Industrial Relations in Europe 2014: The economic crisis has left its continuing noticeable marks on social dialogue


The European Commission (EC) has now completed and published its update report on the state of industrial relations in Europe. The report is published every two years and offers a broad overview of major social dialogue developments at cross-industry and sectoral level. The latest report places special emphasis on several topics of significance to the work of the European social partners.  Just like the previous report, the new report looks at the impacts of the economic crisis on industrial relations and social dialogue and in particular on the wage bargaining systems.

It also examines industrial relations in EU Member States receiving financial assistance as well as the social partners' actions and initiatives with regard to problems associated with youth unemployment. One chapter deals with developments regarding the EU employment legislation and presents related initiatives which have been aiming to secure the correct implementation, monitoring and review of EU law in Member States.

The chapter on European social dialogue developments during the last two years highlights the priorities of the cross-sectoral and sectoral social partners within their work programmes. The major part of this chapter relates to the social dialogue outcomes and is arranged thematically. The chapter describes no less than seven of ETUCE's successfully implemented joint projects in the fields of sectoral attractiveness and recruitment, skills and training, third party violence, high-quality public service and social dialogue capacity building. However, in the concluding chapter, the report also draws attention to the fact that in the context of the crisis it has remained difficult for social partners to work towards agreements and concrete actions.

The report refers several times to the correlation between the different levels of strength in Europe's social dialogue structures and the different performance levels when dealing with the economic crisis. It is therefore important to note that the report underlines one more time the Juncker Commission's strong political commitment to re-launch and to enhance the dialogue with the social partners. Not only at last year's Thematic Liaison Forum on 15 Years of EU Sectoral Social Dialogue there was a growing voice calling for better communication between social partners and the EC's different directorate-generals. The social partners asked for more influence in studies, impact assessments and consultation procedures and for more attention to their joint positions.

Juncker's promise for a stronger political orientation towards social dialogue brings about at least some hope for improvement. In the report's foreword Marianne Thyssen, new European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, states then that the European Commission looks "forward to joining forces with European and national trade unions and employers' organisations to tackle Europe's pressing socio-economic challenges. In doing so, together we can take a significant step forward and strengthen the European social market economy."

The publication is available here in English only