Representativeness of the European social partner organisations: Sea fisheries
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National level of interest representation
In many Member States, statutory regulations explicitly refer to the concept of representativeness when assigning certain rights of interest representation and public governance to trade unions and/or employer organisations. The most important rights addressed by such regulations include:
- formal recognition as a party to collective bargaining;
- extension of the scope of a multi-employer collective agreement to employers not affiliated to the signatory employer organisation;
- participation in public policy and tripartite bodies of social dialogue.
Under these circumstances, representativeness is normally measured by the strength of the organisations’ membership. For instance, statutory extension provisions usually allow for extension of collective agreements to unaffiliated employers only when the signatory trade union and employer association represent 50% or more of the employees within the agreement’s domain.
As outlined, the representativeness of the national social partner organisations is of interest to this study in terms of the capacity of their European umbrella organisations for participation in European social dialogue. Hence, the role of the national actors in collective bargaining and public policy-making constitutes another important component of representativeness. The effectiveness of European social dialogue tends to increase with the growing ability of the national affiliates of the European organisations to regulate the employment terms and to influence national public policies affecting the sector. A cross-national comparative analysis shows a generally positive correlation between the bargaining role of the social partners and their involvement in public policy (Traxler, 2004). Social partner organisations that are engaged in multi-employer bargaining are incorporated in state policies to a significantly greater extent than their counterparts in countries where multi-employer bargaining is lacking. This can be attributed to the fact that only multi-employer agreements matter in macroeconomic terms, setting an incentive for the governments to seek the cooperation of the social partner organisations. If single-employer bargaining prevails in a country, none of the collective agreements will have a noticeable effect on the economy due to their limited scope. As a result, the basis for generalised tripartite policy concertation will be absent.
In summary, representativeness is a multi-dimensional concept that embraces three basic elements:
- the social partners’ membership domain;
- their strength;
- their recognised role in collective bargaining as in public policymaking.
Membership domains and strength
The membership domain of an organisation, as formally established by its constitution or name, distinguishes its potential members from other groups which the organisation does not claim to represent. As already explained, this study considers only organisations whose domain relates to the sea fisheries sector. However, there is insufficient room in this report to delineate the domain demarcations of all the organisations. Instead, the report notes how they relate to the sector by classifying them according to the four patterns of ‘sector-relatedness’, as specified earlier. A more detailed description of how an organisation may relate to the sector can be found in Figure 1 and in the annex.
Regarding membership strength, a differentiation exists between strength, in terms of the absolute number of members, and strength in relative terms. Research usually refers to relative membership strength as the density – in other words, the ratio of actual to potential members.
Furthermore, a difference also arises between trade unions and employer organisations in relation to measuring membership strength. Trade union membership simply means the number of unionised persons. However, in this context, a clarification of the concept of ‘member’ should be made. Whereas in most countries recorded membership includes both employees and members who are not in active employment (such as unemployed persons and retired workers) some countries provide information on employed membership only. Hence, two measures of trade union density have to be defined: gross union density (including inactive members) and net union density (referring to employed union members only). In addition to taking the total membership of a trade union as an indicator of its strength, it is also reasonable to break down this membership total according to gender.
Measuring the membership strength of employer organisations is more complex since they organise collective entities, namely companies with employees. In this case, therefore, two possible measures of membership strength may be used – one referring to the companies themselves, and the other to the employees working in the member companies.
For a sector study such as this, measures of membership strength of both the trade unions and employer organisations have also to consider how the membership domains relate to the sector. If a domain is not congruent with the sector demarcation, the organisation’s total density, that is the density referring to its overall domain, may differ from sector-specific density, that is the organisation’s density referring to the sector. This report will first present the data on the domains and membership strength of the trade unions and will then consider those of the employer organisations.
To summarise, this report basically distinguishes between three types of organisational densities, as defined in the following table, which are – depending on data availability – also broken down into net and gross rates.
|Type of density||Definition||Breakdown|
|Domain density|| |
Number of employees (companies) organised by the organisation in the sea fisheries sector divided by total number of employees (companies) included in the organisation’s membership domain
Net and gross; Employees (for trade unions); Companies and employees (for employer organisations)
|Sectoral density|| |
Number of employees (companies) organised by the organisation in the sea fisheries sector divided by total number of employees (companies) in the sector.
Net and gross; Employees (for trade unions); Companies and employees (for employer organisations)
|Sectoral domain density|| |
Number of employees (companies) organised by the organisation in the sea fisheries sector divided by total number of employees (companies) in the sea fisheries sector as demarcated by the organisation’s domain
Net and gross; Employees (for trade unions); Companies and employees (for employer organisations)
Tables 6 and 7 present the trade union data on their domains and membership strength. The tables list all trade unions which meet at least one of the two criteria for classification as a sector-related social partner organisation, as defined earlier. The majority of the 22 countries included in the study record at least one sector-related trade union. The exceptions essentially concern countries where the sector is very small and/or is dominated by self-employed workers, sometimes also due to special sector regulations. These countries include:
- Cyprus, where the sector included only 115 firms in 2009, of which 104 were self-employed workers, while the other 11 firms employed, on average, two people;
- Malta, with a similar situation of prevalent self-employment and a significant presence of cooperative work, with no collective bargaining;
- Estonia and Lithuania, where no sector-related industrial relations are present;
- Finland, where only an interest organisation is present (the Finland’s Fisheries’ League, SAKL) which mostly associates self-employed workers. The collective agreement of the Cargoship Association and the Finnish Seamen’s Union (SM-U) is applied to the few employees present in the sector (116 estimated in 2009).
- Sweden, where there is a similar single interest organisation, the Swedish Fishermen Association, (SFR) and no industrial relations are in place, due to the predominant role of self-employed workers in the sector.
- Greece, where there are no collective bargaining and industrial relations, despite the presence of a quite complex system of trade unions centred around the Hellenic Fishermen Confederation, which is considered the peak interest organisation for Greek fishermen by laws 1361/83 and 2538/97, which regulate the sector. In fact, these trade unions have a general role in providing support to fishermen and not a representation role in collective bargaining.
In total, 45 sector-related trade unions could be identified. Of the 44 organisation for which information could be collected, two (5%) have demarcated their domain in a way which is congruent with the sector definition. This low proportion underscores the fact that statistical definitions of business activities rather differ from the lines along which employees identify common interests and band together in trade unions. It should be noted here that the Bulgarian Seamen’s Syndicate is excluded from the calculations because no information on the membership domain could be collected. It is only known that it organises and represents fishers involved in high seas industrial fisheries (Source: ETF). Domain demarcations resulting in overlap in relation to the sector occur in 27 (or 61%) of the cases. This is the commonest situation in the sea fisheries sector. Overlap generally arises from two different modes of demarcation. The first one refers to general (cross-sectoral) domains (such as ver.di in Germany). The second mode in the sector relates to various forms of multi-sector domains, covering contiguous sectors, frequently in the broader agriculture segment of the economy (such as Flai-Cgil in Italy) or in the transport industry (such as RMT in the UK or FGTE-CFDT in France). Sectional overlaps involve 11 (trade unions 25%). This mode usually emanates from domain demarcations which focus on certain categories of employees which are then organised across several or all sectors. Employee categories are specified by various parameters, such as distinct occupations (such as engineers or officers in the case of the Portuguese SEMM and OFICIASMAR), and geographic region (such as. FGAMT-CIG and ELA of Spain, which are each active only in Galicia and the Basque Country respectively). Finally, sectionalism, which ensues from the existence of sector-specific trade unions, which represent and organise only certain categories of employees in the sector, can be found in four cases (9%). These include, for instance, STPN and STPDC in Portugal, where they cover the North of the country and the district of Coimbra (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Sea fisheries sector-related trade unions and their domain patterns (N=44)
Source: EIRO national contributions (2011)
As the domains of the trade unions often overlap with the demarcation of the sector, so do their domains with one another in the case of those countries with a pluralist trade union ‘landscape’ in the sea fisheries sector. Table 6 also shows these inter-union domain overlaps. Inter-union overlaps of domains are endemic. In all countries with more than one sector-related trade union, the domain of any of them overlaps with the domain of all or most of the others. Depending on the scale of mutual overlap, this results in competition for members. Inter-union competition is recorded in some countries, such as Belgium, France, Italy (in part), and Portugal. In many cases, however, trade unions cooperate in joint collective bargaining at sectoral and decentralised levels.
On average, female employees represent a minority of trade union members in the unions covered by this study (with a simple mean of 35%), but the information is available only in a minority of cases (13).
Membership of the sector-related trade unions is voluntary in all cases of the Member States under consideration.
The absolute numbers of trade union members differ widely, ranging from about 2.2 million (in the case of Germany’s ver.di) to less than one hundred. This considerable variation reflects differences in the size of the economy and the comprehensiveness of the membership domain as well the small size of the sea fisheries sector in most of the EU countries, rather than the ability to attract members.
Certainly, density is the measure of membership strength which is more appropriate for a comparative analysis. In this context it should be noted that density figures in this section refer to net ratios, which means that they are calculated on the basis of active employees, rather than including union members who are not in work. This is mainly because union densities are more informative compared to gross densities, since they better reflect the capacity to represent workers in their relationship to employers and also because the latter depends on the decision to extend membership beyond active workers, which can vary considerably across countries and national models of union representation.
Membership rates (of active workers) are available for almost 30 of the sector-related organisations. Domain density (27 cases) tends to be relatively low at 15%, with eight unions under 5% and six above 20%. For density rates, if a range of values was given instead of an exact figure, calculations used the lowest value. For instance, for the 0%–9% range, 0% was used, and for the 10%–25% class, 10% was used. Compared with their overall domain densities, the sector-related trade unions’ density in the sea fisheries sector tends to be significantly lower with a mean of 5% (28 cases).
In fact, when looking at sector density (again referring only to active members), it is important to differentiate between the trade unions’ sectoral density on the one hand and their sectoral domain density on the other. Whereas the former measures the ratio of the total number of members of a trade union in the sector to the number of employees in the sector (as demarcated by the NACE classification), the latter indicates the total number of members of a trade union in the sector in relation to the number of employees who work in that part of the sector as covered by the union domain, see Table 2. This means that the sectoral domain density must be higher than the sectoral density if a trade union organises only a particular part of the sector – that is where the trade union’s membership domain is either sectionalist or sectionalistically overlapping in relation to the sector.
When taking the trade unions’ sectoral domain density into account, the trade unions’ density in the sea fisheries sector tends to be lower compared with the density ratio referring to their domain on aggregate, down from a simple mean of 15% (27 cases) to 6% (12 cases). Such relative weakness of trade unions in the sea fisheries sector appears to be linked to the specificity of the sector, which shows a prevalence of self-employed workers and a consequent low union representation and collective bargaining, so that there are also cases where the sector-related unions do not have, in fact, any members in the sea fisheries sector. This happens, for instance, in the UK, Romania, and in Slovenia. It should be noted that in Romania and Slovenia the relevant unions do indeed sign a sectoral agreement which is applied to sea fisheries, even if it has a broader scope, ‘Agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries’ in Romania and ‘Agriculture and the food-processing industry’ in Slovenia.
Tables 8 and 9 present the membership data for the employer organisations in the sea fisheries sector. As is the case of the trade union side, for the majority of the 22 countries under consideration at least one sector-related employer organisation is documented, with the exception of Bulgaria, Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania. In these countries no significant industrial relations activities in the sea fisheries sector are recorded, with the exclusion of Latvia, where the presence of company-level bargaining was reported. No information could be collected on sector-related industrial relations in Bulgaria. According to the report Fisheries in Bulgaria by the Directorate-General for Internal Policies for the European Parliament, ‘“There are no producer”. organisations in Bulgaria in the sense of the European legislation (Regulation EC 104/2000). Nevertheless, there are several fishermen or fish producers’ associations with a status of NGOs” (p. 38). None of the organisations mentioned in the report is affiliated to Europêche or COGECA
In at least ten of the countries where sector-related organisations are present, a proportion of the listed employer/business organisations are not a party to collective bargaining (see Table 9). According to our selection criteria outlined above, only the organisations affiliated to Europêche and COGECA, the EU-level sectoral employer association, are considered in the study. As mentioned before, more employer associations may be included in national reports, but they are excluded in this study because neither are party to national sector-related collective bargaining (the bottom-up approach) nor are they affiliates of the relevant EU-level organisations.
Eight of the 17 countries, for which employer associations were identified, have one or more employer organisations engaged in sector-related collective bargaining. The remaining nine cases include five countries where no collective bargaining takes place (Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Sweden and UK) and four countries in which collective bargaining takes place at company level (Germany, Ireland, Poland, and Spain), although information on the effective extent of collective bargaining is lacking in Ireland and Spain.
Generally, business interest organisations may also deal with interests other than those related to industrial relations. Organisations specialising in matters other than industrial relations are commonly defined as ‘trade associations’ (see TN0311101S). Such sector-related trade associations also exist in the sea fisheries sector. In terms of their national scope of activities, all of the associations, which are not involved in collective bargaining according to Table 9, either primarily or exclusively act as trade associations in their country. It is the conceptual decision to include all associational affiliates to Europêche or COGECA, regardless of whether they have a role in national bargaining, which gives them the status of a social partner organisation within the framework of this study. At least 14 of the 36 employer/business organisations listed in Tables 8 and 9, belong to this group.
In nine of the 18 countries for which information on the sector-related associational landscape is given, only one single employer has been identified (Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Sweden). A single representation pattern is therefore equally important as a pluralist representation landscape in the sector on the employers’ side, while on the trade unions’ front there were only six countries, out of 15, with single representation. This feature probably reflects the already underlined relatively small size and rather homogeneous nature of the sector, usually centred around small-owners and self-employed fishermen.
The employer organisations’ domains tend to be narrower than those of the trade unions (Figure 4). First, the two types of overlap cover 42% of cases for which the relevant information is available, compared with almost 90% in the case of unions. Congruence is more present as it concerns 17% of employer organisations instead of 5% of trade unions; similarly, sectionalism involves 41% of cases compared to 98%. This pattern is essentially linked to two features of employer representation. Trade associations tend to focus on quite specific economic activities, since they essentially act in the political arena and they can benefit from relatively high specialisation in terms of more homogeneous interests and clearer objectives. However, in the case of sea fisheries (but even if we consider the broader fisheries and aquaculture industry) the relatively narrow sectoral definition can favour the presence of overlapping representational domains, especially in the case of organisations covering the broad agriculture sector. In fact, the two types of overlap involve half of all employer organisations.
Representation of different sizes or forms lead to either sectionalism or sectional overlap, depending on the sectoral scope of representation. The most evident case of sectional overlap in the sector refers to the representation of cooperative companies in Italy, where a number of employer associations cover the cooperative sector in whole of the fisheries and aquaculture sector or even in agriculture.
Among the employer organisations covered by this study, the Slovenian SCAF has mandatory membership. However, this applies only above certain size thresholds.
Figure 5: Sea fisheries sector-related employer organisations/business associations and their domain patterns (N=30)
Source: EIRO national contributions (2011)
In those countries with a pluralist structure in relation to employer organisations, these associations have often managed to form collaborative relationships. In fact, they often jointly negotiate on multi-employer agreements.
As the figures on density show (Table 9), membership strength in terms of companies widely varies with regard to both the membership domain in general and the sector-related densities. The same holds true of the densities in terms of employees. In general, both the domain and the sectoral domain densities in terms of companies tend to be a lot lower than the densities in terms of employees. This reflects the usual higher propensity of the larger companies to associate, as compared to their smaller counterparts.
The overall domain densities, in terms of employees of the employer/business organisations in the sector, tend to be higher compared with trade union densities (see above). For the associations for which related data are available (15 cases), it is not unusual to register a sectoral density higher than 50%. This refers to six organisations, that is 20% of all listed employer associations. In general, the findings suggest that in the sea fisheries sector the employers are well organised in terms of both companies and employees represented. The average sectoral density in terms of companies is 23% (20 cases) and it reaches 42% when employees are taken into account (15 cases). It must be underlined, however, that, since the employer/business association density data are available only for a limited number of countries, the data set should again be treated cautiously.
Collective bargaining and its actors
The small size and the prevalence of the self-employed and fishermen’s cooperatives significantly influences the features of collective bargaining in the sea fisheries sector. In a significant number of countries, collective agreements do not seem to be the main regulatory tool defining the terms and conditions of employment. Union representation and collective bargaining are certainly important in the larger and more organised undertakings, like those which engage in high-sea fishing. As a consequence, company bargaining also tends to prevail in cases where the traditional bargaining structure is centred on industry-wide agreements.
Tables 7 and 9 list respectively all of the trade unions and the employer associations which engage in sector-related collective bargaining. The data presented in Table 10 provide an overview of the system of sector-related collective bargaining in the 22 countries under consideration. The importance of collective bargaining as a means of employment regulation is measured by calculating the total number of employees covered by collective bargaining, as a proportion of the total number of employees within a certain segment of the economy (Traxler et al., 2001). Accordingly, the sector’s rate of collective bargaining coverage is defined as the ratio of the number of employees covered by any kind of collective agreement to the total number of employees in the sector.
To delineate the bargaining system, two further indicators are used: The first indicator refers to the relevance of multi-employer bargaining, compared with single-employer bargaining. Multi-employer bargaining is defined as being conducted by an employer organisation on behalf of the employer side. In the case of single-employer bargaining, the company, or its divisions, is the party to the agreement. This includes the cases where two or more companies jointly negotiate an agreement. The relative importance of multi-employer bargaining, measured as a percentage of the total number of employees covered by a collective agreement, therefore provides an indication of the impact of the employer organisations on the overall collective bargaining process.
The second indicator considers whether statutory extension schemes have been applied to the sector. For reasons of brevity, this analysis is confined to extension schemes which widen the scope of a collective agreement to employers not affiliated to the signatory employer organisation; extension regulations targeting the employees are therefore not included in the research. Regulations concerning the employees are not significant to this analysis for two reasons. On the one hand, extending a collective agreement to the employees who are not unionised in the company covered by the collective agreement is a standard practice of the ILO, aside from any national legislation. Secondly, employers have good reason to extend a collective agreement concluded by them, even when they are not formally obliged to do so; otherwise, they would set an incentive for their workforce to unionise.
In comparison with employee-related extension procedures, schemes that target the employers are far more significant for the strength of collective bargaining in general and multi-employer bargaining in particular. This is because the employers are capable of refraining from both joining an employer organisation and entering single-employer bargaining in the context of a purely voluntaristic system. Therefore, employer-related extension practices increase the coverage of multi-employer bargaining. Moreover, when it is pervasive, an extension agreement may encourage more employers to join the controlling employer organisation; such a move then enables them to participate in the bargaining process and to benefit from the organisation’s related services in a situation where the respective collective agreement will bind them in any case (Traxler et al., 2001).
Collective bargaining coverage
In terms of the sector’s collective bargaining coverage, six of the 16 countries for which related data are available, record a very high coverage rate of 80% or higher (Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, Portugal and Romania); with four of them recording coverage rates of (practically) 100%. Conversely, there are six countries where no collective bargaining is reported (Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Sweden, and the UK). In the remaining countries, we find three cases of industry-wide bargaining and relatively high coverage rates (ranging from about 50% to 70%): Denmark, Netherlands and Slovenia, and one case of single-employer bargaining and lower coverage rates: Germany (15%). For four more countries, Ireland, Latvia, Poland and Spain, the presence of single-employer agreements was reported, but no indication on collective bargaining coverage could be made.
These findings show a significant polarisation between countries where collective bargaining plays an important role and those where no collective agreements are in place. Some basic feature of bargaining systems seem to influence the presence of high coverage rates, like the prevalence of sectoral bargaining and the utilisation of extension practices. Also the existence of well-established national industrial relations systems can play a role. However, in the case of sea fisheries, the structural characteristics of the sector seem to be more important to sustain the presence of collective bargaining, like the absolute size of the sector, the presence of small - medium-to-large size companies, and the share of employees in overall employment.
Extension procedures are not widely used in the sector, even if they could be (such as in France, and Slovenia). They are used in Belgium, Finland, and Romania. A functional equivalent to statutory extension schemes can be found in Italy. According to the country’s constitution, minimum conditions of employment must apply to all employees. The country’s labour court rulings relate this principle to the multi-employer agreements, to the extent that they are regarded as generally binding.
Participation in public policymaking
Interest associations may participate in public policy in two basic ways:
- they may be consulted by the authorities on matters affecting their members;
- they may be represented in tripartite committees and boards of policy concertation.
This study considers only cases of tripartite consultation and participation which explicitly relate to sector-specific matters. Consultation processes are not necessarily institutionalised and, therefore, the organisations consulted by the authorities may vary according to the issues to be addressed and also over time, depending on changes in government. Moreover, the authorities may initiate a consultation process on an occasional rather than a regular basis. Given this variability, in Tables 7 and 9 only those sector-related trade unions and employer organisations are flagged that are usually consulted.
Trade unions are regularly consulted by the authorities in at least 13 of the 15 countries where sector-related trade unions are recorded. Two countries cite a lack of regular consultation of any of the trade unions (Portugal and the UK). In most countries with a multi-union system where a noticeable practice of consultation is observed, all the existing trade unions take part in the consultation process.
The great majority of the sector-related employer/business organisations for which related data are available are involved in consultation procedures. Only in three countries (Cyprus, Greece, and Portugal) are no employer associations consulted on sector-related policies.
Turning from consultation to tripartite participation, the findings reveal that a sector-specific tripartite body has been established in several countries (see Table 11). They are mostly bodies with general competencies on sectoral policies. Sometimes they cover the whole of the agriculture sector, with subcommittees on fisheries. Such bodies are established in Belgium, Estonia, Spain, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Slovenia.
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