Petitioning for a better whistleblower protection directive
The clock is ticking, there are less than two months remaining to make sure the European Union’s whistleblower protection directive, actively encourages whistleblowing and fully protects those reporting crimes, corruption and institutional wrongdoing. Eurocadres has joined forces with WeMove.EU to petition for much needed improvements to the directive, if it is not to place additional burdens on whistleblowers, which could in fact discourage reporting. Sign the petition here.
As the EU’s whistleblower protection directive comes close to the end of its legislative journey, trade unions and NGOs continue to actively lobby for essential changes to the directive, to ensure it meets its purpose of encouraging reporting and protecting whistleblowers. One of the main problems with the recently adopted Council position is the insistence that whistleblowers report internally, before reaching out to law enforcement agencies and regulatory authorities. Removing this clause on mandatory reporting is a key demand of the new petition. Experts largely agree that this measure will chill potential whistleblowers enthusiasm for reporting, if they might be forced to report to those within their organisations, who are complicit with the wrongdoing.
The role of Trade unions
The Council’s position is unclear on the role of trade unions, in the whistleblowing process. The proposals coming out of Council, supported by the Commission, firstly insist on internal reporting, through a dedicated channel within organisations, only then followed by external reporting to a law enforcement or regulatory authorities and lastly comes the right to report publicly to the media for example. As the proposals stand whistleblowers may not be in a position to safely seek advice or support from their trade union, as they begin that first stage of internal reporting. The petition insists that this anomaly, must be dealt with.
The directive will cover not only workers, but also shareholders, volunteers and persons in management bodies. In particular NGOs who provide advice to whistleblowers demand that it should also be safe to seek advice from NGOs.
No extra test
The council proposes a new requrement that the reported information must be lawfully acquired. Any additional requirements on whistleblowers have a chilling effect. This particular one risks court proceedings to be about the acquisition of the information. In the LuxLeaks case the court focused a lot of its attention on how documents which Antoine Deltour disclosed had been aquired. Such a requirement would have meant that the likes of Antoine Deltour would not be protected by the directive.
Blow the whistle!
Petition to the European Council, Parliament and Commission
Whistleblowers in the EU must be protected
We call on you to agree on a strong whistleblower protection directive which includes
- the right to seek advice from trade unions and NGOs
- the right to be represented by a trade union
- the right to contact law enforcement directly
- safe disclosure to journalists
- safeguards for existing national whistleblower laws
- a broad whistleblower definition, with no extra test on how the reported information was acquired
Why is this important?
It is thanks to whistleblowers that the public found out about scandals like Lux-Leaks, the Panama and Paradise papers on tax evasion, Dieselgate on environment, as well as many scandals involving food safety, health and elderly care.
The fight for a strong protection for whistleblowers in the EU has been going on for many years. Trade unions and civil society have worked together with the European Parliament, demanding that the European Commission should act. After long and persistent lobbying and campaigning we finally got the European Commission to propose a directive on whistleblower protection in April 2018. While it marked a good starting point for discussions, improvements were clearly necessary. The European Parliament has improved the text and it is now up to their negotiations with the Council and Commission to agree on a good final text which should include the following:
- the right to seek advice from a trade union and NGO. The directive must guarantee the right to consult with trade unions and civil society organisations without losing the protection.
- the right to be represented by a trade union. Ensuring that a trade union can represent the whistleblower.
- the right to contact law enforcement directly. Whistleblowers must be able to report directly to law enforcement agencies and competent authorities without risking losing protection. Not allowing it could lead to destruction of evidence and cover-ups when those responsible are alerted by internal reports. In short, an obstruction of justice. This means that the so called mandatory internal reporting in the directive must be deleted.
- safe disclosure to journalists. Ensuring that whistleblowers safely can turn to journalists strengthens investigative journalism and is good for democracy.
- safeguards for existing national whistleblower laws. This means adding a “non-regression clause”, a clause which guarantees that the directive cannot be used as an excuse to worsen already existing whistleblower protection laws and procedures.
- a broad whistleblower definition, covering the likes of Antoine Deltour, LuxLeaks. This means that there should not be any extra test on how the information was acquired.
MEP Virginie Rozière, European Parliament Rapporteur for the proposed whistleblower protection directive, yesterday, received petitions with more than 280,000 signatures, gathered by coalitions of trade unions and NGOs, which she handed over to the Council of the European Union at the final scheduled trilogue in the Parliament on Monday 4 March.
Today trade unions and NGOs will deliver two petitions gathering over 280,000 signatures supporting the European Parliament’s demands for an improved directive.
In an open letter to the European Council, Commission and Parliament seven well-known European whistleblowers speak out for changing the directive and removing barriers for safe reporting.
The EU Whistleblowing Directive is an idea whose time has come. New whistleblower protection laws in Ireland, France and the Netherlands showed consensus was building among EU Member States on the need to protect and enable workers to speak up about wrongdoing in the workplace.
The directive must be changed to that whistleblowers can report not only a special internal whistleblowing channel, but also to managers or law enforcement.
In an open letter 81 signing organisations urge the EU Council to adopt the Parliament’s position on reporting channels. The whistleblower protection directive is currently in trilogue. The signatories express serious concerns about the reporting channels regime in the Council and Commission positions in these negotiations.
A few weeks left to improve the whistleblower protection directive. Make your voice heard and sign the new petition for strong whistleblower protection!
The Romanian Presidency will play a key role is securing a robust whistleblower protection Directive, argues R. Nicolae, of Syene. He believes that Romania has a number of strengths which will support it leading the negotiations, as the whistleblower protection file moves from the Council to trilogue.
According to the Legal Counsel of the Danske Bank Whistleblower, S. Kohn, the Howard Wilkinson case clearly demonstrates that the EU Whistleblower Directive urgently needs to be revised to protect the right to report directly to law enforcement agencies and regulatory authorities.
The Duty Speech Loophole: how the EU Whistleblower Directive could backfire against its own objectives
Tom Devine, Legal Director of GAP explains why a series of technical contradictions within the EU draft directive need to be resolved, or the legislation could backfire and actually work against whistleblowers.