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Industrial relations in Europe

Centre Albert Borschette, Brussels, 14.06.2007

Monday 18 June 2007

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Jackie Morin, head of unit Social Dialogue, DG Employment and Social affairs, European Commission presided at a conference on industrial relations in Europe. This meeting was attended by some 70 representatives from workers’ and employers’ organisations.

The conference was also organised to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the European Industrial Relations Observatory online (EIRO). EIRO is a monitoring instrument initiated by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions in Dublin.

Nikolaus van der Pas, Director General DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of the European Commission held an opening speech. In this speech he emphasised that the Commission attached great value to healthy, well established industrial relations in Europe. As an answer to the changing European society he addressed three topics:

1)Flexicurity: The European Commission wants to achieve a ’win-win’ situation for all parties. On the 27th of June the Commission will present a paper analysis of the concept of flexicurity which will offer common principles and pathways for member states and social partners.

2)Labour law reform: There have been 450 reactions to the public consultation on the modernisation of labour law. Many reactions were written with suspicion and caution. However, Mr. van der Pas assured the partners that there is no hidden agenda for the European Commission. The European Commission will come forward with a second paper as a follow up of this public consultation.

3)Social dialogue: According to Mr. van der Pas, the social dialogue in Europe (both national and European) is a role model in the world. The European Commission encourages the partners to use all the possibilities and particularly calls upon the new member states to do more to reach a balance in the socio-economic situation and to implement European Social Dialogue features at national level.

The purpose of the conference was to present the latest report on Industrial Relations in Europe (2006). Another key speaker at the conference was Guy van Gyes from the KU Leuven who presented the chapter on trends and strategies in membership of social partner organisations. Fully in line with Eurofedop’s opinion, he explained that membership is a useful proxy for power, but not a full measure of organisational capacity; membership alone is not a good indicator. It seems that in Europe there is a general decline in Trade Union membership. In Central and Eastern Europe, Austria and Greece, losses of membership are dramatic, however, this is not so much the case for the public sector and less in Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands.

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