Commission publishes Green Paper on new forms of work organisation

In April 1997, the Commission released a Green Paper on New forms of work organisation. The purpose is to stimulate a European debate on how competitiveness and employment opportunities can be improved through new forms of work organisation based on high skill, high trust and high quality.

The Green Paper focuses on three questions:

  • why a new organisation of work and how?
  • what are the policy challenges of new forms of work organisation? and
  • is it possible to establish a new partnership for a more productive, participative and learning organisation of work?

The European Commission argues that traditional forms of work organisation, based on the ideas of industrial mass production, have been increasingly challenged over the past 20-30 years, and a number of attempts have been made to modernise existing systems to respond to the needs of the market and the advance of technology. The management of human resources is an increasingly important element of a competitive strategy in an environment of high-quality production. The Commission has long highlighted the need for an increasing emphasis on education and lifelong learning in its European competitiveness and employment strategies.

The Green Paper argues that the policy challenges can essentially be summed up in one question: how to reconcile security for workers with the flexibility which firms need? The Commission is therefore seeking to encourage debate between the social partners and public authorities across the areas of social, employment, education and taxation policy to address the following issues:

  • how can the necessary training and retraining be organised to ensure that the workforce meets the increasing needs for skills and competence?
  • how to adapt social legislation to take account of new employment trends?
  • how to change wage systems along with the organisational structures on which they are based?
  • how to adapt working time arrangements in the light of the new situation?
  • how to take advantage of new employment trends with regard to equal opportunities?
  • how to develop more flexible organisations in the public services? and
  • how to provide adequate support to firms, in particular small firms, which wish to change, but lack the resources or expertise to do so.

The Green Paper repeatedly underlines the importance of consultation, participation and partnership between the social partners and public authorities in order to develop a successful framework for the organisation of work. The Paper was presented to a conference organised by the Dutch presidency on 28-29 April, while The Standing Committee on Employment was due to discuss it on 29 May and a number of national seminars exploring its themes are planned in the course of the year. The consultation process will continue until November 1997 and the Commission is particularly keen to learn from existing experiences and good practice in the area of work organisation. The themes of the Green Paper will be explored further in forthcoming records.

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