Cooperation between employers and trade unions has increasing role in European workplace

High quality industrial relations make a significant contribution to economic
performance, from company-level to the economy as a whole, says a new European
Commission report. The 2006 Industrial Relations in Europe report shows that
co-operation between employers and trade unions plays an increasing role in the
European workplace and can help to create the right conditions for strong

"Social dialogue at European level is changing" said Vladimir Spidla, EU
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. "We are
seeing more and more new forms of cooperation between European employers and
trade unions which bring concrete results for working people across the EU. In
the evolving world of work, social partners are ideally placed to promote
adaptability and to take measures for quality employment."

Recent important European agreements on telework and stress at work have been
negotiated and are being implemented by the social partners in the Member
States. Strong cooperation between the European and national level will be key
to ensuring their impact on the ground. European social partners are also
working on an agreement on violence at work as well as a first ever joint
analysis of labour market challenges. A growing number of sectors have
established social dialogue committees at European level, and now total 33. And
for the first time ever, an agreement was concluded by a coalition of social
partners from across several sectors. It protects two million workers exposed
to crystalline silica dust, which can lead to silicosis, a potentially fatal
lung condition.

The report finds that more and more bargaining is being decentralised to
company level in the Member States. At the same time, the scope of collective
bargaining is increasing and now includes restructuring, working conditions of
non-standard workers and social rights. The report also finds that despite this
challenge to social partner organisations, the importance of collective
agreements has increased as they begin to adjust legal principles to apply them
to specific national, sectoral or company situations.

The context for social dialogue is also changing. Trade union membership has
fallen from 32% in 1995 to 25% in 2004 but varies between 8% and 80% among
Member States. White collar unions are expanding as professional and managerial
staff are now better organised than any other occupational group. Employers'
organisations represent companies employing 55% of all workers - ranging
between 20% and 100% in the Member States. Employers' organisations and trade
unions remain, in general, well established actors in most Member States. The
report underlines in particular the need to support social dialogue in the new
central and eastern European Member States, while respecting the crucial
principle of autonomy.

Workplace representation has become part of the European industrial relations
model. Depending on the Member State, between 22% and 85% of employees are
represented by a trade union and/or a works council at company level. But the
specific structures, minimum thresholds and bargaining rights remain diverse.

The 2006 report is the fourth edition of the Commission's bi-annual
stock-taking exercise on the state of industrial relations. It should serve as
a useful information tool and aims to stimulate debate on industrial relations
in Europe.

More information

AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work