Workplace social dialogue essential in bringing European companies out of the recession

Six out of ten employees (63%) are covered by a recognised institution of
employee representation, according to Eurofound's Second European Company
Survey of 27,000 public and private companies across Europe. The survey paints
a positive picture of robust practices of workplace social dialogue, but also
point to limitations and to important differences across Europe. The findings
of the European-wide establishment survey, which also sheds light on working
time and flexibility strategies, variable pay and financial participation
schemes, as well as human resource practices in European companies, will be
presented at a seminar organised with the Spanish MEP Alejandro Cercas in the
European Parliament in Brussels on 3 March 2010. Members of the European
Parliament and representatives from European social partner organisations are
among the participants, and László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment,
Social Affairs and Inclusion, is a keynote speaker.

The recent recession has been a painful reminder of the need for managing
business and employment change successfully. Social dialogue is central to
moving the European social model forward and is vital for managing business and
employment change. The company survey shows that, on the whole, there is a
framework for social dialogue in European companies. Almost four out of ten
companies (37%) in the survey reported an institutional form of employee
representation. With more than 60% of the employees covered by either trade
unions or works councils, and more than two out of three workers (69%) covered
by collective wage agreements at either at company or higher level, the scene
is set for a collaborative effort between workers and employers to help
companies become more dynamic and competitive to tackle the challenges of
current economic down-turn.

The survey reveals that employee representatives in Europe seem to be generally
satisfied with the cooperative culture of interaction with management. Between
60% and 65% of the employee representatives in European companies are involved
in setting the rules/procedures on working time issues. In companies with an
institutional employee representation, most managers (70%) are generally
positive about the effect of social dialogue and employee representation at the
workplace, in particularly in the UK, Romania and Ireland.

Although these results point to the strength of traditional workplace social
dialogue in Europe, a number of limitations exist. A third of representatives
receive infrequent information on the economic and financial condition of the
organisation, at most once a year, and in a great number establishment,
employee representation is limited to health and safety control or is organised
in an informal way. One in six employee representatives (17%) are not entitled
to take any paid time off to carry out their duties. There are also big
differences between countries in northern and southern Europe.

The survey also mapped work practices considered to be important elements of
contractual and functional flexibility in an organisation. More than half (56%)
of companies in Europe offer some kind of flexitime arrangements, and over-time
work is used to handle workload peaks in more than two thirds of (68%)
companies, in particularly in Germany, the Netherlands, the Nordic countries,
Ireland, France and the UK. Fixed-term employment contracts are widely used,
with more than half (54%) of all establishments having at least one employee on
a fixed-term contract in the last 12 months.

Three out of four establishments indicate that the need for further training is
periodically checked in a systematic way. However, training is not equally
distributed among all workers. While almost two out of three establishments
(64%) check the need for further training in a systematic way for permanent
employees in skilled or high-skilled positions, only about every second
enterprise (52%) does this for permanent employees in low-skilled or unskilled
positions. In other words, permanent staff have much better access to training
than temporary staff.

More information - Source: Eurofound