Saturday, 29 November 2008

European Union: Employment Committee

The treaty based advisory Employment Committee promotes coordination between EC (EU) member states on employment and labour market policies.

Does ‘management and labour’ have a specific meaning in this context? Often used in Eurojargon, but what are the social partners?

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Current TEC

The headline of this post starts with ‘European Union’, which can be defended if you look at the EU as a Greek Temple, with three pillars. More exactly, the subject matter belongs to the Community pillar (first pillar), but few readers seem to be that exact in their web searches. The term ‘European Community’ seems to have fallen into disuse, save for official documents and a few brave lawyers. I try to use the EU and the EC terms in a pragmatic manner, depending on the context.

The current Article 130 (ex Article 109s) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) concludes the Title VIII Employment by establishing a sector committee.

The Employment Committee works in an advisory capacity.

Whereas most of the Employment Title speaks about employment (policies) or refers to the employment aims, Article 130 TEC picks up the term ‘labour markets’ mentioned in Article 125 TEC.

The Employment Committee promotes coordination between member states on employment and labour market policies.

The Employment Committee consults management and labour, known as the social partners in Eurospeak.

There is the customary proviso that the Employment Committee works ‘without prejudice to Article 207’, referring to the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Member States (Coreper), the last stop before the Ministers meet in the Council.

The intergovernmental nature of the Employment Committee is illustrated not only by the wording that it is established to ‘promote coordination between Member States’ or by the fact that the Committee is appointed by the Council, but also by the preponderance of member states’ representatives. Each member state appoints two members (as does the Commission).
The existing Article 130 TEC (in the latest consolidated version of the treaties, OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/103):


Article 130 TEC

The Council, after consulting the European Parliament, shall establish an Employment Committee with advisory status to promote coordination between Member States on employment and labour market policies. The tasks of the Committee shall be:

— to monitor the employment situation and employment policies in the Member States and the Community,

— without prejudice to Article 207, to formulate opinions at the request of either the Council or the Commission or on its own initiative, and to contribute to the preparation of the Council proceedings referred to in Article 128.

In fulfilling its mandate, the Committee shall consult management and labour.

Each Member State and the Commission shall appoint two members of the Committee.

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Original Lisbon Treaty (ToL)


The Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) is still on its rocky road to possible entry into force. Agreed and signed between 27 member state governments, it has by now been approved by the national parliaments in 25 member states ahead of the original target date for entry into force (1 January 2009). Among the parliamentary ratifiers, only the holder of the next Council Presidency, the Czech Republic, looks certain to miss the agreed target date.

In addition, Ireland is pondering its European future following the negative outcome of the 12 June 2008 referendum. (For some updated references to the Irish debate, you can read yesterday’s post ‘Ireland and Lisbon Treaty’.)

Anyway, in some instances the Lisbon Treaty is the most up-to-date manifestation of what the member state governments want the treaties to say.

On the other hand, the treaty reform process, at least since the Treaty of Nice, has been focused on so called institutional innovations. With a few notable exceptions, most areas of Community policy have only been updated and adjusted technically to the different reform treaty versions: the draft Constitution, the Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty.

The changes to the Title on employment in the Lisbon Treaty are minimal. Article 2, point 111 deleted a few words from Article 125 TEC and the following point (112) concerned the common commercial policy.

Consequently, Article 126 TEC and the following ones underwent only horizontal or technical amendments (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/79). In Article 130 TEC the word ‘Community’ is replaced by ‘Union’, as elsewhere in the Treaty of Lisbon. Another horizontal amendment is that the clarifying words ‘acting by a simple majority’ are inserted after ‘The Council’ according to Article 2, point 4 ToL, but the procedure remains the same.

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Renumbering

The Table of equivalences of the original Treaty of Lisbon tells us that Title VIII Employment was to be renumbered Title IX and that Article 130 TEC and TFEU (ToL) was to be renumbered Article 150 TFEU in the consolidated version of the amending treaties (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/214).


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Consolidated Lisbon Treaty



Article 150 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) takes over the contents of the existing Article 130 TEC with the minimal change in terminology and the renumbering noted above.

As a consequence, the consolidated TFEU, published in the Official Journal of the European Union, OJ 9.5.2008 C 115/113, looks like this:

TITLE IX
EMPLOYMENT

Article 150 TFEU
(ex Article 130 TEC)

The Council, acting by a simple majority after consulting the European Parliament, shall establish an Employment Committee with advisory status to promote coordination between Member States on employment and labour market policies. The tasks of the Committee shall be:

— to monitor the employment situation and employment policies in the Member States and the Union,

— without prejudice to Article 240, to formulate opinions at the request of either the Council or the Commission or on its own initiative, and to contribute to the preparation of the Council proceedings referred to in Article 148.

In fulfilling its mandate, the Committee shall consult management and labour.

Each Member State and the Commission shall appoint two members of the Committee.

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Management and labour

The English version of the treaties refers to consulting ‘management and labour’. We look at the wording of the sentence, first in English:

In fulfilling its mandate, the Committee shall consult management and labour.

Management and labour seem to be given more exact contours, when we turn to the German version:
Bei der Erfüllung seines Auftrags hört der Ausschuss die Sozialpartner.

The French words, likewise, gives management and labour a more precise meaning than the English treaty text:

Dans l'accomplissement de son mandat, le comité consulte les partenaires sociaux.

The Sapnish treaty text catches another nuance of the parties or partners to be consulted:

Para llevar a cabo su mandato, el Comité deberá consultar a los interlocutores sociales.

The Finnish treaty text uses (almost) the same terminology as the German and the French, although the customary term evokes contracting parties (collective agreements) as much as partners in a dialogue:

Tehtäväänsä toteuttaessaan komitea kuulee työmarkkinaosapuolia.

The Swedish text uses the term ’arbetsmarknadens parter’ identical with the Finnish concept:

Kommittén ska när den utför sitt uppdrag höra arbetsmarknadens parter.

We can conclude that the drafters of the treaties have had organised employers and organised labour in mind and that national systems of collective bargaining and traditions of dialogue between management and employee interests are reflected in the various terms used. Anyway, the English version seems to be less exact than the other language versions. (The Title Social policy is imbued with references to the social partners.)

The subparagraph does not specify the level of consultations, which means that the wording does not exclude consultations at European or national level.

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Social partners

The Europa Glossary outlines the meaning of ‘social partners’ in the following way (although it leans heavily on Article 138 TEC, in the current Title XI Social policy, education, vocational training and youth):

Social partners
The glossary is being updated given the recent signing of the Treaty of Lisbon.
The Commission is required to consult various social partners when it wishes to submit proposals in this field (article 138 of the EC Treaty). This social dialogue occurs via the three main cross-industry organisations representing the social partners at European level:
the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC);
the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (BUSINESSEUROPE);
the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation (CEEP).

In addition to these three European cross-industry organisations, there are many other socio-professional groups representing specific or sectoral interests.
It is the Commission's task to promote consultation of the social partners and take any relevant measures to facilitate their dialogue by ensuring balanced support for the parties.
Before submitting proposals in the field of social policy, the Commission consults the social partners on the possible direction of EU action.
The social partners also play an important role in the European Economic and Social Committee, where they sit alongside other representatives of civil society.

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Employment Committee – Council decision

Not to forget secondary legislation, the Committee was established by the Council decision of 24 January 2000 establishing the Employment Committee (OJ 4.2.2000 L 29/21).

The decision reiterates the treaty provisions, but adds some specifications to the Committee’s tasks.

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Employment Committee activity

The European Commission, Employment and Social Affairs, offers an introductory web page on the Employment Committee with links to its activities:

http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/employment_strategy/emco_en.htm





Ralf Grahn