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This report analyses recent developments and emerging practices in collective bargaining processes and outcomes, mainly in the private sector. The report covers collective bargaining systems in 10 EU Member States and is based on cases identified through interviews with key stakeholders and negotiating parties at national level. It analyses the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic and social crisis on collective bargaining dynamics and collective agreements. It also investigates practices and innovations that have emerged in response to structural drivers such as technological change, decarbonisation and climate-neutrality policies, and workforce ageing. It assesses the capacity of collective bargaining systems to adapt to structural changes in work, production and the labour market as well as medium-term trends.

Key findings

Collective bargaining is essential to the EU’s social market economy and can play an important role in adapting the economy to change. This is especially relevant for long-term challenges such as the digital transformation, the ageing workforce and climate change, where collective bargaining has a strong potential to generate innovative practices and provisions in negotiations between employers and workers’ representatives.

The findings reveal that innovations in collective bargaining tend to be incremental and limited, mostly involving the updating of processes and topics in response to change. There is potential therefore for the social partners to harness collective bargaining as a way to develop new practices.

The digital transition is one of the most important drivers of change in collective bargaining, with provisions regulating telework now widespread and those covering the implementation of technology in the workplace becoming more commonplace.

As technological change has a direct impact on skills and job requirements, collective bargaining is increasingly addressing reskilling through training policies. In some cases, collective bargaining is anticipating future reorganisation and mitigating the impact of job losses. Provisions are also addressing labour shortages, which are becoming increasingly common.

Strong institutions, skilled actors and shared perceptions of the challenges in a sector or company are essential to facilitate innovative practices and provisions in collective bargaining. A previous track record of cooperation, reflected in the ability to conclude collective agreements, is particularly important.

The report contains the following tables and graph.

  • Table 1: Collective bargaining systems included in the study, grouped by predominant level
  • Table 2: A typology of emerging practices and provisions linked to drivers of change in collective agreements
  • Figure 1: Estimated collective bargaining coverage (%) and predominant level of agreements, EU27, 2019
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