Pacts for employment and competitiveness
Enterprises are faced with the task of preserving and creating jobs, as well as remaining competitive in an increasingly global business environment. A recent innovative approach to collective bargaining in many European countries has been the conclusion of collective agreements, which focus on employment and competitiveness. In 1998 the Foundation launched an investigation into the nature and extent of so-called 'pacts for employment and competitiveness' (PECs) with two main objectives:
- to increase awareness and understanding of the contribution of industrial relations initiatives to the improvement of employment and competitiveness;
- to enable policy makers and negotiators to acquire new ideas based on the analysis.
- PECs widen and deepen the bargaining agenda;
- The diffusion of such agreements is more widespread than expected with more than 10% of companies negotiating PECs in several countries (Spain, Germany, Netherlands);
- PECs are prevalent in sectors such as manufacturing, banking and recently-privatised public corporations, where there is considerable common pressure to engage in restructuring, hence reflecting changing market conditions;
- For management, PECs offer an opportunity to reduce costs, improve flexibility and change the culture of the organisation;
- For employee representatives, PECs offer the possibility to minimise job losses and strengthen their role in company decision making;
- Many PECs also seek to improve the position of disadvantaged groups such as women, apprentices and ethnic minorities;
- While PECs are seen to have made a positive contribution to competitiveness and employment, they are not deemed a sufficient condition for growth and job creation;
- PECs encourage the decentralisation of collective bargaining, with a wider participation of managers and employee representatives in the framework of a serious partnership approach;
- PECs also encourage a change in emphasis from ‘distributive bargaining’ to ‘integrative bargaining’, including not only trade-offs but also on-going joint monitoring and assessment.
A concept paper and an analysis of PECs reported in the EIRO database were produced in the first phase of the project. In the second phase some forty-five case studies were undertaken in eleven EU Member States, as well as national reports on the context within which these agreements were negotiated. Thirty of these case studies are available in an online casebook. The case studies can be searched by sector and country. The report Handling Restructuring: collective agreements on employment and competitiveness is based on the case studies and is available in English and Spanish, jointly published with the Economic Social Committee, Spain.