European social dialogue: benefits for workers and companies

A recent conference in Lisbon highlighted examples of recent achievements, as
well as looking back at the history of European social dialogue in the context
of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the European Union.

What is European social dialogue?

European social dialogue refers to the discussions, consultations, negotiations
and joint actions undertaken by the social partner organisations representing
the two sides of industry, i.e. trade union and employer organisations.

At European level, social dialogue takes two main forms - a bipartite dialogue
between the European employers and trade union organisations, and a tripartite
dialogue involving interaction between the social partners and the public

European social dialogue complements the national practices of social dialogue
and industrial relations which exist in all Member States. Through this
instrument, social partners assist in the definition of European social
standards and play a vital role in the governance of the European Union.

European social dialogue is therefore one of the main instruments for
employment and social policy at EU level, next to legislation, the open method
of coordination and funding, e.g. through the European Social Fund.

Who participates in European social dialogue?

The actors in European social dialogue are the organisations representing
workers and employers at European level. Social partners play a particular role
in the area of employment and social policy, due to the interests they
represent on the labour market.

The European social partners draw their legitimacy from the mandate they
receive from national trade union and employers' confederations. The
representativeness of European social partners is verified by the Commission
and independent studies.

There are two levels of social dialogue:

  • The cross-industry dialogue is the broadest level covering the whole of the
    economy. The cross-industry organisation representing workers is the European
    Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), whose delegation also encompasses two
    organisations for professional and managerial staff (Eurocadres and CEC). The
    employers are represented by BUSINESSEUROPE (Confederation of European
    Business), CEEP (European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and
    of Enterprises of General Economic Interest) and UEAPME (European Association
    of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises).

  • The sectoral level covers specific branches of the economy, e.g. retail
    trade, construction, transport, agriculture, financial services. There are 35
    sectoral social dialogue committees. More than 60 organisations participate in
    these committees.

The Commission's role in social dialogue is to provide balanced support to both
sides of industry. It chairs most of the social dialogue meetings as an
impartial mediator.

What is social dialogue about?

The European social dialogue has resulted in a variety of outcomes and forms,
ranging from joint opinions to guidelines, codes of conduct and agreements.
These instruments can cover all possible subjects in the area of social
affairs: working conditions, equal opportunities, health and safety at work,
training, information and consultation of workers, etc.

More information

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