Category Archives: Social Dialogue and Employee Participation

Dialogue with the social partners constitutes one of the pillars of the European social model. Firmly anchored in the Treaty establishing the European Community, it embraces discussions, consultations, negotiations and joint actions involving the representative social partner organisations. The European social dialogue, which can be bipartite or tripartite, supplements the national social dialogue arrangements which exist in most Member States. Based on the principles of solidarity, responsibility and participation, it constitutes the main channel through which the social partners contribute to the establishing of European social standards and play a vital role in the governance of the Union.

Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment

Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment

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These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Social dialogue and employee participation

Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment

Document or Iniciative

Council Decision 2003/174/EC of 6March2003 establishing a Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment.

Summary

The task of the Tripartite Social Summit is to ensure social dialogue between European institutions and employers’ and workers’ representatives. The Summit takes place within the context of cross-industry dialogue. Its agenda therefore includes issues affecting all economic sectors and workers within the European Union (EU).

In addition, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) henceforth recognises the Summit’s contribution to the proper conduct of European social dialogue (Article152).

Operation

The Summit meets at least once a year, before the spring European Council. It brings together representatives of:

  • the Council Presidency and the two subsequent Presidencies;
  • the Commission;
  • the social partners, who are divided into two delegations of equal size comprising 10workers’ representatives and 10employers’ representatives.

The agenda for the Summit is determined jointly by the representatives of the institutions and the social partners.

Background

The Social Summit replaced the Standing Committee on Employment following a joint decision of the social partners at the Laeken Summit in December 2001.

It institutionalises the informal social summits held since December 2000 in the context of the Lisbon Strategy for Jobs and Growth.

References

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Decision 2003/174/EC

6.3.2003

OJ L 70, 14.3.2003

European social dialogue: a force for innovation and change

European social dialogue: a force for innovation and change

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about European social dialogue: a force for innovation and change

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Social dialogue and employee participation

European social dialogue: a force for innovation and change

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission of 26 June 2002 – European social dialogue, a force for innovation and change [COM(2002) 341 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The Commission presents a set of guidelines aimed at strengthening the social dialogue, in other words the social partners’ contribution to the work of the public institutions, in order to improve public governance and economic and social reform within the European Union (EU).

Developing the social dialogue within the EU

First, the Commission wishes to increase the consultation of the social partners in the drafting of European legislation. Consulting the social partners is compulsory in the areas of employment and social policy but optional concerning sectoral issues and the transposition of European legislation at national level.

The Commission is keen to extend this consultation to all legislative initiatives having social repercussions. It will also improve the procedures and rules for consultation.

In addition, the effectiveness of the social dialogue is linked to the representativeness of the social partners at European level. The Commission therefore encourages co-operation between national organisations and the improvement of their internal governance.

The social partners are also encouraged to broaden and enhance the social dialogue by concluding more agreements to be integrated into European law and by developing the processes for sectoral and intersectoral dialogue.

The Commission wishes to raise the profile of the results of European social dialogue. For example, it will organise meetings at EU level and within the Member States but will also distribute information by publishing regular reports and setting up a specific Internet site.

Finally, the EU supports the improvement of social dialogue at all levels of governance. The Commission therefore proposes, in particular, to improve training for the European social partners and representatives of national authorities, and to promote local social dialogue and corporate social responsibility.

Contribution to growth and employment

The actions of the social partners contribute to the attainment of the growth and employment goals set by the Lisbon Strategy. These goals are associated in particular with the management of change in the organisation of work, employee training, the promotion of equal opportunities and active ageing policies.

In this context, the Commission will analyse and compare the quality of industrial relations in the various Member States. It also proposes that the social partners should be assisted by Member States and by European financing in the introduction of policies associated with the Lisbon Strategy.

This Communication also proposes to set up a Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment, bringing together the troika of Heads of State or Government, the Commission President and a restricted delegation of social partners.

International co-operation

Countries committed to the EU enlargement process must structure and build the capacities of their organisations of social partners. In this respect, candidate countries may benefit from co-operation with European organisations and from European financing.

In addition, the processes of social dialogue must be encouraged in the context of EU foreign policy. The social partners of the EU and non-Member States may exchange experience and best practice, particularly concerning the countries of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, the EU Partnership with Latin America, with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, and with the United States and Japan.

Lastly, the European social partners can play a role as experts in the context of multilateral negotiations, particularly within international organisations.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission of 20 May 1998 adapting and promoting the social dialogue at Community level [COM(98) 322 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission of 18 September 1996 concerning the Development of the Social Dialogue at Community level [COM(96) 448 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission of 14 December 1993 concerning the application of the Agreement on social policy presented by the Commission to the Council and to the European Parliament [COM(93) 600 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

European Works Council

European Works Council

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about European Works Council

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These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Social dialogue and employee participation

European Works Council

The Directive imposes a works council or an information and consultation procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings on the basis of an agreement negotiated between employees’ representatives forming a special negotiating body and the central management of the undertaking. It also defines the procedures for the operation of this body. In the cases identified by the Directive in which an agreement cannot be reached, it stipulates the provisions which subsidiary requirements to be established by the Member States must satisfy.

Document or Iniciative

Council Directive 94/45/EC of 22 September 1994 on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Communityscale undertakings and Communityscale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees [See amending acts].

Summary

The main provisions of the Directives are as follows:

  • Establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure for informing and consulting employees * in every Community-scale undertaking * and every Community-scale group of undertakings *, on the basis of an agreement between the central management and a special negotiating body.

The central management:

  • will be responsible for creating the conditions and means necessary for the setting up of a European Works Council or an information and consultation procedure;
  • will initiate negotiations on its own initiative or at the written request of at least 100 employees or their representatives in at least two undertakings or establishments in at least two Member States.

Special negotiating body

This body, comprising a minimum of three and a maximum of the number of Member States:

  • will have the task of determining, with the central management, by written agreement, the scope, composition, competence and term of office of the European Works Council(s) or the arrangements for implementing a procedure for the information and consultation of employees;
  • may decide, by at least two-thirds of the votes, not to open negotiations or to terminate the negotiations already opened; such a decision would stop the procedure to conclude the agreement and would nullify the provisions of the Annex.

The members of the special negotiating body and of the European Works Council, and any experts who assist them, will not be authorised to reveal any information which has expressly been provided to them in confidence.

Exemptions from the Directive

Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings in which there is already an agreement covering the entire workforce, providing for the transnational information and consultation of employees, will not be subject to the obligations arising from the Directives. When these agreements expire, the parties involved may decide jointly to renew them. Where this is not the case, the provisions of the Directives will apply.

Subsidiary requirements

Subsidiary requirements laid down by the legislation of the Member State in which the central management is situated will apply:

  • where the central management and the special negotiating body so decide, or;
  • where the central management refuses to commence negotiations within six months of the initial request to convene the special negotiating body, or;
  • where, after three years from the date of this request, they are unable to conclude an agreement to establish a European Works Council or an information and consultation procedure, and the special negotiating body has not taken the decision not to open negotiations or to terminate the negotiations.

These subsidiary requirements must satisfy the provisions set out in the Annex, whereby:

  • the competence of the European Works Council will be limited to information and consultation on matters which concern the Community-scale undertaking as a whole or at least two establishments or group undertakings situated in different Member States;
  • the European Works Council is to have a minimum of three and a maximum of 30 members and, where its size so warrants, is to elect a select committee from among its members, comprising at most three members;
  • four years after the European Works Council is established, it is to consider whether to open negotiations for the conclusion of the agreement on the arrangements for implementing the information and consultation of employees, or to continue to apply the subsidiary requirements adopted in accordance with the Annex;
  • the European Works Council will have the right to meet with the central management once a year in order to be informed and consulted, on the basis of a report drawn up by the central management, on the progress of the business of the Community-scale undertaking or Community-scale group of undertakings and its prospects;
  • where there are exceptional circumstances affecting the employees’ interests to a considerable extent, particularly in the event of relocation, closure or collective redundancy, the select committee or, where no such committee exists, the European Works Council will have the right to be informed;
  • the members of the European Works Council are to inform the employees’ representatives of the content and outcome of the information and consultation procedure;
  • the operating expenses of the European Works Council are to be borne by the central management; in compliance with this principle, the Member States may lay down budgetary rules regarding the operation of the European Works Council.

Background

The purpose of this Directive is to improve the right of employees in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings to be informed and consulted.

Directive 97/74/EC extends the scope of this Directive to the United Kingdom.

This Directive shall be repealed by Directive 2009/38/EC (FR) with effect from 6 June 2011 when the latter enters into force. The modernisation of the legislation carried out by this new Directive has many objectives. It aims to ensure the effectiveness of employees’ transnational information and consultation rights, to increase the number of European Works Councils and to enable the continuing functioning of their constituent agreements. These provisions also aim to strengthen legal certainty for the establishment and functioning of European Works Councils.

Key terms used in the act
  • Community-scale undertaking: any undertaking with at least 1 000 employees within the Member States and at least 150 employees in each of at least two Member States.
  • Group of undertaking: a controlling undertaking and its controlled undertakings.
  • Community-scale group of undertakings: a group of undertakings with the following characteristics:
    • at least 1 000 employees within the Member States,
    • at least two group undertakings in different Member States, and
    • at least one group undertaking with at least 150 employees in one Member State and another group undertaking with at least 150 employees in another Member State.
  • Controlling undertaking: an undertaking which can exercise a dominant influence over another undertaking by virtue, for example, of ownership, financial participation or the rules which govern it.
  • Consultation: the exchange of views and establishment of dialogue between employees’ representatives and central management or any more appropriate level of management.

References

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 94/45/EC

22.9.1996

22.9.1996

OJ L 254 of 30.9.1994

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 97/74/EC

15.12.1997

15.12.1999

L 10, 16.1.1998

Directive 2006/109/EC

1.1.2007

1.1.2007

OJ L 363 of 20.12.2006

Related Acts

Directive 2009/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees (Recast) (Text with EEA relevance) [Official Journal L 122 of 16.5.2009].

Commission report of 4 April 2000 on the application of the Directive on the establishment of a European works council or a procedure in Communityscale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees [COM(2000) 188 final – not published in the Official Journal].


Another Normative about European Works Council

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Employment and social policy > Social dialogue and employee participation

European Works Council (from 2011)

Document or Iniciative

Directive 2009/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees (Recast) (Text with EEA relevance).

Summary

This Directive aims at guaranteeing employees’ transnational information * and consultation * rights. It provides for the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure for informing and consulting employees in Community-scale undertakings * and groups of undertakings.

Matters dealt with by the European Works Council or the information and consultation procedure are of a transnational nature.

The powers of the European Works Council and the scope of the information and consultation procedure concern: all establishments of the undertaking or all establishments in a Community-scale group situated in the Member States.

Member States may provide that this Directive shall not apply to merchant navy crews.

The dominant influence of an undertaking

The Directive defines a “controlling undertaking” – i.e. which exercises a dominant influence over a “controlled undertaking”. This influence is established if an undertaking:

  • holds a majority of another undertaking’s subscribed capital;
  • controls a majority of the votes attached to that undertaking’s issued share capital; or
  • can appoint more than half of the members of that undertaking’s administrative, management or supervisory body (this last criterion is determining).

Creation of a European Works Council

The central management of the undertaking or the group is responsible for establishing a Council or an information and consultation procedure. If a representative is not appointed, where the management is not located in a Member State of the European Economic Area (EEA), it is the responsibility of the establishment or undertaking which employs the largest number of workers in one of the Member States.

The central management shall initiate negotiations to establish the European Works Council or the information and consultation procedure. It shall act:

  • on its own initiative; or
  • at the written request of at least 100 employees (or their representatives) in at least two undertakings (or establishments) in at least two different Member States.

A special negotiating body shall be formed by employees’ representatives. They may be elected or appointed, according to the number of employees in each Member State where the undertaking is present. The special group shall negotiate an agreement with the management in order to define the operation of the European Works Council and the arrangements for implementing a procedure for the information and consultation of employees.

The members of this group shall receive the same protection as employees’ representatives, as laid down by national legislation and/or practice in the country where they are employed.

Context

Directive 94/45/EC is repealed with effect from 6 June 2011, the date on which this Directive enters fully into force.

Key terms
  • Community-scale undertaking: which employs at least 1000 employees within the Member States, and at least 150 employees in two different States.
  • Information: transmission of data by the employer to the employees’ representatives in order to enable them to acquaint themselves with the subject matter and to examine it. Employees’ representatives may in particular undertake an in-depth assessment of the possible impact and, where appropriate, prepare for consultations.
  • Consultation: establishment of dialogue and exchange of views enabling representatives to express an opinion about the proposed measures. This opinion may be taken into account within the undertaking or group of undertakings.

Reference

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2009/38/EC

5.6.2009 
6.6.2011 (Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11)
(Annexes I)

5.6.2011

OJ L 122 of 16.5.2009

General framework for informing and consulting employees

General framework for informing and consulting employees

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about General framework for informing and consulting employees

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Employment and social policy > Social dialogue and employee participation

General framework for informing and consulting employees

Document or Iniciative

Directive 2002/14/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2002 establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community – Joint declaration of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on employee representation.

Summary

The purpose of this Directive is to establish a general framework for improving the information and consultation rights of employees * in undertakings * within the European Community.

Two important principles are highlighted:

  • practical arrangements for information and consultation must be defined and implemented in accordance with national law and industrial relations practices in individual Member States;
  • when defining or implementing this framework, employers * and employees’ representatives must work in a spirit of cooperation and with due regard for each other’s rights and obligations.

This Directive applies to undertakings with at least 50 employees in a Member State or to establishments * with at least 20 employees in a Member State. The choice is left to the Member States, which also establish the manner in which the number of employees is calculated.

Particular provisions applicable to undertakings which pursue directly and essentially political, professional, charitable, educational, scientific or artistic aims, or aims involving information * or the expression of opinions, may be adopted on condition that such provisions already existed in national legislation on the date of adoption of the Directive.

Member States may authorise the social partners to define freely, through agreement, the procedures for implementing the employee information and consultation * requirements referred to in the Directive.

Employee information and consultation covers three areas in relation to undertakings:

  • economic, financial and strategic developments;
  • the structure and foreseeable development of employment, and related measures;
  • decisions likely to lead to substantial changes in work organisation or contractual relations.

Member States must establish the procedures for applying the principles set out in the Directive with a view to ensuring the effective application of employee information and consultation. They also have the option of limiting the information and consultation obligations of undertakings with fewer than 50 or 20 employees.

Confidentiality arrangements are included, to the effect that:

  • experts and employees’ representatives must not disclose any information which has expressly been provided to them in confidence, even after expiry of their term of office;
  • within conditions laid down by national legislation, an employer may be exempted from the information and consultation obligation where complying with it would seriously harm the functioning of the undertaking or would be prejudicial to it.

When carrying out their functions, employees’ representatives must have adequate protection and guarantees to enable them to perform their duties.

The Directive makes the Member States responsible for ensuring compliance with its provisions (through adequate administrative or judicial procedures at national level).

The following are regarded as serious breaches of the obligations laid down in the Directive:

  • total absence of information and/or consultation of the employees’ representatives prior to a decision being taken or publicly announced;
  • withholding of important information or provision of inaccurate information rendering ineffective the exercising of the right to information and consultation.

In the event of a serious breach with direct and immediate consequences in terms of substantial changes to or termination of employment contracts or relationships, the decisions taken have no legal effect. This situation continues until the employer has fulfilled his information and consultation obligations. If this is no longer possible, the employer must establish adequate redress in accordance with the arrangements and procedures in place in the Member States.

The provisions of the Directive do not prejudice Council Directive 94/45/EC on the establishment of a European works council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees.

The Directive makes provision for a review of its application no later than five years after its adoption, in consultation with the social partners and Member States, with a view to proposing to the Council any necessary amendments.

Background

In its Communication on worker information and consultation [COM(95) 547 final – not published in the Official Journal], the Commission took stock of Community action in the field of information, consultation and participation of employees. Several directives have already been adopted in this area (‘ collective redundancies ‘, ‘transfers of undertakings’ and ‘European works councils’).

Despite the existence of specific provisions on employee information and consultation, the Commission emphasised the need to redefine the Community legal framework in order to establish more binding rules. In its Communication, the Commission set out various options for the approach to be taken by Community action and encouraged the social partners to identify the arrangements for a general framework.

Following this Communication, on 4 June 1997, the Commission launched a phase of consultation with the social partners on the basis of Article 3(2) of the Agreement on Social Policy. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and Enterprises of General Economic Interest (CEEP) indicated their willingness to enter into Community-level negotiations on the subject. However, the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe (UNICE) declined to participate in negotiations, as it considered the project to be at odds with the principle of subsidiarity and felt that the subject concerned the internal organisation and management of companies and therefore came under companies’ own management prerogatives.

In the absence of a consensus among the social partners, the Commission presented a proposal for a Directive.

Key terms used in the act
  • ‘Undertaking’ means a public or private undertaking carrying out an economic activity, whether or not operating for gain, which is located within the territory of the Member States.
  • ‘Establishment’ means a unit of business defined in accordance with national law and practice, and located within the territory of a Member State, where an economic activity is carried out on an ongoing basis with human and material resources.
  • ‘Employee’ means any person who, in the Member State concerned, is protected as an employee under national employment law and in accordance with national practice.
  • ‘Workers’ representatives’ means the employees’ representatives provided for by national laws and/or practices.
  • ‘Information’ means transmission by the employer to the employees’ representatives of data in order to enable them to acquaint themselves with the subject matter and to examine it.
  • ‘Consultation’ means the exchange of views and establishment of dialogue between the employees’ representatives and the employer.
  • ‘Employer’ means the natural or legal person party to employment contracts or employment relationships with employees, in accordance with national law and practice;

References

Act Entry into force – Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2002/14/EC [adoption: codecision COD/1998/0315] 23.3.2002 23.3.2005 (23.3.2007 for some Member States) OJ L 80 of 23.3.2002.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 10 October 2007 entitled ‘Reassessing the regulatory social framework for more and better seafaring jobs in the EU (first phase consultation of the social partners at Community level provided for in Article 138(2) of the Treaty)’ [COM(2007) 591 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This Communication advocates various changes to European legislation on working conditions and employee information and consultation in the European Union’s maritime sector. Concerning the present Directive, the Commission intends to verify, in connection with a scheduled implementation report, the conformity of the legal provisions contained in Article 3(3), according to which ‘Member States may derogate from this Directive through particular provisions applicable to the crews of vessels plying the high seas’.

2006 Report on Industrial Relations in Europe

2006 Report on Industrial Relations in Europe

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about 2006 Report on Industrial Relations in Europe

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These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Social dialogue and employee participation

2006 Report on Industrial Relations in Europe

Document or Iniciative

Report of the European Commission Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities – Industrial Relations in Europe 2006 [Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

Social dialogue is a social policy tool, which has particular importance in the revision of the Lisbon Strategy adopted in 2005. In fact, the participation of social partners is essential in achieving the Strategy objectives and making the European Union (EU) the most competitive knowledge economy in the world.

Employee representation and the capacity of employers’ organisations varies depending on the Member State. As such union density, defined as the ratio between actual and potential membership, is generally lower in southern Europe and in Central and Eastern Europe. This density also varies depending on the sector of activity, gender or age of employees. The power and structure of employers’ organisations are also relatively diverse. Their density is generally higher than that of trade unions, except in the Nordic countries.

Autonomous collective agreements enable a free definition of wage policies and working conditions and can be used to establish social rights. The current trend is for agreements to be used to derogate from some legal standards.

Employee representation in the workplace is one of the distinctive features of the Community’s industrial relations system. Differences exist between Member States in terms of the structure of national representation models, but also in terms of sector of activity, establishment size and occupational category. Lack of representation is more significant in the private sector than in the public sector. The requirement for informing and consulting workers is regulated by Directive 2002/14/EC.

Building the capacity of new Member States and candidate countries to manage industrial relations is a priority, pursued through technical cooperation actions. In particular, these actions aim at encouraging the participation of social partners in fora at European level and strengthening tripartite dialogue at national level.

The 20th anniversary of the launch of the European social dialogue presented an opportunity to assess its progress, which is characterised by an increased autonomy of European social partners. This Report highlights the importance of tripartite dialogue in meeting the Lisbon objectives. In particular, bilateral dialogue is used for implementing flexicurity and lifelong learning models, as well as the autonomous European framework agreement on teleworking. The multi-annual work programme for European social dialogue (2006-2008) should encourage future progress.

Between 2004 and 2006 Community legislation was developed in different sectors. Directives were adopted in the areas of health and safety at work, regarding the exposure of workers to electromagnetic fields, to carcinogens and mutagens and to artificial optical radiation. The Agreement on mobile workers carrying out cross-border interoperability services was implemented by Directive 2005/47/EC. In 2005 the Commission presented a Communication on employment and restructuring companies. In addition, a new Directive regulates cross-border mergers of companies and employee consultation procedures.

Progress has also been made in tackling discrimination and equal treatment in matters of employment. Provisions relating to mobility, workers’ right to residency and the coordination of social security schemes have been simplified. Since 2006 E-forms have been replaced by the European health insurance card for European Union (EC) and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens.

The labour market of today is moving towards greater flexibility, atypical working conditions and increased diversity in terms of contracts and working hours. Employment flexibility could present a risk to social cohesion. Together with other risk factors, it could result in the creation of vulnerable situations.

Flexibility should be balanced out by different factors such as economic growth, stable job creation, internal flexibility in companies and improving the quality of work. If economic results cannot be directly linked to a social dialogue model, industrial relations systems with strong union representation and where the social partners participate in the political process tend to be more competitive. This is the case when trade unions and employers’ organisations act in a coordinated way.

2008 Report on Industrial Relations in Europe

2008 Report on Industrial Relations in Europe

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about 2008 Report on Industrial Relations in Europe

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Social dialogue and employee participation

2008 Report on Industrial Relations in Europe

Document or Iniciative

Report of the European Commission Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities – Industrial Relations in Europe 2008 [Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The diversity of national social dialogue mechanisms has increased with the enlargement of the European Union (EU). These particularities depend notably on the nature of the social partner organisations, on their autonomy in relation to the State and the role of tripartite agreements.

At European level industrial relations developed in parallel with the emergence of European social policy and through the gradual inclusion of European social partners (ETUC, BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME and CEEP) in the legislative process.
Collective bargaining and wage setting remains within national jurisdiction. However, European coordination of non-wage bargaining is on the increase, as is the conclusion of European autonomous agreements and transnational bargaining.

Implementation in European social dialogue is based on agreements reached through the Council Directive or on European autonomous agreements. The growing autonomy of social partners implies their involvement in implementing and monitoring these agreements. Other types of text may serve as frameworks of actions, such as recommendations and guidelines, which are implemented on a voluntary basis.
The participation of social partners in the renewed Lisbon Strategy is essential at all levels of policy decision-making. National social partners are actively involved in concluding pacts with governments and in implementing Community programmes and policies. European social partners support the Lisbon objectives through their 2006-2008 work programme. They have negotiated several European framework agreements, as well as joint opinions and frameworks of action.

The contribution of social partners is essential in implementing the Lisbon Strategy and the principles of flexicurity, considering their capacity for autonomous action and their areas of expertise, such as:

  • active labour market policy and social security reforms;
  • training and employment of young people;
  • lifelong learning and older workers;
  • working hours and flexibility;
  • the reconciliation of work and family;
  • working conditions.

The development of European social dialogue between 2006 and 2008 was based on the results of a joint analysis of the labour market by cross-industry actors. This enabled a consensus to be reached at the European Council in December 2007 on common principles of flexicurity.

Social partners have continued their autonomous actions, most notably with the conclusion of a framework agreement on harassment and violence at work. Other autonomous agreements are currently under negotiation regarding parental leave, inclusion in the labour market and maritime labour standards. Guidelines on promoting gender equality, cross-border mobility and health and safety at work have been adopted under the framework of the sectoral social dialogue. Social partners have also engaged in dialogue in the sectors of professional football and contract catering.

With regard to legislative progress between 2006and 2008, the Council has reached political agreement to revise the Working Time Directive and the Directive on temporary agency work. The Commission presented a Proposal on European Works Councils (EWCs) intended to improve the effectiveness of employees’ transnational information and consultation rights and their legal certainty. The implementation of some legislative provisions was re-examined, such as the posting of workers Directive (followed by recommendations on cooperation between national administrations), the Directives on transfers of undertakings, the Directive on fixed-term work and the Directive on employer’s insolvency. In 2006 discussions were initiated by the Green Paper on Modernisation of Labour Law. In addition, a new 2007-2013 strategy on health and safety at work was launched.

Building social partner capacity is required in order to contribute towards good working conditions, competitiveness and social cohesion. The 2007-2013 European Social Fund (ESF) Programme provides direct financial support for building partner capacity. The fund also supports joint projects developed by social partners in the areas of lifelong learning and labour-market modernisation. Specific effort has been made in the new EU Member States and in the western Balkans.

European Sectoral Dialogue

European Sectoral Dialogue

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about European Sectoral Dialogue

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Social dialogue and employee participation

European Sectoral Dialogue

Document or Iniciative

Commission Decision 98/500/EC of 20 May 1998 on the establishment of Sectoral Dialogue Committees promoting the Dialogue between the social partners at European level (Text with EEA relevance).

Summary

Social dialogue is an essential element of the social model and European governance. Consultation with European social partners contributes to the development of European social policy and the definition of social standards.

Thus, pursuant to Article 152 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the European Union (EU):

  • recognises and promotes the role of the social partners at European level;
  • facilitates dialogue between the social partners, respecting their autonomy.

According to Article 154 of the TFEU, the Commission consults social partners before submitting legislative proposals in the area of social policy. This consultation aims at guiding EU action and, if the Commission considers it necessary, assessing the content of legislation.

Consultation with European social partners could lead to contractual relations, including agreements, according to the terms of Article 155 of the TFEU.

European sectoral dialogue is led by representatives of European employers and employees, grouped by economic sector of activity. It represents a level of discussion and negotiation that enables a better understanding of the issues facing each sector.

Sectoral dialogue committees

The social partners in an occupational sector may make a joint request to establish a sectoral dialogue committee. These committees shall be consulted on all Community developments which have social implications. They facilitate sectoral social dialogue.

Employers’ organisations and trade unions from the sector must meet certain criteria:

  • they shall relate to specific sectors or categories and be organised at European level;
  • they shall consist of organisations which are themselves a part of Member States’ social partner structures and have the capacity to negotiate agreements, and which are representative of several Member States;
  • they shall have adequate structures to participate in the work of the Committees.

Committees have been established in forty occupational sectors and cover the essential European economic activities (agriculture, fisheries, industry, trade, personal services and services to businesses, banks, postal services, transport, sport, events, audiovisual media, telecommunications, temporary employment, local and regional government, etc.).

Membership and operation

The sectoral dialogue committees meet at least once a year. They are made up of 64 members. They are generally chaired in turn by a trade union or employer representative or, at their request, by a representative of the Commission.

Each committee establishes a work programme in collaboration with the Commission.

Context

The Commission promotes the development of sectoral social dialogue. Thus, the creation of sectoral social dialogue committees followed on from the 1998 Communication “Adapting and promoting the social dialogue at Community level”.

The 2002 Communication on “European social dialogue: a force for innovation and change” has improved the way dialogue structures operate and has made them more representative. In addition, in the 2004 Communication “Partnership for change in an enlarged Europe” the Commission encourages inter-sectoral cooperation and research into synergies at both national and European level.

References

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Decision 98/500/EC

20.5.1998

OJ L 225 of 12.8.1998

Amending acts(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1792/2006

1.1.2007

OJ L 362 of 20.12.2006

Related Acts

Commission staff working document of 22 July 2010 on the functioning and potential of European sectoral social dialogue [SEC(2010) 964 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

The Commission presents an assessment of sectoral social dialogue since 1998. This working document also proposes improvements relating to the scope and quality of the work done in this area.

2010 Report on industrial relations in Europe

2010 Report on industrial relations in Europe

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about 2010 Report on industrial relations in Europe

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Social dialogue and employee participation

2010 Report on industrial relations in Europe

Social dialogue and employee participation

Social dialogue and employee participation

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Social dialogue and employee participation

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Social dialogue and employee participation

Social dialogue and employee participation

Dialogue with the social partners constitutes one of the pillars of the European social model. Firmly anchored in the Treaty establishing the European Community, it embraces discussions, consultations, negotiations and joint actions involving the representative social partner organisations. The European social dialogue, which can be bipartite or tripartite, supplements the national social dialogue arrangements which exist in most Member States. Based on the principles of solidarity, responsibility and participation, it constitutes the main channel through which the social partners contribute to the establishing of European social standards and play a vital role in the governance of the Union.

EUROPEAN SOCIAL DIALOGUE

  • Enhancing the contribution of European social dialogue in an enlarged Europe
  • European social dialogue: a force for innovation and change
  • 2010 Report on industrial relations in Europe
  • 2008 Report on Industrial Relations in Europe
  • 2006 Report on Industrial Relations in Europe

CROSS-INDUSTRY SOCIAL DIALOGUE

  • European cross-industry social dialogue

Framework agreements

  • Parental leave
  • Parental leave and leave for family reasons
  • Part-time working
  • Fixed-term work
  • Equal treatment of temporary workers
  • Teleworking

SECTORAL SOCIAL DIALOGUE

  • European Sectoral Dialogue
  • Reassessing the regulatory social framework for more and better seafaring jobs in the EU
  • Organisation of seafarers’ working time
  • Organisation of working time of mobile workers in civil aviation
  • Working conditions of mobile workers engaged in interoperable cross-border services in the railway sector

FORUM FOR SOCIAL DIALOGUE

  • Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment
  • Employment Committee

INFORMATION, CONSULTATION AND PARTICIPATION OF EMPLOYEES

  • European Works Council (from 2011)
  • European Works Council
  • General framework for informing and consulting employees
  • Framework for promoting employee financial participation
  • Statute for a European Company
  • A European Private Company Statute
  • Statute for a European Cooperative Society

Enhancing the contribution of European social dialogue in an enlarged Europe

Enhancing the contribution of European social dialogue in an enlarged Europe

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Enhancing the contribution of European social dialogue in an enlarged Europe

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Social dialogue and employee participation

Enhancing the contribution of European social dialogue in an enlarged Europe

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission. Partnership for change in an enlarged Europe – Enhancing the contribution of European social dialogue [COM(2004) 557 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The European social model places great emphasis on the need for social dialogue. The purpose of this Communication is to promote awareness and understanding of the results of the European social dialogue, to improve their impact and to promote further developments based on effective interaction between different levels of industrial relations.

In addition, the enlargement of the EU also presents a challenge for the European social dialogue. Partnership will be of particular importance in managing the impact of continuing restructuring in these countries. Enlargement will also challenge the technical capacity of the European social partner organisations in the new Member States.

Following the Communications in 1998 on “Adapting and promoting the Social Dialogue at Community level” and in 2002 on “The European social dialogue, a force for innovation and change”, and against the backdrop of the mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy, the Commission feels that it is a good time to take stock of the European social dialogue.

The main challenge ahead is to improve quality in work with a view to positively managing all dimensions of economic, social and environmental change in order to ensure sustainable development and social cohesion. The Commission calls on the European and national social partners to take part in a genuine partnership for change by stepping up their efforts to address the issues identified below:

  • improving adaptability through flexibility and security in the employment relationship;
  • investing in human capital and job quality through increased investment in health and safety at work and offering appropriate access to training;
  • attracting more people to the labour market in view of the future decline in the working age population.

If the European social partners are to make an effective contribution to achieving the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy, good interaction between the different levels of industrial relations is essential. The Commission urges the social partners and Member States to work together to reinforce the administrative capacities of national social partner organisations, for example through the possibilities provided by the structural funds – in particular the European Social Fund (ESF).

The results of the European social dialogue could therefore be improved by enhancing the synergies between the various sectors as well as between the European cross-industry and sectoral levels. For example, in the area of lifelong learning, some sectors (postal services, banking, cleaning industry) have referred to the cross-industry framework of actions.

The Commission also feels that the social partners could explore possible ways in which the European social dialogue and European works councils (EWCs) could complement one another. Increasingly, the range of issues being considered within EWCs is expanding beyond the core issues of company performance and employment to embrace subjects with a strong European dimension such as health and safety, equal opportunities, training and mobility, corporate social responsibility and environmental issues.

The Commission’s role in supporting social dialogue

According to Article 138(1), the Commission has the task of promoting the consultation of management and labour at Community level. It must therefore take any relevant measure to facilitate their dialogue by ensuring balanced support for the parties. The Commission encourages the social partners to make use of the possibility for certain issues to be fleshed out through negotiations at all relevant levels and to step up support for the European social dialogue structures in the context of enlargement.

It is however important to note that, as the social partners are autonomous and social dialogue in the EU is based on the freedom of the right to association, capacity-building is essentially a bottom-up process depending on the efforts of the social partners themselves.

In order to identify the social partners to be consulted under Article 138 of the EC Treaty, the Commission carries out representativeness studies on the European organisations. It proposes that these studies should be carried out by the Dublin Foundation’s European Industrial Relations Observatory.

The Commission will raise the profile of the European social dialogue and assist the social partners in following up their texts by:

  • exploring ways of promoting the sharing of experience on follow-up practices;
  • providing support for the social partners which will be accessible on the social dialogue website;
  • reinforcing financial support for joint follow-up actions;
  • organising national seminars in each Member State in order to raise awareness of the importance of the European social dialogue for national industrial relations.

The Commission considers there to be a need for a framework to help improve the consistency of the social dialogue outcomes and to improve transparency. It will examine the possibility of drawing up a more extensive framework.

Background

The European social dialogue has evolved since it was introduced in 1985, and it is now well-established. Quantitatively, the work of the various social dialogue committees has resulted in the adoption of more than 300 joint texts by the social partners and they have undertaken many joint transnational projects. In qualitative terms, there has been a shift towards greater autonomy. This is reflected by the increasing adoption by the social partners of ‘new generation’ texts, characterised by the fact that they are to be followed up by the social partners themselves.

This evolution of the social dialogue is consistent with the Commission’s efforts to improve European governance. The social dialogue is a pioneering example of improved consultation and the application of subsidiarity in practice.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Improving quality in work: a review of recent progress [COM(2003) 728 final – Not published in the Official Journal]

Document by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs. Recent developments in the European inter-professional social dialogue 2002-03 [ ].