New sectoral social dialogue committee for central government administrations

A new sectoral social dialogue committee for central government administrations was set up in December 2010. Within the context of this new committee, employee and employer representatives from across the European Union will have the opportunity to deliver opinions, statements and documents to the European Commission on areas of European social and employment policy that may have consequences for all central government administrations at national level.

This new sectoral social dialogue committee for government administrations brings together representatives from the Trade Unions’ National and European Administration Delegation (TUNED) and the European Union Public Administration Employers (EUPAE) body. It was formally established on 17 December 2010 during the biannual meeting of representatives of TUNED and director-generals of public administration of European countries.

TUNED was established in 2005 as a joint trade union delegation of state sector trade unions affiliated to the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CESI) and several affiliated national public sector unions, after an agreement (465Kb PDF) was drawn up between EPSU and CESI. EUPAE springs from the more informal EUPAN network of the directors-general responsible for public administration in the EU Member States.

What the committee hopes to achieve

The objectives of the new social dialogue committee are to:

  • develop social dialogue at European and national level on issues relevant to the central government administration sector;
  • improve the quality of employment and services provided.

The new committee solely discusses matters that are relevant to European central government administrations, thus excluding local and regional governments and other public services such as education, health and social services and energy.

It aims to represent the 27 EU Member States, the candidate countries and Norway. Currently, the participating social partner organisations are estimated to cover 60% of the seven million public sector employees and civil servants in central government administration in the EU.

Formalisation after trial period

The formal inauguration of the social dialogue committee ends a two-year test phase during 2008 and 2009 (EU1001039I) supported by the European Commission, during which TUNED and EUPAE established the committee’s rules of procedure (1.28Mb PDF).

One intermediate outcome of the test phase was a joint statement (75Kb PDF) on stress at work. TUNED and EUPAE had already agreed in January 2010 on the principle of establishing a sectoral social dialogue committee for central government administrations.

The social dialogue committee has adopted a two-year work programme and has agreed to meet in plenary session at least once a year. It will be composed of up to 60 representatives: up to 30 employer representatives and up to 30 employee representatives. However, much of the preparatory work will be done by a steering group, comprising six representatives from each social partner group. The steering group will have a two-year mandate and will meet at least once a year.

Austerity measures may complicate the consultation process

During the first meeting, Anne-Marie Perret, President of EPSU, stressed in her inauguration speech the tough role facing the new committee. In a time where austerity measures face the public sector in most European countries, developing social dialogue may prove difficult.

TUNED spokesperson and Co-Chair of the Committee, Charles Cochrane, stated in a press release:

This is a huge achievement. At long last, state sector workers and employers have the same rights at EU level as other sectors of the economy. Central government is recognised as a sector in its own right and we will do our best to contribute to its positive development. Amid austerity measures in a majority of EU government administrations, we are facing major common challenges. The Committee will facilitate sharing of information and influence EU initiatives affecting more than seven million employees in central government. It is the beginning of a real social dialogue that will include, no doubt, both formal and informal discussions.

On behalf of EUPAE, Inge Vervotte, the Belgian Minister for Civil Services and Public Enterprise, added:

It is up to us, as representatives of the central government administrations, to turn this committee into the success it can be. Only by a constructive, open minded and respectful social dialogue, can we prove ourselves as a trustworthy and strategic partner at the European level.’

Commentary

This new social dialogue committee is the 40th of its kind. The European Commission set out provisions in 1998 concerning the establishment, representativeness and operation of new sectoral dialogue committees at European level (Commission Decision 98/500/EC (34Kb PDF)). This committee will provide TUNED and EUPAE with the status of social partners and give them the support they need for effective social dialogue at EU level. It will allow employers and trade unions to have a direct sectoral input into EU policies that affect central government administrations.

Michel Albertijn, Tempera

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