opt-out agreements. Can member states successfully exclude themselves from aspects of integration while at the same time participating in the overall integration effort? The UK is generally perceived as the country whose industrial relations traditions and current attitudes make implementation of EU social policy difficult, if not impossible. Moreover, the UK has the legal right not to enforce many aspects of EU social policy. Therefore, the UK poses the most difficult challenge to those who believe that European integration must have a social dimension. The research was conducted in five TNEs operating in the UK, four of which implemented the directive before September 22, 1996 (the cut-off date for voluntary compliance). Each of these corporations included representatives from their employees in the UK in their EWC although they were not required to do so. The study was a pilot project for a larger study of the implementation of social policy. The research included semi-structured interviews among British employees who are also representatives to the corporate EWC. In addition, discussions were held with members of the relevant European industrial committees. The questions asked in the interviews were designed to elicit insights into the role which culture plays in facilitating or obstructing policy implementation. The design of the questions was influenced by the work of G. Hofstede (1980; 1989).
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