back to article Judge rules Oracle didn't have to listen to its Euro Works Council over support biz layoffs

Oracle's EU-area employee rep council has lost its legal battle to force the American company to pay attention to it after Big Red sacked several hundred people and offshored their jobs to Romania. In a judgment delivered last Friday afternoon, the UK Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled (PDF) that Oracle's "European Works Council …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So much for EU workers protections then...

    Another remainiac totem falls flat on its arse.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: So much for EU workers protections then...

      This wouldn't have happened in e.g. Germany and that's why Oracle chose to site it in the UK.

      1. boltar Silver badge

        Re: So much for EU workers protections then...

        "This wouldn't have happened in e.g. Germany"

        No, probably not germany or france, but it would in pretty much any other EU country that doesn't have powerful unions with a gun to the governments head. At the end of the day, the EU can huff and puff all it wants, but as various east european states and france have demonstrated recently and in the past, if they don't want to play ball there's very little brussels (or is the travelling circus in strasbourg at the moment? Hard to keep up) can do about it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So much for EU workers protections then...

          No, probably not germany or france,

          Oh, it would happen in France. Eventually.

          I work in France for the subsidiary of a large and very successful US corp. When US HQ decides to lay off some people, perhaps because a project or service ends, the French subsidiary simply gets told "lose these xxx jobs".

          It then has to work out how to square it with works council and unions, as the law requires, but they still have to do the layoff. If they don't lay the people off they have to pay them, but can't cross-charge the costs back to the US. Inevitably they end up buying people off with severance packages sufficiently large that they get enough volunteers, or at least so that the unions decide not to rock the boat, but the whole process takes months.

          The real consequence is that French HR and US managers see how long and painful it is, and agree not to hire any more R&D staff in France in future. R&D goes to India, support and sales to places like Romania. Over the past 20 years we've lost 90+% of the R&D staff, they just aren't replaced.

          Still, at least it isn't France Telecom, where several senior managers are on trial for having allegedly driven some staff members to suicide. They couldn't legally lay them off, so they allegedly made their jobs so miserable that they would hopefully quit. Some did, permanently.

          1. boltar Silver badge

            Re: So much for EU workers protections then...

            "The real consequence is that French HR and US managers see how long and painful it is, and agree not to hire any more R&D staff in France in future"

            Thats the problem when employment law and rights are heavily baised towards employees. In a perfect world where all countries had the same laws they work fine, but in the real world when multinationals can just up sticks elsewhere they just don't work. I'm not saying there shouldn't be any, we don't want europe to end up with sweatshops like asia, but they must not be so onorous that companies won't hire staff.

          2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds

            Re: So much for EU workers protections then...

            Re France Telecom, one should mention that the allegations and trial are obviously politically motivated and that in a common law jurisdiction the defence would have been able to file a motion dismissing the case - either pre-trial, or as soon as the trial started. The first question is actuarial: were there more than the expected number of suicides given the number of employees. (There were not. No case to answer.)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So much for EU workers protections then...

        Agree - or Austria. I've found the order goes Austria, Germany, France, then everyone else.

        I don't mind the Works Council meetings tbh.

    2. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: So much for EU workers protections then...

      Another remainiac totem falls flat on its arse.

      UK Employment Tribunal though.

      I've always suspected a fair bit of effort has been going in these last couple of decades to moving the UK closer to US values.

      The sitcoms are just the vanguard of the propaganda campaign.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So much for "clever" leavers ?

      So we don't need to leave the EU to have our own standards, it seems ?

    4. smudge Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: So much for EU workers protections then...

      Another remainiac totem falls flat on its arse.

      Bring it on. What joy it will be to be able to sack you, just because I don't like what you say.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So much for EU workers protections then...

      Shuffling jobs between member states is sort of the entire point of the EU. It’s fundamentally baked in. Good if you’re a low cost country, not so good if you’re not.

    6. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: So much for EU workers protections then...

      I think AC you don't understand just what exactly has been upheld by an English court and thus the case precedent others will try and build on.

      It is significant in that the judge has effectively ruled on the letter of the law and not the intent, thus a reasonable reading would infer that 'consult' includes waiting for a response from those consulted, but because the law/directive did not explicitly state this requirement, the company could 'consult' without waiting for a response. Given how much law originating from Parliament is poorly written - full of intent but leaving the judiciary to fill in the gaps, this judgement should be ringing alarm bells in some quarters;in others it represents a field day in exploiting all those loopholes...

      1. theblackhand

        Re: So much for EU workers protections then...

        "It is significant in that the judge has effectively ruled on the letter of the law and not the intent, thus a reasonable reading would infer that 'consult' includes waiting for a response from those consulted"

        I'm not a lawyer, so I may have misunderstood the published verdict but, it would appear that Oracle was successful because of procedural mistakes by the EWC (waiting for the annual Oracle/EWC meeting to begin the process which delayed the start by ~4 months) rather than any fundamental change in interpretation of the law.

        Reading through the time line, Oracle was able to convince the judge they had met the requirements for communications with the EWC - the first formal communication between Oracle and the EWC occurred on the 21st March 2017, with further consultations on the 27th of March 2017, with redundancies in Poland announced on the 28th of March which would not appear to meet the requirements for consultation (in my view). However, Oracle initially announced restructuring on the 30th of November 2016, and the time line does not indicate any communication between Oracle and the EWC did not occur between the 30th of November 2016 and 21st of March 2017 and this is what led to Oracle being found to have given adequate notice. The majority of the documented EWC activity occurs AFTER staff have been made redundant which would suggest that their activities came too late and the EWC case centres on when they were notified and should have begun consultation. Without more background on why there was a delay, I'm assuming there was some sort of EWC failure that caused this (speculation on my part).

        And your comments regarding poorly written laws leaving the judiciary (and ultimately the EU courts) is an underlying issue for the leave/remain debate. As an observation, historically the UK establishment (politicians/civil servants/UK courts) passing the effort/responsibility onto someone else and then end up surprised that the decision is left to the EU courts. The UK establishment is even more surprised when the EU courts then go on to make binding rulings as that's not (historically) how things are done in the UK where politicians decide the law and the judiciary uphold the law. Jonathan Sumption's 2019 Reith Lectures provide some interesting background and opinions on this.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: So much for EU workers protections then...

          " it would appear that Oracle was successful because of procedural mistakes by the EWC (waiting for the annual Oracle/EWC meeting to begin the process which delayed the start by ~4 months)"

          I must admit I have not read the papers (so thanks for the extra background) only the article. I agree that 4 month delay is a little troubling, I wonder whether the EWC didn't regard the November letters to staff as "formal notification" since they weren't directly copied in, whereas having the Oracle representative "mentioning matters" at the annual meeting, was...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Since it was only a UK court ruling? I'm hardly worried. But I'll still be in the EU come November, and I feel sorry for those who'll have to work under that sort of decision.

    1. Cederic Bronze badge

      Why would you be sorry? They'll still have the same legal protections in November that they have now.

    2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds

      That ruling is binding on EU nations after Brexit (should it ever happen), unless it goes to a higher EU court. But it won't.

      Reality is that EWC regs are paperwork with no effect on what a company does. They were introduced in a homeopathically watered down form because that was all that everyone agreed on. There was no intent for them to be more than they are, for the same reason.

  3. tiggity Silver badge

    Why on earth

    Why on earth did they use UK system?

    Plenty of really strange decisions come out of UK judges (like this interpretation of "consultation")

    .. and with current UK govt having wet dreams about destroying workers rights (its already slipped out) when / if we leave the EU, then don't discount a bit of behind the scenes political pressure on the interpretation (Yes I know the judiciary is supposedly independent in the UK, but influences can be subtle and lots of the "establishment" figures socialise in relatively small circles (with low odds that said circles have many horny handed sons of toil, and so easy for "groupthink" effects to subconsciously take effect)

    Far more sensible to have used somewhere else e.g. Germany, where works Council / consultation between workers representative body and employers is a big, long established thing (with lots of legal background) and taken very seriously.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Well done

    "it allows big employers to effectively ignore EU-mandated trade unions when sacking large numbers of staff"

    Congratulations on having finally understood the point. As for those who consider that this gets rid of some "remaniac" issues, I'd love to see your face when you're the one getting the sack without recourse.

    1. boltar Silver badge

      Re: Well done

      I'd sooner have a job with less rights than no job at all. Like it or not , companies tend to migrate to countries with the lightest regulation whether it be employment law or financial or tax. For the latter, why do you think Ireland did so well? Though the EU fined them but AFAIK they've yet to pay and good luck to brussels getting the money out of them given Leo Veradkar is currently their anti-brexit poster child.

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Well done

        Quote:

        I'd sooner have a job with less rights than no job at all.

        Coming soon to your world.... zero hours contracts.....where you effectivly have no rights, no holidays no pension and no sickpay. oh and 1/2 a chance your 'employer' will charge you if you do take a day off sick..

        If you're happy with that, good for you.... the rest of us prefer a world away from the 1840's

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: Well done

          "If you're happy with that, good for you.... the rest of us prefer a world away from the 1840's"

          Clearly you've never been unemployed for any significant period of time like I have. Trust me - a zero hours contract is better than being on the dole otherwise why do you think so many people do it?

          You need a reality check my friend.

  5. hottuberrol

    " European Works Councils are organisms ..." I've heard them called a few things before, but not that !

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      How about committees?

      Committees are organisms with more than four stomachs and no brains (Lazarus Long).

  6. SVV Silver badge

    Oracle's SRS division is now a distant memory in parts of western and central Europe

    If they keep going downmarket with the quality, knowledge and experience of their support staff, then Oracle may soon be a distant memory in parts of western and central Europe as well. They certainly are in my own database related work.

  7. Stephen McLaughlin

    Oracle Employees With the Best Job Security?

    Their Legal Staff. Seems every article I read concerning Oracle involves a lawsuit.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Oracle Employees With the Best Job Security?

      Depends on your definition of employee, but if you consider anybody receiving a salary from a company an employee, I'd say it would have to be Larry Ellison.

  8. SPiT

    Meaning of consultation

    There is plenty of established law in the UK around redundancy and consultation. The generally approved interpretation has simply led to there being established timescales for consultation rather than depending on receiving responses. In redundancy situations this often means that both employer and staff are left waiting in limbo for the "consultation" period to elapse before being able to proceed. This is often a situation that nobody likes especially where redundancies are being made in smaller businesses where it could very reasonably and fairly be wrapped up quite quickly.

    Without looking into this in further detail I would imagine the situation is simply that the judge considers that sufficient time had passed for consultation and the fact that the worker committee hadn't responded is not relevant. The key reason for this interpretation will almost certainly be to prevent mandatory consultation being used to permanently stall the process.

    If you don't like that offshoring policies of companies like Oracle then the answer isn't to rely on details of the redundancy process, it needs to depend on internationalisation of things like the TUPE regulations that basically say you can't make people redundant unless the work they are doing is redundant. What isn't clear to me is why nobody is pursuing a TUPE claim around these redundancies.

    1. Cederic Bronze badge

      Re: Meaning of consultation

      Did Oracle outsource, or just offshore? If they've offshored then TUPE doesn't come into play, as it's merely a change in location.

      If they outsourced then it may not come into play as Oracle didn't divest that function, they closed it and sought external provision instead.

      If they offshored the more interesting question is whether they offered relocation: https://www.gov.uk/employer-relocation-your-rights

  9. kakoli

    So much for EU workers protections

    EU country that doesn't have powerful unions with a gun to the governments head.

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