EU mainstreams social dialogue – on paper

The European Commission has today announced plans which would mainstream social dialogue in decision making at European and national level - if they are effectively implemented.

Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis today presented a communication on strengthening social dialogue in the EU and a Council recommendation on supporting social dialogue at national level.

The ETUC has been calling on the Commission to put social dialogue at the heart of Europe decision making. Some of the measures proposed reflect the Commission’s intention to support a stronger social dialogue at all levels – but this will need to be followed-up with sustained commitment.

The proposal for a Council Recommendation could trigger improvements at national level, in particular where trade unions are seeking to improve social dialogue and collective bargaining. Some positive proposals include Members States’ commitment:

  • To respect fundamental rights and freedoms of association and collective bargaining, including on pay;
  • To capacity building initiatives for social partners, including use of the European Social Fund +;
  • To involve social partners fully in policy making, in a timely manner with all relevant information to ensure proper consultation;
  • To promote collective bargaining coverage of the most vulnerable workers.

Regarding the Commission Communication, the ETUC welcomes the proposal for a social dialogue coordinator in each Commission directorate general and an enhanced involvement ahead of the Commission Work Programme. There is more detail needed in relation to other aspects, and the ETUC will continue to push for a clear, predictable and transparent process for the Commission to deal with European agreements negotiated with a view to becoming legally binding.  The ETUC will also push for the EU Commission to enhance its political commitment and to maintain the same level of financial and logistical support for cross-industry and sectoral social dialogue.

ETUC Deputy General Secretary Claes-Mikael Stahl said:

“Social dialogue is a fundamental part of European democracy, ensuring working people have a say over decisions in their workplaces and industries as well as the direction of the whole economy.

“The practical value of social dialogue was made clearer than ever during the pandemic when it was key to finding solutions, like short-time work programmes, which ensured workers and companies alike could come through the crisis and recover from it quickly.

“Despite saying the right things about the value of social dialogue, it has for too long been an afterthought at European level and is being actively impeded in some member states.

“The measures announced today should mainstream social dialogue in decision making at European and national level and consequently lead to more democracy at work and a fairer economy.

“But that depends on matching the right words with action to deliver a genuinely social Europe.”