Industrial relations: social dialogue under strain in Europe says new report

The on-going economic crisis poses a serious challenge to the dialogue between
workers' and employers' representatives and governments according to a report
published by the European Commission.

The report shows that recent government reforms have not always been
accompanied by fully effective social dialogue, leading to increasingly
conflictual industrial relations in Europe.

The involvement of workers' and employers' representatives (the "social
partners") in government reforms is vital, as solutions found through social
dialogue tend to have wider acceptance in society, to be easier to implement in
practice and to be less liable to give rise to conflict.

Well-structured social dialogue can effectively contribute to the economic
resilience of Europe. In fact, countries in which social dialogue is
well-established and industrial relations institutions are strong are generally
those where the economic and social situation is more resilient and under less

The new report focuses on:

  • how the outcomes of European social dialogue can make a real difference to the working lives of Europeans, for example on improved health and safety at work and working conditions;

  • industrial relations in the public sector (public administration, education and healthcare) in light of the government spending cuts in many Member States;

  • the state of social dialogue in Central and Eastern Europe;

  • the involvement of social partners in unemployment and pension system reforms and in the transition towards an economy that is more sustainable and lessdependent on fossil fuels.

This report reviews trends and developments in the relationship between
workers, employers, their respective representatives and public authorities at
national and EU level during 2010-12. It looks at how the continuing crisis and
reforms implemented in response may be having a more fundamental impact on
industrial relations, as conflict is increasing. In certain countries, fiscal
consolidation has resulted in unfavourable settings for social dialogue,
especially in the public sector, where reforms have been accelerated.

Despite this the report concludes that structured social dialogue is still the
right approach for building consensus and ensuring the sustainability of
economic and social reforms.

More information - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work