Press Releases Opening remarks by Commissioner Schmit at the press conference on strengthening social dialogue

Opening remarks by Commissioner Schmit at the press conference on strengthening social dialogue

Thank you, Valdis

Every day across Europe, representatives of employers and workers come together to agree on the essence of our working conditions, such as pay, working hours, health and safety measures, and major issues that affect the functioning of the economy or individual enterprises.

This social dialogue is essential to guarantee fairness and inclusion in the labour market. And, as you have just heard, it is a core element of our social market economy, contributing to building a competitive and more resilient economy.

We all know how important the resilience of our economy and society is in times of big changes.

The objective of this package is to promote this social dialogue all over Europe, taking into account the diversity of how social dialogue functions in the different Member States.

We have different labour market systems which we don’t want to change, but we have a common interest that in all Member States social dialogue is functioning well.

So it is fair to say that strong social dialogue and collective bargaining are in the interests of workers, of employers, and of governments and of the stability of our economy at large.

The context we are living in is very particular. Not only because we are in a period of transformation, but the social landscape is changing. We are facing declining union membership, because the economy is changing, fewer workers covered by collective agreements, and some sectors or types of work completely lacking social dialogue.

With the labour market adapting each day to new forms of work and eco-systems evolving, it is the right time to make sure that this integral feature of our social market economy is fit for purpose and as far-reaching as possible.

We are talking about the digital transition, new business models like platforms, but also the green transformation is impacting many enterprises.

Good cooperation between social partners at company, national and European level is absolutely key to manage these transitions in a successful way. This is what we mean by “just transition”.

It is also a direct response to the Porto Social Commitment, and to implement Principle 8 of the Pillar of Social Rights which calls for increased capacity of social partners to promote social dialogue.

I will now explain what we aim to do with the two texts we are presenting today.

The Communication focuses on how to strengthen social dialogue at European level. This can be done by:

  • reviewing the way sectorial social dialogue committee meetings are organised; we want to strengthen the sectorial dimension, there is room for improvement. There are currently 43 sectorial social dialogue committees and there is a demand for a new one on social services. These 43 sectorial committees cover 185 million workers, and about 6 million companies. This shows their importance.
  • gathering the views of the European social partners on policy priorities ahead of the Commission Work Programme being decided; and
  • encouraging the European social partners to negotiate more agreements amongst themselves, as they are doing now on telework and the right to disconnect.

The Commission will continue to provide legal and administrative support to the social partners, so that where possible, they should find agreements themselves.

The proposal for a Council Recommendation suggests ways in which the Member States can facilitate social dialogue for it to thrive and grow.

We call on Member States:

  • To make sure that social partners are consulted when designing and implementing economic, employment and social policies. A good example of this is the Recovery and Resilience Facility when we invited governments to work closely with social partners during the implementation of these plans;
  • To encourage social partners to examine new forms of work and a-typical employment;
  • To communicate widely about the benefits of social dialogue and about collective agreements that are put in place; and
  • To increase workers and employers’ organisations’ capacity, for example by making sure they have access to relevant information and enough support from national governments.

Very simply, to make sure that Europe remains competitive and inclusive, we need strong social dialogue and strong social partners. And this is what our initiatives aim to achieve.

Thank you.

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