Conciliation, mediation and arbitration
Conciliation, mediation and arbitration are methods of resolving collective disputes in industrial relations. Generally, arbitration is distinguished by the fact that the arbitration decides the dispute, whereas conciliation and mediation only aim to assist the parties to reach a settlement of the dispute.
In 2001, the Commission set up a group of experts to study national experiences of conciliation, mediation and arbitration arrangements, and the results were published in March 2002. A European system of intervention in industrial disputes, involving more than one EU Member State, would be a transnational system operating alongside mediation, conciliation and arbitration services established at national level. The Commission’s Social Policy Agenda 2000-2005 included a commitment to ‘consult the social partners on the need to establish, at European level, voluntary mechanisms on mediation, arbitration and conciliation for conflict resolution’.
The idea of establishing EU-level dispute resolution machinery was promoted during the Belgian presidency of the Council during the second half of 2001. At a conference in November 2001, the Social Affairs Commissioner, Anna Diamantopoulou, indicated that the work undertaken by the Commission pointed to an EU mechanism concerned only with collective issues with a transnational dimension. Examples were assisting management and employees to reach and interpret agreements under the European Works Council Directive 94/45/EC and the European Company Statute, helping the parties to the EU social dialogue at sectoral and intersectoral levels to reach agreements and resolve disputes over their interpretation, and contributing to resolving transnational labour disputes arising from company restructuring. The proposal would engage only with conciliation and mediation rather than arbitration, and would be activated only on a purely voluntary basis. The likely outcome was a panel of mediators available to the parties rather than a permanent agency.