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2008 Report on Industrial Relations in Europe

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2008 Report on Industrial Relations in Europe

The industrial relations systems of European Union (EU) Member States are based on a common foundation, despite marked national particularities. The EU has established the most advanced model of industrial relations amongst regional organisations. As such, this Report demonstrates the essential role of social partners in implementing the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs. Their involvement brings additional flexibility to the process and their knowledge of local issues enables the most appropriate solutions to be developed. The Report presents the main political and legislative progress made as a result of social partner involvement in 2008.


Report of the European Commission Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities – Industrial Relations in Europe 2008 [Not published in the Official Journal].


The diversity of national social dialogue mechanisms has increased with the enlargement of the European Union (EU). These particularities depend notably on the nature of the social partner organisations, on their autonomy in relation to the State and the role of tripartite agreements.

At European level industrial relations developed in parallel with the emergence of European social policy and through the gradual inclusion of European social partners (ETUC, BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME and CEEP) in the legislative process.

Collective bargaining and wage setting remains within national jurisdiction. However, European coordination of non-wage bargaining is on the increase, as is the conclusion of European autonomous agreements and transnational bargaining.

Implementation in European social dialogue is based on agreements reached through the Council Directive or on European autonomous agreements. The growing autonomy of social partners implies their involvement in implementing and monitoring these agreements. Other types of text may serve as frameworks of actions, such as recommendations and guidelines, which are implemented on a voluntary basis.

The participation of social partners in the renewed Lisbon Strategy is essential at all levels of policy decision-making. National social partners are actively involved in concluding pacts with governments and in implementing Community programmes and policies. European social partners support the Lisbon objectives through their 2006-2008 work programme. They have negotiated several European framework agreements, as well as joint opinions and frameworks of action.

The contribution of social partners is essential in implementing the Lisbon Strategy and the principles of flexicurity, considering their capacity for autonomous action and their areas of expertise, such as:

  • active labour market policy and social security reforms;
  • training and employment of young people;
  • lifelong learning and older workers;
  • working hours and flexibility;
  • the reconciliation of work and family;
  • working conditions.

The development of European social dialogue between 2006 and 2008 was based on the results of a joint analysis of the labour market by cross-industry actors. This enabled a consensus to be reached at the European Council in December 2007 on common principles of flexicurity.

Social partners have continued their autonomous actions, most notably with the conclusion of a framework agreement on harassment and violence at work. Other autonomous agreements are currently under negotiation regarding parental leave, inclusion in the labour market and maritime labour standards. Guidelines on promoting gender equality, cross-border mobility and health and safety at work have been adopted under the framework of the sectoral social dialogue. Social partners have also engaged in dialogue in the sectors of professional football and contract catering.

With regard to legislative progress between 2006and 2008, the Council has reached political agreement to revise the Working Time Directive and the Directive on temporary agency work. The Commission presented a Proposal on European Works Councils (EWCs) intended to improve the effectiveness of employees’ transnational information and consultation rights and their legal certainty. The implementation of some legislative provisions was re-examined, such as the posting of workers Directive (followed by recommendations on cooperation between national administrations), the Directives on transfers of undertakings, the Directive on fixed-term work and the Directive on employer’s insolvency. In 2006 discussions were initiated by the Green Paper on Modernisation of Labour Law. In addition, a new 2007-2013 strategy on health and safety at work was launched.

Building social partner capacity is required in order to contribute towards good working conditions, competitiveness and social cohesion. The 2007-2013 European Social Fund (ESF) Programme provides direct financial support for building partner capacity. The fund also supports joint projects developed by social partners in the areas of lifelong learning and labour-market modernisation. Specific effort has been made in the new EU Member States and in the western Balkans.

Last updated: 14.08.2009