Thursday, 4 December 2008

European Union: Consulting management and labour

The Commission supports dialogue between management and labour at Community level and consults them before and after issuing proposals.

For management and labour in the English language version of the current and future treaties, read social partners, because other language versions are explicit.

German: Sozialpartner
French: partenaires sociaux
Spanish: interlocutores sociales
Finnish: työmarkkinaosapuolet
Swedish: arbetsmarknadens parter

Suggestions for further reading are presented with regard to various aspects of the social dialogue between representative European organisations for business and trade union interests and consultations concerning planned or issued proposals.


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Social policy objectives

The social policy objectives mentioned in Article 136 TEC (ex Article 117), in the latest consolidated version of the treaties, OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/103, are important for management (employers, businesses) and labour (trade unions):

– promotion of employment

– improved and harmonised living and working conditions

– social protection

– dialogue between management and labour

– development of human resources

– combating exclusion.

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Article 138 TEC

Article 138 (ex Article 118a) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) sets out mandatory consultation of management and labour by the Commission.

The Commission promotes consultation at Community level and facilitates dialogue between management and labour with regard to social policy.

The Commission consults management and labour before issuing proposals.

The Commission consults management and labour on proposals.

Article 138 TEC refers to possible European Community level agreements between management and labour.

The current Article 138 TEC, as published in the latest consolidated version of the treaties, OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/108–109:

Article 138 TEC

1. The Commission shall have the task of promoting the consultation of management and labour at Community level and shall take any relevant measure to facilitate their dialogue by ensuring balanced support for the parties.

2. To this end, before submitting proposals in the social policy field, the Commission shall consult management and labour on the possible direction of Community action.

3. If, after such consultation, the Commission considers Community action advisable, it shall consult management and labour on the content of the envisaged proposal. Management and labour shall forward to the Commission an opinion or, where appropriate, a recommendation.

4. On the occasion of such consultation, management and labour may inform the Commission of their wish to initiate the process provided for in Article 139. The duration of the procedure shall not exceed nine months, unless the management and labour concerned and the Commission decide jointly to extend it.


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Original Lisbon Treaty (ToL)

Article 2, point 117 of the original Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) amends Article 138 TEC in the following way (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/81):

117) In Article 138(4), first sentence, the words ‘On the occasion of such consultation,’ shall be replaced by ‘On the occasion of the consultation referred to in paragraphs 2 and 3,’ and, in the second sentence, the words ‘the procedure’ shall be replaced by ‘this process’.

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Renumbering ToL

The Table of equivalences of the original Treaty of Lisbon tells us that the social policy title was to be renumbered Title X and that the Article 138 TFEU (ToL) was to be renumbered Article 154 TFEU in the consolidated version of the amending treaties (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/214).


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Consolidated Lisbon Treaty

After the modest specific amendments and after inserting the horizontal amendments, Article 154 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), in the consolidated TFEU, published in the Official Journal of the European Union, OJ 9.5.2008 C 115/116, looks like this:

(TITLE X
SOCIAL POLICY)

Article 154 TFEU
(ex Article 138 TEC)

1. The Commission shall have the task of promoting the consultation of management and labour at Union level and shall take any relevant measure to facilitate their dialogue by ensuring balanced support for the parties.

2. To this end, before submitting proposals in the social policy field, the Commission shall consult management and labour on the possible direction of Union action.

3. If, after such consultation, the Commission considers Union action advisable, it shall consult management and labour on the content of the envisaged proposal. Management and labour shall forward to the Commission an opinion or, where appropriate, a recommendation.

4. On the occasion of the consultation referred to in paragraphs 2 and 3, management and labour may inform the Commission of their wish to initiate the process provided for in Article 155. The duration of this process shall not exceed nine months, unless the management and labour concerned and the Commission decide jointly to extend it.


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Social partners

The vague concept ‘management and labour’ becomes more distinct by the reference to the Community (Union) level.

In addition, the five other language versions I compared with employ the term ‘social partners’ or something close to that, clearly evoking representative organisations of employers and labour.

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Social dialogue

The Commission’s DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities offers web pages with information about the European social dialogue. A distinction is made between bipartite dialogue involving employers and trade unions and a tripartite dialogue with the participation of public authorities. Consultation takes place both generally (cross-industry social dialogue) and on a sectoral basis:

http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/social_dialogue/index_en.htm

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Cross-industry social dialogue

Added information on cross-industry social dialogue, within the Social dialogue committee (SDC), involving the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the Confederation of European Business (Businesseurope), the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and of Enterprises of General Economic Interest (CEEP), the European Associaiton of Craft, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (UEAPME), Eurocadres and the European Confederation of Executives and Managerial Staff (CEC):

http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/social_dialogue/interprof_en.htm

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Sectoral social dialogue

There is a host of sectoral social dialogue committees:

http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/social_dialogue/sectoral_en.htm

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Social dialogue at company level

Social dialogue at company level for multinational companies covered by the European Works Councils Directive are presented here:

http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/social_dialogue/company_en.htm

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Article 138 TEC consultations

Consultations based on Article 138 TEC are presented here:

http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/social_dialogue/consultations_en.htm



Ralf Grahn