Home / Chapter II / Social dialogue and involvement of workers

Principle 8

Social dialogue and involvement of workers

Social dialogue is a prerequisite for decent work and fair wages, and it is a key principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights. In the context of the implementation of the action plan of the Pillar, the ETUC underlines that effective Social Dialogue requires social partners to have sufficient resources and expertise to negotiate and implement agreements. Capacity building support is key, and the recovery from the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis will require strong social partner organisations. Furthermore, the prerogatives of social dialogue must be preserved for both sides of industry, and that means that the Commission must prioritise social partner consultations over public consultations and must guarantee that trade unions are included as the representatives for the side of labour. Likewise, civil society dialogue must not be confused with social dialogue, civil society dialogue must be promoted but not in a manner that undermines trade unions or bipartite social dialogue. Social dialogue plays a central role in reinforcing social rights and enhancing sustainable and inclusive growth. European Social Partners have a role to play in pursuing and implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights, in accordance with their autonomy and prerogatives. Moreover, it is essential that the Action Plan supports the European Social Dialogue and its outcomes. European social partners can contribute to establishing minimum rights and reinforcing the social dimension of the single market through EU-level positions, joint analysis and, when desired, signing autonomous agreements also aimed at setting the establishment and the functioning of innovative EU tools and legislation. The role of Social Dialogue at early, interim and implementation stages of policy and legislative development must be developed into a predictable and guaranteed process and we need a guarantee of the prerogatives of the trade union as the social partner representing workers.

The ETUC Trade Union Involvement Index for the EU Semester shows that efforts aimed at establishing the right for social partners to be involved in the EU Semester are not delivering results. It especially concerns the national dimension of the European Semester. A European rule (possibly via a new Directive or via amendments to Regulation 1466/1997) could establish an obligation for national governments to consult social partners at the milestone of the Semester along with some quality criteria such as appropriate timing, appropriate level of dialogue, meaningful access to information and ensuring material and immaterial capacities of social partners.

Employee involvement in company decision-making processes is at risk due to corporate mobility within the Single Market. Evidence shows that corporate decisions are often taken to avoid employee involvement. For example, flaws in national laws transposing EU directives and, in particular, the recast EWC Directive, impede rights to information and consultation. Sanctions provided in national laws are rarely proportionate, effective and dissuasive. Information and consultation rights do not allow for the involvement and protection of workers. EU legislation should trigger upwards convergence in Europe.

Under principle 8, a case should be made for the right of workers (independently of the nature of their work contract) to bargain collectively. The right to collective bargaining is a fundamental right and recognised as such by the EU. The societal benefits collective agreements bring in terms of fairness, level-playing field and social progress such agreements covering non-standard workers and workers in platform companies (including the self-employed), should be considered to fall completely outside the scope of Article 101 TFEU and national competition rules. EU competition law and national competition rules must be interpreted in the light of fundamental rights, recognising the right to collective bargaining for all workers, atypical and platform workers (including the self-employed).

Actions aimed at setting a minimum floor of rights in the EU, a level playing field in the Single Market

  1. Reinforced framework for social partners’ involvement in the EU Semester/Recovery Plans, possibly via a legislative initiative.
  2. Revision of the EWC Directive in order to ensure that workers’ right to be informed and consulted before relevant decisions are taken, are fully respected
  3. Legislative initiative on information, consultation and participation, including legally-binding minimum standards on workers’ board-level representation
  4. Ratification of ILO Workers’ Representatives Convention, 1971 (No. 135
  5. A European directive on due diligence, focusing on the respect, promotion and enforcement of human rights and responsible business conduct.

Actions aimed at establishing upward convergence in living and working conditions

  1. Invest in Social Dialogue to improve cross sector and sectoral social dialogue at European level to develop social partner capacities to negotiate and engage with their members, including in a digital environment.
  2. Deliver clear, transparent and guaranteed rules, with the full involvement of the social partners, that can be relied upon when it comes to the actions the Commission will take to put forward social partner Agreements for adoption in binding forms
  3. Respect the prerogatives of trade unions as the social partner representing workers
  4. Support social partners for the implementation of autonomous framework agreements through dedicated funding linked to the agreements
  5. Provide dedicated financial support for Social Partners to deal with the COVID-19 crisis so they can play their full role in the recovery.
  6. Strengthen the right of workers to bargain collectively by ending union busting practices and through public procurement processes which only award contracts to companies that apply a collective agreement.
  7. Increase resources in the MFF for training of worker representative bodies. Increase resources for initiatives to support the establishment and the correct functioning of EWCs and other transnational bodies for worker information and consultation.