Employers' organisations in Europe

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Date of Publication: 04 Abril 2004



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This comparative study examines employers' organisations in the current European Union, two new Member States (Hungary and Slovenia) and Norway. Concentrating on the top-level cross-sectoral organisations ('national employer peak associations') in each country and their affiliates, the study looks at the current situation and recent developments in terms of structures, membership, tasks and responsibilities. It finds that employers' organisations play a crucial role in a variety of fields through collective bargaining, political lobbying and involvement in numerous statutory bodies. Their structure varies considerably - for example, some countries have only a single peak organisation, but others have seven or more - and is often complex. There is no sign of a general trend towards a weakening of employers' willingness to join organisations, and in most countries membership levels appear to be fairly stable. However, many organisations are rationalising tasks and/or membership domains in the face of growing pressure to economise on resources.

Employers' organisations are bodies designed to organise and advance the collective interests that employers have in the labour market. The range and content of such collective interests, as compared with an employer's individual interests, are neither objectively given nor self-evident, but a matter of interpretation. Hence, the structure, membership basis and tasks of employers' organisations differ widely across countries. Large companies especially are able to decide consciously on what labour market interests they wish to pursue individually by themselves, and what interests they want to have represented by employers' organisations. An example of a notably individualistic approach is the USA, where employers' organisations as a means of advancing employer interests are largely negligible. This contrasts with European traditions in which employers' organisations normally have a much stronger role .

Cross-national differences in the existence, form and role of employers' organisations significantly affect national industrial relations practices. A case in point is collective bargaining. Usually, multi-employer bargaining can be institutionalised only when employers' organisations engage in bargaining. For similar reasons, statutory provisions for 'extending' collective agreements to employers not directly bound by them can be used only when the signatory party on behalf of the employer side is an employers' organisation (TN0212102S). In other words, the prevalence of either multi- or single-employer bargaining, as well as the level of collective bargaining coverage, strongly depends on whether employers' organisations exist and on what kind of activities they perform.

It is not only that employers' organisations have an impact on industrial relations systems: there is interdependence, in that they are also influenced by these systems, as comparative empirical research has found (see National labour relations in internationalised markets. A comparative study of institutions, change and performance, F Traxler, S Blaschke and B Kittel, Oxford University Press, 2001). For instance, from a comparative perspective the 'peak-level' structure of employers' associations and of trade unions is interdependent, since the number of the former and of the latter is positively correlated at this level. The density of employers' organisation (in terms of the proportion of all employees employed by member firms) significantly increases with the use of statutory schemes for extending multi-employer agreements to unaffiliated employers, because the practice of extension induces (unaffiliated) employers to join the relevant employers' organisation. Furthermore, the political influence of employers' associations tends to vary with the nature of the bargaining system: there is evidence that employers' organisations - along with their trade union counterparts - enjoy significantly greater rights to participate in public policy-making in a national context of predominant multi-employer bargaining, as compared with a situation where single-employer bargaining prevails (see 'The metamorphoses of corporatism', Franz Traxler, forthcoming in European Journal of Political Research). The reason is that multi-employer bargaining - in stark contrast to bargaining at the level of a single employer - is relevant in macroeconomic terms. This relevance provides a notable incentive for the state to seek the cooperation of the bargaining parties and to incorporate them into public policy matters.

An implication of the above is that employers' organisations may contribute to enhancing a country's economic performance by providing 'public goods'. Such 'goods' include the coordination of bargaining with such economic requirements as employment and price stability, or participation in public schemes in areas such as vocational training.

For all these reasons, employers' organisations - along with trade unions - are also regarded as key players in industrial relations at the level of the European Union, particularly in terms of their participation in the consultation process on possible EU social policy and industrial relations initiatives within the framework of Article 138 of the European Community Treaty. As the European Commission noted in its 2002 report (EU0211207F) on industrial relations in Europe: 'The role of social partners is a key feature of the European social model, which combines a number of values - responsibility, solidarity and participation.'

This comparative study - based on the contributions of the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO) national centres in the current EU Member States, two new Member States joining in May 2004 (Slovenia and Hungary) and Norway - presents:

  • information on the structure of employers' organisations, with special emphasis on cross-sectoral, top-level or 'peak' associations;
  • an overview of the structure of employers' organisations below the peak level, with a focus on the affiliates of the peak organisations;
  • an outline of major developments in organisational structures;
  • quantitative data on the membership level and density of employers' organisations (measured in terms of both companies/establishments and employees);
  • information on the tasks performed by the peak associations and their affiliates; and
  • a summary of the main trends in employers' organisations' tasks and responsibilities.

Definitions and concepts

Business operates in manifold markets, and has correspondingly manifold and complex interests. As a consequence of this complexity, business interest associations often concentrate on one particular market when it comes to representing their members’ collective interests. This implies that not all business interest associations act as employers’ organisations. For the sake of simplicity, we can differentiate between two main categories of markets and related interests: the labour market, in which business has interests vis-à-vis employees; and other ('product') markets, where business has interests in relation to customers and suppliers, which are often other businesses. Employers’ organisations are a special type of a business interest association that is devised to represent its members’ collective interests relating to the labour market and industrial relations. The most important indicator that qualifies a business interest association as an employers’ organisation is the ability and willingness to negotiate collective agreements, directly or indirectly (through member associations) . However, here we also define business interest associations as employers’ organisations if they are involved in other ways of regulating the labour market and industrial relations, such as participation in bipartite or tripartite consultations on such issues.

For the purpose of classification, one can distinguish three main types of business interest associations according to their type and degree of functional specialisation:

  • 'pure' employers’ organisations, which specialise in representing only interests related to the labour market and industrial relations;
  • 'pure' trade associations, which represent only the product market interests of their members; and
  • 'dual' associations, which combine the representation of labour market interests and product market interests.

This study deals only with 'pure' employers’ organisations and dual associations. Furthermore, due to the notable differences between the private and public sector in terms of industrial relations, employers and employer organisation, we exclude from consideration employers’ organisations which solely or predominantly organise public sector entities (ie the public administration and other forms of government services).

The relative importance of labour market and industrial relations matters, as compared with other interests and representational activities, may vary among business interest associations and over time, with the effect that it may sometimes be difficult to identify which business interest associations really act as employers’ organisations. Since there are also notable differences in 'associational' tasks and responsibilities across countries, these difficulties are magnified for the purposes of comparative studies such as the present one. In practice, this means that in some countries certain associations may be seen as 'borderline' cases when it comes to disentangling employers’ organisations from other associations. In such circumstances, an important criterion for classification is whether the association has a special department dealing with labour market and industrial relations matters, since the existence of such a department indicates an association’s substantial involvement in these issues. For the purposes of this study, we thus consider an organisation to be an employers' organisation if it fulfils at least one of the following three criteria:

  • it is able and willing to negotiate collective agreements, directly or indirectly;
  • it is involved in bipartite or tripartite consultations on labour market and industrial relations regulation; and
  • it has a special department dealing with such issues.

The focus of this definition is on functions. It implies that both voluntary and compulsory (ie those where all employers in the membership domain are legally required to be members) associations are covered, provided that they meet one of the above three criteria. This definition is in line with rulings of the European Court of Justice and European Court of Human Rights whereby compulsory membership does not conflict with the principle of freedom of association.

While this study concentrates only on 'pure' employers’ organisations and dual associations, these bodies are so numerous, even in the smaller countries, that empirical research of this kind cannot capture them altogether. In this respect, employers’ associations (and, to an even greater extent, business interest associations in general) differ notably from trade unions. A recent cross-national comparison of countries' principal employers’ confederations and the corresponding trade union confederations found that the affiliates of employers’ confederations significantly outnumber their union counterparts (see Traxler et al, 2001, cited above).

Given the very large number of employers’ organisations, a cross-national comparison is manageable only by concentrating on a certain category of these organisations. We thus focus here on the category that can be seen as most inclusive and important - what we refer to here as 'national employer peak associations' (NEPAs). For the purpose of this study, these associations are defined as follows:

  • they are formally independent, ie they are not subordinate members (affiliates) of another employers’ organisation. Peak associations thus include (a) independent 'membership' associations which organise only companies as members and have no affiliated associations, and (b) independent confederations (ie 'associations of associations') which organise other (lower-level) associations and possibly companies as well;
  • their membership domain must be national (in contrast to provincial or regional) and cross-sectoral. An association’s domain is classified as cross-sectoral if it covers more than one complete two-digit ISIC (International Standard Industrial Classification) area - ie more than one sector. In comparison with previous data series which compare employers’ organisations which cover at least two complete one-digit ISIC sectors across the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries (see Traxler et al, 2001) - and thus exclude narrower associations and focus only on very wide-ranging ones - the current study presents more detailed insight into the 'landscape' of peak employers' associations in Europe; and
  • it must fulfil the tasks of either a 'pure' employers’ organisation or a dual association, in accordance with the definition of an employers’ organisation outlined above.

NEPAs are the most inclusive employers’ organisations in a country, because their membership domain is both national and cross-sectoral. In addition, they are especially important, since - as independent peak bodies - they usually combine and aggregate the manifold interests of a country’s employers. Hence, they come closest to what may be regarded as the associational 'voice' of a country’s employers. However, the other, narrower and lower-level, employers’ organisations also deserve attention. This is because in most EU Member States collective agreements are concluded mainly below peak level, and in particular at the level of the sector or branch (TN0401101F). Therefore, it is primarily the sectoral and branch employers’ organisations that conduct collective bargaining and that are at the heart of industrial relations. For this reason, this study will also give an overview of these organisations. As noted above, their number is very large, and quantitative information on them will thus be confined to the affiliates of the NEPAs.

Organisational structure

NEPAs

Table 1 below gives the number of NEPAs (as defined for the purposes of this study) in each of the 18 countries examined. A list of the full names (and English translations, where relevant) of all the NEPAs referred to in the table is provided in the annex at the end of this study.

The number of NEPAs per country can be used as a measure of the degree of differentiation in national systems of employers' organisation. From a comparative perspective, the most notable feature is that the degree of 'associational differentiation' varies strongly across countries, ranging from a single NEPA (in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the UK) to seven or more (in Portugal, Hungary and Italy). The fact that these two 'extreme' groups each include both small and large countries indicates that - in contrast to what one might expect - the size of a country does not affect its degree of associational differentiation on the employer side.

Table 1. National employer peak associations (NEPAs) in Europe*
. Number of NEPAs Demarcation of NEPAs' membership domain**
General Sector SMEs*** Cooperatives Others
Austria 2 1 1 . . .
Belgium 1 1 . . . .
Denmark 3 1 2 . . .
Finland 4 . 3 1 . .
France 4 1 1 2 . .
Germany 1 1 . . . .
Greece 3 1 1 1 . .
Hungary 8 2 2 3 2 .
Ireland 4 2 1 1 . .
Italy 16 1 6 5 4 .
Luxembourg 1 1 . . . .
Netherlands 3 1 1 1 . .
Norway 5 1 3 . 1 .
Portugal 7 1 5 1 . .
Slovenia 4 2 . 2 . .
Spain 2 1 . 1 . .
Sweden 5 1 1 1 1 1
UK 1 1 . . . .

* Most recent data; for definitions of NEPAs, see above under 'Definitions and concepts'.

** Number per country; due to multiple domain specification the aggregate number of cases broken down by domain does not always equal the number of NEPAs.

*** Including associations which represent craft production.

Source: EIRO.

The existence of more than one NEPA in the majority of countries suggests that even these relatively inclusive associations tend to specialise, either formally or informally, in certain respects. This is confirmed by closer consideration. Table 1 also gives an overview of the criteria used by the NEPAs for specifying their membership domain. There is a common pattern across almost all countries with more than one NEPA: one peak association is general, in that its membership domain is unspecified, whereas the domain of the other NEPA(s) has been narrowed down by specification. Hungary, Slovenia, Ireland and Finland deviate from this pattern. Two general NEPAs exist in Hungary, Slovenia and Ireland. In Finland, a general NEPA in the strict sense is lacking. The Confederation of Finnish Industry and Employers (Teollisuus ja Työnantajat, TT) is relatively inclusive, in that it covers the entire range of manufacturing and construction, while it is open to other businesses which relate to these sectors.

The most frequent criteria used for demarcating the domains of NEPAs are sectoral (in broad terms). With the exception of Slovenia and Spain, all the other countries with multiple NEPAs have at least one peak association which bases its domain on a (broad) sector of activity. The sectors which most frequently have a NEPA specialised in representing their employer interests are: agriculture (Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Norway); services, defined in differing ways (Finland, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Norway); and finance (Denmark, Norway and Sweden).

Aside from sectoral considerations, an important criterion for domain demarcation is firm size. In 10 countries (Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden) separate NEPAs exist for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). A related criterion is craft production. In Italy, four NEPAs combine SMEs and crafts, while another association concentrates on SMEs only. In Slovenia, there are two crafts NEPAs and in France there is one. Other criteria used for domain demarcation include cooperatives (Hungary, Italy, Norway and Sweden), 'industrial methods of organisation' (Italy) and non-profit organisations (Sweden). In Hungary, one NEPA organises both cooperatives and SMEs.

It is important to note that membership specifications are neither clear-cut nor formalised in all cases. In Finland, for instance, TT’s membership rules stipulate that businesses in areas other than manufacturing and construction can join if they relate in some way to these sectors. This leaves room for interpretation and gives rise to 'self-selection' processes within this group of businesses. Informal membership specifications have often evolved in NEPAs in response to other NEPAs and socio-economic change. For example, the Dutch Federation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (Midden- en Kleinbedijf Nederland, MKB-Nederland) does not differ in its formal demarcation from another Dutch NEPA, the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (Vereniging van Nederlandse Ondernemers-Nederlands Christelijke Werksgeversverbond, VNO-NCW). In both cases the membership domain is unspecified in formal terms. In practice, however, MKB-Nederland clearly concentrates on organising and representing SMEs. Since actual membership characteristics determine an association’s profile more than formal demarcations, table 1 refers to the former rather than to the latter when they tend to diverge.

From the perspective of relations between associations, membership domains specified in terms of certain criteria tend to become mutually exclusive. This helps to scale down rivalries among associations. In principle, there are two possible forms of such rivalry: associations may compete for members and/or representational tasks. The differentiation between 'pure' employers' organisations and 'pure' trade associations is a type of 'specialisation by tasks' which results in non-competitive, complementary domains regardless of whether membership domains overlap. Since employers' associations all revolve around the same range of activities, the possibilities of specialisation by tasks are rather limited and specialisation in terms of members becomes all the more important as a means of containing inter-association competition. It is thus not by coincidence that NEPAs have specified their membership domain in all countries with more than one peak association (see table 1). However, this specification is incomplete because in all these cases there is one relatively broad NEPA whose domain more or less overlaps with the other associations that have narrowed down their domain by restricting membership to a particular type of employer.

As a consequence, competition between NEPAs is reported from more than half of the countries under consideration. SMEs are the most contested area, with seven countries (Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal) reporting competition over this group of businesses. Certain segments of the service industries are contested areas in Finland and Norway. Depending on circumstances, inter-associational competition may take various forms. It is most visible when new, rival associations are established at peak level (as in Ireland and Portugal). In Luxembourg and Slovenia, associations which do not appear to meet the definition of a NEPA outlined above have tried to challenge the established association(s). The magnitude of competition varies as well. It is most severe when certain member groups break away from one NEPA, as happened in Ireland (see below). Secession is also possible below peak level, as the case of Norway shows, where employment agencies have moved from the Federation of Norwegian Commercial and Service Enterprises (Handels- og Servicenæringens Hovedorganisasjon, HSH) to the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (Naeringslivets Hovedorganisasjon, NHO).

By comparison, competition for representational tasks is a more widespread as well as a more modest form of rivalry among NEPAs. Although such competition among employers' organisations is rooted in overlapping domains, it may be limited to certain, highly special representational issues, while a well-established division of labour prevails otherwise.

Inter-association competition may occur not only at peak level but also below that level, and may even involve affiliates of the same confederation. For example, a situation of multi-level competition along sectoral lines characterises France, with rivalry between the affiliates of the Movement of French Enterprises (Mouvement des entreprises de France, MEDEF), the General Confederation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (Confédération Générale des Petites et Moyennes Entreprises, CGPME) and the Craftwork Employers' Association (Union professionnelle artisanale, UPA) and also - to a lesser extent - among affiliates belonging to the same NEPA. Competitive relations below peak level may be present even in countries with only one NEPA: for example, while open competition between employers' organisations over members is very rare in Germany, newly emerging industries may spur conflicts over domain demarcation, as happened in the case of temporary employment agencies. Decisions by large companies to move from one employers' association to another have also caused tensions on several occasions, although none of these have resulted in public disputes. This brings us to one key reason for inter-associational competition. Employers' associations organise firms, a group of economic actors which are more competitive in relation to each other than any other actors in society. Taking this into consideration, the fact that inter-associational competition involves relatively limited contested areas (namely SMEs and certain branches of the service sector), implies that employers' organisations have succeeded to a relatively large extent in arriving at non-competitive, complementary domain demarcations.

Organisations below peak level

NEPAs, as defined here, are the employers' organisations which are most encompassing in terms of their membership domain. Below this level, in many countries there are narrower associations which can be divided into two main categories: affiliates of a NEPA; and associations at this lower level which are unaffiliated. For instance in Sweden, unaffiliated employers' organisations have been established for the separate and independent representation of special employer groups, such as newspapers, broadcasting, theatres, Stockholm's local public transport system, the non-profit organisations of the labour movement, hairdressers, the Workers' Education Association (Arbetarnas Bildningsförbund, ABF), and the Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokratiska Arbetarepartiet, SAP). In Austria, the very few employers' organisations which are not under the umbrella of the principal NEPA, the Chamber of the Economy (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, WKÖ), specialise in conducting collective bargaining on behalf of such groups as printing, newspapers, electricity enterprises and regionally demarcated areas of agriculture. These examples indicate that unaffiliated, lower-level employers' organisations tend to represent groups outside the core areas of industry which are covered by the NEPAs and their affiliates. This study concentrates on giving an overview of the NEPAs' affiliates, not least because they are numerous, as outlined below.

Lower-level NEPA affiliates form part of an integrated, multi-level system of employer representation. The number of 'associational levels' (ie the number of layers in the ordered hierarchy of employers' organisations) varies both across countries and across NEPAs within the same country. Looking at the largest NEPA in each country, there are three levels of organisation in the majority of cases, though as many as four or five in some countries (see Traxler et al, 2001, cited above). This elaborate hierarchical ordering often combines with a complex web of interlinked lines of sectoral and territorial differentiation. In the case of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (Bundesvereinigung der deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände, BDA), for example, the pattern is that the branch associations at the level of regions (Länder) are affiliated to both cross-sectoral regional (Länder) associations and sectoral national associations - with the latter also grouping narrower national branch organisations. The 14 cross-sectoral Länder associations and the 54 sectoral national associations are direct members of BDA. Altogether, 688 associations are under the umbrella of BDA. A similar type of dual membership structure characterises Austria's WKÖ. For each of the nine regions (Länder), a special territorial chamber exists. In addition, companies are grouped by branches and sectors into structures which are incorporated into both the Länder chambers as well as into the national WKÖ itself. Within WKÖ nationally, there are 129 sectoral subunits (which are, in turn, are grouped into seven broader sections), and more than 1,200 sectoral subunits exist within the framework of the Länder chambers.

Table 2 below gives the number of associations affiliated to those confederal NEPAs for which figures are available. In interpreting these figures, three points are worth mentioning:

  • lower-level associations may have multiple membership of higher-level associations as a consequence of the complex structure of confederations. In combination with the large number of affiliates, this makes it difficult for even for the confederations to find out how many associations are under their umbrella. Furthermore, the differences among confederations in terms of the number of hierarchical levels translate into differences in what an 'affiliate' means. For a strict cross-national comparison, one might count only those affiliated associations which are direct members of the confederation (see Traxler et al, 2001, cited above). However, this does not document the full range of intra-confederal differentiation. For all these reasons, the figures in table 2 are estimates and may refer to rather different categories of affiliates;
  • associations affiliated to a NEPA are not necessarily employers' organisations. In many confederations, they also include 'pure' trade associations. In particular, this holds true for 'dual' confederations; and
  • employers' confederations often have a 'mixed' membership composition, in that both lower-level associations and companies are registered as direct members. In these cases, table 2 includes the affiliated associations only.
Table 2. Number of associations affiliated to employers' confederations*
Country Confederations** Number of affiliates***
Austria WKÖ 1,329
Belgium FEB/VBO 33
Denmark DA 13
SALA 5
Finland TT 29
PT 13
SY 80
France MEDEF 87
CGPME 400
UPA 4,553
Germany BDA 688
Greece SEV 78
Hungary MGYOSZ 61
MOSZ 24
IPOSZ 300
KISOSZ 22
OKISZ 28
Ireland IBEC 50
CIF 36
Italy Confindustria 258
Confagricoltura 143
Coldiretti 116
Confapi 121
Confcommercio 277
Confesercenti 121
Confartigianato 219
Cna 150
Claai 124
Legacoop 8
Confcooperative 115
Luxembourg UEL 8
Netherlands VNO-NCW 180
MKB-Nederland 500
LTO-Nederland 18
Norway NHO 22
Portugal CIP 42
CCP 104
CAP 331
Spain CEOE 230
Sweden SN 48
UK CBI 150

* Most recent data.

** For full name of confederations, see annex at end of this record.

*** Estimates in some cases.

Source: EIRO.

The number of affiliated associations varies among employers' confederations within countries as well as across countries. As with the number of NEPAs, there is no clear correlation with country size, since confederations may have large numbers of affiliates in some smaller countries (eg Austria and the Netherlands). There are, however, two interesting features to emerge. First, the number of affiliated associations is generally low in all Nordic countries - mainly due to a wave of mergers during the 1980s and 1990s. Second, confederations whose stronghold is SMEs often have a relatively large number of affiliated associations - as with CGPME, MKB-Nederland, the Federation of Finish Enterprises (Suomen Yrittäjät) and UPA. There are two possible explanations for this. On the one hand, SMEs more than their larger counterparts need services provided by their associations, which requires a differentiated organisational structure. On the other hand, such firms may stick to traditional, narrowly-defined demarcations of craft-related business activities, resulting in corresponding associational patterns.

Organisational change

Employers' organisations are not static but dynamic, and have undergone notable organisational changes in several countries since the early 1990s. The most important developments have been the formation of new NEPAs on the one hand, and mergers of existing NEPAs on the other. Changes of the two types are reported from six countries each.

The inclusive domain of NEPAs implies that the emergence of a new organisation often affects and even challenges the membership demarcation of the established NEPA(s). In Ireland this took the form of a split in 1994, when a number of small firm affiliates left the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) to form a separate representative body for SMEs, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME). In Portugal, four new peak associations have been set up, for: SMEs in 1996; tourism in 1996; agriculture in 1995; and fishing in 2000. In all these cases, their potential members were already covered by established NEPAs. The most thoroughgoing changes took place in the former communist accession countries in the course of their transition from old to new regimes. Under the old regime, special organisations existed for distinct categories of enterprises. In both Hungary and Slovenia, these organisations have managed to survive in various ways. New associations have been set up as well. In the case of Slovenia, two new NEPAs were initiated in 1994 by the two established 'chambers' of employers (general and crafts), which believed that the formation of parallel but voluntary employers’ associations - in contrast to the chambers' own status as associations based on obligatory membership - would enhance the legitimacy of representing employer interests in society (SI0211102F). It now seems that the compulsory-membership chambers will in future cease representing employers' interests in collective bargaining (a role which has been much criticised), leaving the field to the voluntary-membership NEPAs. Hungary took a somewhat different route, in that all former organisations representing state-socialist enterprises were re-established as voluntary associations. In addition, two new NEPAs were founded in the late 1980s/early 1990s, of which one still exists as an independent association. Organisational change, however, has not been restricted to the accession countries. Below peak level, new associations have been formed in several countries in response to the emergence of new sectors.

Mergers of NEPAs over the past decade or so have had two main purposes - the rationalisation of tasks and of membership.

Rationalisation of tasks means ending separate representation of labour market interests and product market interests by bringing 'pure' employer peak associations and 'pure' trade peak associations into the common organisational framework of a 'dual' association at top level. In three countries (Finland, Ireland and Sweden), the most inclusive employer peak association has thus merged with its trade association counterpart. The 'dual' associations resulting from this are TT (formed in 1992), IBEC (1993) and the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) (2001 - SE0105199N).

Rationalisation of membership aims to create a larger association and/or to overcome domain overlaps between contiguous associations. The Dutch VNO-NCW and MKB-Nederland, as well as the Confederation of Hungarian Employers and Industrialists (Munkaadok es Gyariparosok Orszagos Szövetsege, MGYOSZ), came into being as the result of mergers of existing NEPAs, in 1997, 1995 and 1998 respectively (similar moves are afoot in Finland in 2004 - FI0403201N). The rationalisation of both tasks and membership were combined in the case of the creation of the HSH in Norway in 1990. HSH resulted from a merger among several narrower associations, both pure employers’ organisations and pure trade associations.

Rationalisation processes have also taken place also at the levels below the peak associations. This includes mergers of pure trade associations and pure employers' organisations in the same sector, as well as mergers of employers' associations representing neighbouring sectors. Aside from the Nordic countries mentioned above, a notable number of mergers at those lower levels are reported from Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.

One important reason for these organisational rationalisations is that employers' associations have been under pressure to economise on resources. This is caused by growing inter-firm competition which has forced companies to curb costs, including their membership dues to associations. In response to these pressures, some NEPAs in countries such as Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Sweden have launched major reforms aimed at cutting budgets, membership dues and/or staff to a notable extent since the early 1990s. Likewise, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has cut over 10% of its staff, albeit for different reasons (ie a financial shortfall due to falling share prices pushing up the cost of pension provision).

Membership developments

With the notable exceptions of two countries where there is compulsory membership of some employers' bodies (Austria and Slovenia), employers' organisations in all the countries examined have been set up as voluntary organisations which recruit their members and maintain membership records independently. Partly as a consequence of this autonomy (which most employers' organisations share with their trade union counterparts) in only a minority of countries is employers' organisations' membership documented in official statistics. Consequently, if available at all, figures on absolute or relative membership are mostly based on self-reported data from NEPAs. In many countries NEPAs and their affiliates hesitate to publish membership records on a regular basis for two major reasons. First, in many countries companies' actual membership is of lower-level employers' organisations and it would require much time and effort to collect data from dozens or even hundreds of NEPA-affiliated organisations. Second, data on membership are politically important and often contested in public debates.

Table 3 sets out what data are available on this point. The table mostly (if not indicated differently) gives details of membership for individual NEPAs or groups of specified NEPAs, rather than overall NEPA membership data for entire countries. Gaps in the data exist especially in those countries with multiple NEPAs. Countries are not listed if either there is no data available at all or if data is available but the sources are deemed too opaque to be reported in this study. Due to overlapping membership domains and in some countries even multiple membership, whereby a company might be member (directly or indirectly) of more than one NEPA, percentage figures within one country do not add up to a national membership rate.

Out of those countries which report a general membership trend since 1990 (see table 3), six indicate a fairly stable situation, in some cases even including a slight increase in membership, while in another two countries employers' organisation membership has grown more continuously. In three countries, membership has declined somewhat (although at differing paces in different countries) and in another two countries there have been diverse trends affecting different NEPAs

Table 3. NEPA membership levels (most recent data available)
Country NEPA* Membership as % of companies Membership as % of employees General membership trend since 1990
Austria WKÖ 100 100 Very stable
Belgium FEB/VBO 85-90 (1) nd Very stable
Denmark DA, SALA and FA (5) nd 52 (3) Stable/slight increase
Finland TT 7 66 No clear trend
PT 12 54 Increasing
Germany BDA nd nd Declining
Ireland IBEC nd 60 (2) (4) nd
Italy Confagricoltura 30 (3) nd Stable
Coldiretti 25 (3) nd
Cia 38 (3) nd
Confindustria 3 (3) 51 (3)
Confapi 2 (3) 23 (3)
Confetra 41 (3) 56 (3)
Confcommercio 56 (3) nd
Confesercenti 18 (3) 31 (3)
Confartigianato 16 (3) nd
Cna 11 (3) nd
Claai 5 (3) nd
Legacoop 14 35
Confcooperative 22 39
Unci 8 11
Agci 7 nd
Luxembourg UEL nd 80 Stable, slight increase
Netherlands VNO-NCW nd approx 90 Stable
Norway NHO, HSH, FA, SamFo and LA nd 58 (2) Increasing
Slovenia OZS 100 100 Very stable
GZS 100 100 Very stable
ZDS 2 (3) 35 (3) Mostly decline
ZDODS 21 (3) 12 (3) nd
Spain CEOE and CEPYME 75 (3) nd Increasing
UK CBI 13 (2) <42 (2) Slow decline

* For full name of confederations, see annex at end of this record.

(1) estimate by employers' organisation representative; (2) estimate by researcher; (3) based on self-reported data from the NEPAs; (4) of labour force excluding agriculture; (5) membership data refer to the entire country.

Source: EIRO.

A small number of NEPAs have gender-related membership structures. The Austrian WKÖ, the Dutch Organisation for Agriculture and Horticulture (Land en Tuinbouw Organisatie Nederland, LTO) and the Italian Confcommercio, Confartigianato, Coldiretti and Confcooperative maintain special units, departments or committees representing female entrepreneurs. Although there are no such formal structures of interest representation within the NEPAs in Germany and Portugal, there exist associations representing the interests of female entrepreneurs which are considered to be trade associations. As in the case of Germany, these organisations maintain close relationships with the NEPA. In a number of other countries, NEPAs pursue gender-related initiatives which, however, have not yet resulted in the creation of any formalised structures.

Tasks and responsibilities of NEPAs

NEPAs have a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. There is a small core of issues which are on the agenda of almost all NEPAs, plus a broad range of additional tasks which are within the scope of at least some associations. In total, the field of activity of NEPAs includes almost 20 different tasks and employer functions. However, three core areas of activity may be identified, which are pursued by NEPAs in almost all countries covered by this study:

  • with the exception of the UK, NEPAs in all countries are involved in bipartite or tripartite 'corporatist' institutions;
  • political lobbying on various issues, most prominently in the field of the labour market, industrial relations, welfare and economic policy, are on the agenda of all NEPAs; and
  • with the exception of Luxembourg and UK (no information is available for Portugal), all NEPAs are involved in collective bargaining, either by way of directly negotiating collective agreements with trade unions or by coordinating the bargaining activities of their affiliates. The degree of involvement varies in line with the key characteristics of national systems of collective bargaining, but also with the distribution of power between NEPAs and their affiliated employers' organisations

Tasks which only small numbers of NEPAs have on their agenda include: policies for the protection of the environment (Luxembourg); direct dispute settlement (Denmark); programmes for research and development (Austria, Ireland, Norway and Slovenia); and taxation (Hungary, Ireland). By their nature, dual associations which are both employers' and trade associations are involved in a wider range of tasks than pure employers' associations. However, as noted, the range of NEPAs' activities also depends on the specific distribution of powers and responsibilities between them and the employers' organisations which are affiliated to them.

Collective bargaining prerogatives

The relationship between NEPAs and their member associations in the field of collective bargaining is determined to some degree by the formal provisions of the various organisations' constitutions, but also by less formal factors such as power resources, access to information, long-established routines and informal agreements between employers' leaders at different levels. Because informal practices are difficult to analyse and to compare, here we focus mainly on NEPAs' formal rights vis-à-vis their affiliates. It should be noted, however, that the bargaining prerogatives of employers' organisations are not identical with the general degree of centralisation of collective bargaining or the level of bargaining coordination, because the latter are not unilaterally determined by employers' strategic behaviour but are also determined by trade unions' efforts and capacities for bargaining coordination/centralisation.

In 10 of the 18 countries considered (Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK) affiliated employers' organisations enjoy fairly substantial autonomy and therefore operate independently of their NEPAs, so that the emphasis of employers' interest representation in this field is at the level of the affiliates rather than at the NEPA level. The lower-level employers' organisations' autonomy in collective bargaining - one of the core fields of employers' activities - manifests itself through a lack of formal powers for NEPAs over their affiliates. Most of the Italian NEPAs, for example, usually do not bargain at sectoral level and do not have the power to veto the agreements negotiated by their affiliates (it should be mentioned, however, that informal practices often deviate from this rule). While affiliates of the Finnish TT are required to inform the peak association on collective bargaining issues, TT itself has no formal bargaining prerogative. Agreements signed by TT are recommendations only and only its member associations can enter into binding agreements. However, any lock-outs initiated by an affiliate must be submitted for approval to TT, which has the right to impose a lock-out itself. The Austrian case is special, as WKÖ applies the 'subsidiarity' principle, whereby matters should be dealt with by the unit closest to the member companies affected. Collective bargaining is mostly within the domain of WKÖ's member organisations.

By contrast, in a number of countries (Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Norway and Slovenia), the NEPAs' formal power vis-à-vis their affiliates is more substantial. This includes the right either to negotiate collective agreements directly or to impose certain bargaining goals on their affiliates. Norway's NHO, for example, is party to all agreements entered by its affiliates, administers a central conflict fund and also has far-reaching powers over its affiliates. Thus, affiliated associations cannot conclude an agreement or enter an industrial conflict without NHO's approval. In Slovenia, the NEPAs directly organise companies and thus do not have to share power and responsibilities with lower-level employers' organisations, while the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) directly signs sectoral collective agreements which are binding for its member associations. In Ireland, NEPAs' powers vis-à-vis their affiliates different among the four peak federations, with no general trend emerging.

While the formal distribution of powers and competences between NEPAs and affiliated organisations sets a framework within which actual policies are formulated and pursued, it should be noted that in some cases informal practices and routines also affect the relationship between peak associations and their respective affiliates. For example, in the case of the Netherlands, NEPAs' formal powers over their affiliates are rather weak but the former have quite an effective system of 'soft' coordination of collective bargaining.

Representation on statutory bodies

In the majority of cases, representation on various statutory bodies is in the domain of the NEPAs rather than of their affiliates. As shown in table 4 below, employers enjoy formal representation on such bodies in almost all of the 18 countries examined. While in most cases participation in such structures is formalised and NEPAs are officially recognised as members of these bodies, employers in the UK are appointed as competent individuals rather than as official representatives of an employers' association.

The statutory bodies on which employers' representatives sit may be bipartite, tripartite or have a wider membership. They may have an advisory, consultative or even negotiating/standard-setting role. Their remit may be general - as with the Belgian CNT/NAR, Greece's OKE, Hungary's OÉT, Italy's Cnel or the Dutch SER and STAR - or relate to specific issues - often social security (as in France, Germany, Greece and Italy), aspects of pay and incomes policy (as in Finland and Norway) or bargaining/industrial relations issues (as in Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg).

Table 4. NEPAs' involvement in statutory bodies*
Country Statutory bodies concerned**
Austria Numerous statutory 'corporatist' boards.
Belgium National Labour Council (Conseil National du Travail/Nationale Arbeidsraad, CNT/NAR); various bodies at sectoral and regional level.
Denmark DA: 26 statutory bodies under the auspices of the Ministry of Employment alone. SALA: 27 committees under the auspices of several ministries. FA: committees related to the financial sector.
Finland Economic Council (Talousneuvosto); Incomes Policy Settlement Commission (Tulopoliittinen selvitystoimikunta). TT: participation in 300 further bodies. PT: participation in close to 250 bodies.
France National Union for Employment in Trade and Industry (Union nationale pour l'emploi dans l'industrie et le commerce, UNEDIC) unemployment insurance fund. UPA: social security fund-holding bodies.
Germany Parity committee for the extension of collective agreements (Ausschuss zur Allgemeinverbindlichkeit von Tarifverträgen); administrative boards of the three systems of social security; representation in labour courts and public broadcasting (Rundfunkrat).
Greece Competition Commission; Capital Market Committee; Regulatory Authority for Energy; Supreme Labour Council; Labour Inspectorate; Economic and Social Council (OKE); Mediation and Arbitration Service (OMED); Social Insurance Foundation (IKA);Labour Force Employment Organisation (OAED); Workers' Welfare Foundation (OEE); Workers' Housing Organisation (OEK); committees in several ministries.
Hungary National Interest Reconciliation Council (Országos Érdekegyeztető Tanács, OÉT).
Ireland IBEC: Labour Relations Commission (LRC); Joint Labour Committees (JLC); National Economic and Social Council (NESC); National Economic and Social Forum (NESF); National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP); and representation in Labour Court and over 80 different institutions and committees. CCI: involved in NESC and NESF.
Italy National Council for Economic Affairs and Labour (Consiglio Nazionale dell’Economia e del Lavoro, Cnel); social security boards; several consultative committees established at the level of ministries.
Luxembourg Tripartite Coordinating Committee (Comité de coordination tripartite); Economic and Social Council (Conseil économique et social); National Credit and Investment Society (Société nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement); National Conciliation Office (Office National de Conciliation).
Netherlands Numerous statutory bodies; Social and Economic Council (Sociaal-Economische Raad, SER); Labour Foundation (Stichting van de Arbeid, STAR).
Norway Technical Calculating Committee on Income Settlements (Teknisk Beregningsutvalg for Inntektsoppgjørene, TBU); Contact Committee on Incomes Policy (Regjeringens kontaktutvalg for inntektsoppgjørene); National Wage Board (Rikslønnsnemnda); representation on several other committees and bodies.
Portugal CAP, CIP, CCP and CTP: Economic and Social Council (Conselho Económico e Social, CES); Standing Committee for Social Concertation (Comissão Permanente de Concertação Social, CPCS).
Slovenia Economic and Social Council (Ekonomsko socialni svet Slovenije, ESSS); managing board of the Employment Agency; assembly of Agency for Pension and Disability Insurance; assembly of Agency for Health Insurance; Joint Consultative Committee EU-Slovenia; Executive Committee ICC-Slovenia; Radio and Television Board.
Spain Economic and Social Council (Consejo Económico y Social, CES); National Institute of Employment (Instituto Nacional de Empleo, INEM); State Commission for Continuing Training (Comisión Estatatal para la Formación Continua, CEFC); representation in more than 40 national commissions and institutions
Sweden Labour Court; authorities involved in the mediation process and occupational accidents/illnesses; representation in ad hoc public committees (eg on working time).
UK Participation of individual employers' representatives in the Low Pay Commission (LPC), Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE), but no formalised representation.

* In most countries, cases of NEPAs' involvement in statutory bodies are so numerous that not all can be listed here. Thus, the table lists only the most important cases and indicates the general fields of activity where such involvement occurs.

** The names of specific NEPAs are given only when there is a clear indication that not all NEPAs in a specific country participate in a certain statutory body or general field of involvement.

Source: EIRO.

Table 4 lists representation in the most important statutory bodies only, but even from these selected cases it appears that NEPAs are involved in many aspects of economic and social life. However, there are two major cases where NEPAs have systematically scaled back their involvement in a number of such representative bodies. In 2001, France's MEDEF decided to withdraw from the direct management of the country's jointly-run social security fundholding bodies (FR0012109N and FR0107167N) and was followed by CGPME. During the 1990s, the predecessor of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (the Swedish Employers' Confederation, Svenska Arbetsgivareföreningen) formally withdrew from boards and other government bodies in an effort to distance itself from what was considered to be 'excessive corporatism'. However, little has changed in practice since many NEPA officials have continued to serve on governing bodies, but now as personal representatives (see 'Disappearance of social partnership in Sweden during the 1990s and its sudden reappearance in late 1998', Victor Pestoff, ECPR, 1999).

European coordination of employers' activities

Representation of NEPAs' interests at the European level is mainly conducted through membership of the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE) in the case of NEPAs of general scope or, in the case of NEPAs representing the interests of SMEs, the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME). The NEPAs with a sectoral ambit will often be members of the relevant European sectoral employer/business federations.

As a consequence of the deepening of European integration some NEPAs have intensified their European-level activities. While it is quite common for larger employers' organisations, in particular, to maintain their own liaison offices in Brussels, the case of Hungary is unusual, in that employers have decided to coordinate their bilateral and multilateral activities at the European level. In January 1999, all NEPAs created the Confederation of Hungarian Employers' Organisations for International Cooperation (Magyar Munkaadói Szervezetek Nemzetközi Együttműködési Szövetsége, CEHIC), in order to coordinate relations with the EU as well as with the European and international economic and employers' organisations.

Changes in agenda and role

Aside from European and transnational coordination of employers' activities, even at home many NEPAs have felt the growing importance of EU issues in recent times and devoted more attention to them. This has, for example, been particularly true of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, which campaigned in support of joining EU Economic and Monetary Union in the run-up to a referendum in 2003 (SE0309101F). In several other countries, such as Austria and the UK, employers' organisations have given considerable emphasis to political lobbying over EU issues.

Major changes in the agendas of some employers' associations have occurred with regard to collective bargaining. In four countries (Denmark, Hungary, Sweden and the UK) NEPAs and their affiliates have been faced with a significant decentralisation of bargaining structures in recent decades. In the UK, a shift away from multi-employer bargaining was completed in the 1980s, while decentralisation has occurred more recently in the other countries. During the 1990s, a substantial part of bargaining power moved from the intersectoral to the sectoral level in Denmark, and most agreements are now negotiated at the latter level, many of them by the Confederation of Danish Industries (Dansk Industri, DI). In structural terms, this shift in competences was accompanied by a process of 'centralised decentralisation' which moved financial resources from the DA employers' confederation to its affiliates and also led to massive merger activity among the sectoral employers' organisations. However, a 'climate agreement' signed in 1999 by DA and the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO) re-established the influence of these central bodies. It provides for DA and LO to play a coordinating role in bargaining, while underlining that it is their sectoral affiliates that negotiate collective agreements. Moreover, DA affiliates in practice follow common binding procedures in bargaining and DA must formally approve agreements reached by affiliates. A similar shift in bargaining competences from the intersectoral to the sectoral level occurred in Sweden, where in 1991 SAF (now the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise) withdrew from central pay bargaining and passed responsibility in this area to its affiliates. Finally, in Hungary decentralisation has taken the form of a disintegration of sectoral (multi-employer) bargaining since the mid-1990s (HU0401103F). While some bargaining coordination still occurs through the national-level tripartite forum as well as through sectoral-level bipartite social dialogue structures, sponsored by the EU's PHARE programme (HU0212106F), these initiatives have not yet been able to compensate for the decline of sectoral bargaining.

In some other countries, by contrast, collective bargaining has been (re)centralised in the relatively recent past. For example as a result of pressure by the government, there has been a return to national intersectoral agreements in Belgium since the 1980s, leading to more emphasis being given to the role of the FEB/VBO employers' confederation. In Ireland, IBEC has seen its role in national bargaining gradually expand under successive social partnership agreements.

Finally, an interesting development in Germany is of employers' associations offering their members the opportunity to opt out of collective bargaining coverage. Several affiliates of BDA offer companies what is known as 'Ohne Tarifbindung' (OT) status, which provides firms with a full range of services but relieves them from the duty of having to comply with the standards set by a industry-wide collective agreement (DE0212202F). In Norway, employers' organisations traditionally have a number of members that are not covered by collective agreements. In recent years, the proportion of members not covered by agreements has increased, although this is not seen as a strategy by the employers' organisations to undermine collective agreements.

Debates on employers' representation

Overall, there is little public debate on issues of employers' interest representation or on the development of employers' organisations, though with some exceptions.

In some countries the membership strength or representativeness of employers' organisations has been a subject of debate, in the context of collective bargaining and the extension of collective agreements (ie making them binding on non-signatories). In the Netherlands, the legislation on the extension of collective agreements (NL0211104F) provides that, for a sectoral agreement to be extended, the signatory employers' organisation(s) must represent firms employing at least 55%-60% of the sectoral workforce. This law has been criticised on the grounds that it contributes to establishing rigid labour market rules, and gives employers' organisations undue power over non-member companies (often new firms). Germany has recently seen considerable public debate over the role of employers' associations, as well as trade unions, in industry-wide collective bargaining (DE0312202F). There have been calls - particularly from the ranks of the Christian Democratic Union (Christlich Demokratische Partei, CDU)/Christian Social Union (Christlich Soziale Union, CSU) opposition parties in parliament, but also from the Confederation of German Industries (Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Industrie, BDI) - for the deregulation of sectoral bargaining in general, and for a strengthening of the role of company management vis-à-vis sectoral employers' associations in particular.

In Slovenia, there has been vocal criticism of the system of mandatory company membership of the chambers of industry and crafts (GZS and OZS) (SI0211102F), and of these chambers' role in collective bargaining, which is now likely to cease in future (SI0212101F). The role of employers has also been subject to debate within the framework of a PHARE programme on 'enhancement and development of the social dialogue'. Employers' organisations' representativeness has also been an issue in Hungary, particularly in relation to their representation in national-level tripartite concertation. In addition, trade unions have criticised the decentralised character of employers' organisation. Due to this decentralisation, unions argue, many employers' organisations lack a mandate to conclude binding collective agreements on behalf of their members.

Commentary

Since this study essentially provides a 'snapshot', or cross-section, of the current situation with regard to employers' organisations across Europe, and not an analysis over time, it is hard to detect trends. However, several patterns can be identified. Above all, the findings of the study highlight the fact that employers' associations play a crucial role in a variety of fields. NEPAs and their affiliates have (in most countries) an essential function in multi-employer collective bargaining and in bargaining coordination, they pursue political lobbying in a variety of fields, and through their involvement in numerous statutory bodies they participate in shaping various aspects of social and economic life. Employers' collective interest representation is based on a fairly complex web of associational structures, whereby national peak federations are connected to up to five tiers of lower-level associations. At national level, the degree of differentiation between peak associations ranges from those countries with a single NEPA to those countries with seven NEPAs or more. It is striking that, despite this considerable complexity of employers' organisations' tasks and structures, serious rivalries among these associations occur rarely. As a closer analysis of representational structures at the level of the NEPAs reveals, the specification of organisational domains contributes substantially to limiting competition among associations and thus reducing arenas of contestation.

The study indicates that there is no clear taxonomy which is suitable for differentiating between types or groups of national systems of employers' representation. While the various national systems of employers' interest representation can be classified in terms of some of their specific aspects and dimensions - such as the peak-level system of representation, the stability of membership or the type of organisational change - there appears to be no overall rationale enabling the identification of groups of countries or patterns common to a number of countries (in the same way as academic research has classified welfare states or trade unions). For example, countries with a single peak employers' association (Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the UK) show remarkably different patterns in terms of their general membership development: while organisations in Germany and the UK have been losing members since the early 1990s, membership in Belgium and Luxembourg has displayed a high level of stability.

Amalgamations and the creation of new NEPAs have allowed employers in a number of countries to adjust their national forms of collective interest representation. There is no sign of a general trend towards a weakening of employers' associability (ie their willingness to join organisations) - in the majority of countries for which data are available, employers' organisation membership levels appear to be fairly stable. In terms of public debates on employers' associations, there is little indication of any general questioning of their representativeness. Employers' organisations, however, are less consolidated in Hungary and Slovenia, the two new EU Member States included in this study. While mandatory membership of 'chambers' has so far helped to maintain a high level of formal representation in Slovenia, voluntary employers' association membership in both countries is in decline and organisational representation is becoming more fragmented in some areas. Future research will be required to discover whether this trend holds for employers' associations in other accession countries as well.

Finally, intensifying competition among firms has put employers' organisations under growing pressure to economise on resources. This has been achieved by rationalisation of tasks and/or membership domains. (Martin Behrens, Institute for Economic and Social Research, and Franz Traxler, University of Vienna)

Annex

National employer peak associations in the 18 countries examined
ÁFEOSZ National Federation of Consumer Cooperatives (Általános Fogyasztási Szövetkezetek Országos Szövetsége) (Hungary)
Agci General Association of Italian Cooperatives (Associazione Generale Cooperative Italiane)
AMSZ Union of Agrarian Employers (Agrár Munkáltatók Szövetsége) (Hungary)
Arbetsgivaralliansen Swedish Employers' Alliance (Arbetsgivaralliansen)
BAO Employers' Organisation of Swedish Banking Institutions (Bankinstitutens Arbetsgivarorganisation)
BDA Confederation of German Employers' Associations (Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände)
CAP Confederation of Portuguese Farmers (Confederação da Agricultura Portuguesa)
Casartigiani Independent Confederation of Artisans' Organisations (Confederazione Autonoma Sindacati Artigiani)
CBI Confederation of British Industry
CCI Chamber of Commerce Ireland
CCP Confederation of Portuguese Services and Commerce (Confederação do Comércio e Servicos de Portugal)
CEOE Spanish Confederation of Employers' Organisations (Confederación Española de Organizaciones Empresariales)
CEPYME Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (Confederación Española de la Pequeña y Mediana Empresa)
CGPME General Confederation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (Confédération Générale des Petites et Moyennes Entreprises) (France)
Cia Confederation of Italian Farmers (Confederazione italiana agricoltori)
CIF Construction Industry Federation (Ireland)
CIP Confederation of Portuguese Industry (Confederação da Indústria Portuguesa)
Claai Confederation of Italian Free Crafts Associations (Confederazione delle Libere Associazioni Artigiane Italiane)
CMPME Confederation of Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (Confederação das Micro, Pequenas e Médias Empresas)(Portugal)
Cna National Confederation for the Craft Sector and Small and Medium Enterprise (Confederazione Nazionale dell'Artigianato e della Piccola e Media Impresa) (Italy)
CNA National Confederation of Agriculture (Confederação Nacional da Agricultura) (Portugal)
Coldiretti Coldiretti (agriculture, Italy)
Confagricoltura General Confederation of Italian Agriculture (Confederazione Generale dell’Agricoltura Italiana)
Confapi Italian Confederation of Small and Medium-sized Industry (Confederazione italiana della piccola e media industria)
Confartigianato General Italian Confederation of Artisans (Confederazione Generale Italiana dell’Artigianato)
Confcommercio General Italian Confederation of Commerce and Tourism (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Commercio e del Turismo)
Confcooperative Confederation of Italian Cooperatives (Confederazione Cooperative Italiane)
Confesercenti Italian Confederation of Commerce, Tourism and Service Activities (Confederazione italiana esercenti attività commerciali, turistiche e dei servizi)
Confetra Italian General Confederation of Transport and Logistics (Confederazione Generale Italiana dei Trasporti e della Logistica)
Confindustria General Confederation of Italian Industry (Confederazione Generale dell'Industria Italiana)
Confservizi Confservizi (local public services, Italy)
CORPA Confederation of Artisanal Fishing Representative Organisations (Confederação das Organizações Representativas da Pesca Artesanal) (Portugal)
CTP Portuguese Confederation of Tourism (Confederação do Turismo Português)
DA Danish Employers' Confederation (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening)
ESEE National Confederation of Greek Traders
FA Danish Employers' Association for the Financial Sector (Finanssektorens Arbejdsgiverforening)
FA Norwegian Employers' Association for the Financial Sector (Finansnæringen Arbeidsgiverforening)
FEB/VBO Federation of Belgian Enterprises (Fédération des Entreprises de Belgique/Verbond van Belgische Ondernemingen)
FNSEA National Federation of Farmers’ Unions (Fédération nationale des syndicats d’exploitants agricoles, FNSEA) (France)
GSEVEE General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Trades
GZS Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia (Gospodarska zbornica Slovenije)
HSH Federation of Norwegian Commercial and Service Enterprises (Handels- og Servicenæringens Hovedorganisasjon)
IBEC Irish Business and Employers Confederation
IPOSZ National Association of Industrial Corporations (Ipartestületek Országos Szövetsége)
ISME Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association
IV Federation of Austrian Industry (Industriellenvereinigung, IV)
KFO Cooperative Movement Bargaining Organisation (Kooperationens förhandlingsorganisation) (Sweden)
KISOSZ National Federation of Traders and Caterers (Kereskedök és Vendéglátok Országos Érdekképviseleti Szövetsége) (Hungary)
LA Union of Agricultural Employers' Associations (Landbrukets Arbeidsgiverforening) (Norway)
Legacoop Lega nazionale delle cooperative e mutue (cooperatives, Italy)
LTO Dutch Organisation for Agriculture and Horticulture (Land- en Tuinbouw Organisatie Nederland)
MEDEF Movement of French Enterprises (Mouvement des Entreprises de France)
MGYOSZ Confederation of Hungarian Employers and Industrialists (Munkaadók és Gyáriparosok Országos Szövetsége)
MKB Dutch Federation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (Midden- en Kleinbedrijf Nederland)
MOSZ National Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives and Producers (Mezögazdasági Szövetkezök és Termelök Országos Szövetsége) (Hungary)
MTL Federation of Agricultural Employers (Maaseudun Työnantajaliitto) (Finland)
NHO Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (Naeringslivets Hovedorganisasjon)
OKISZ Hungarian Industrial Association (Magyar Iparszövetség)
OZS Chamber of Crafts of Slovenia (Obrtna zbornica Slovenije)
PT Employers' Confederation of Service Industries (Palvelutyönantajat) (Finland)
SALA Danish Confederation of Employers' Associations in Agriculture (Sammenslutningen af Landbrugets Arbejdsgiverforeninger)
SamFo Samvirkeforetakenes Forhandlingsorganisasjon (cooperatives, Norway)
SEV Federation of Greek Industries
Sinf Swedish Industry Association (Svensk Industriförening)
SN Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv)
SY Federation of Finnish Enterprises (Suomen Yrittäjät)
TT Confederation of Finnish Industry and Employers (Teollisuus ja Työnantajat)
UEL Union of Luxembourg Enterprises (Union des entreprises luxembourgeoises)
Unci National Union of Italian Cooperatives (Unione Nazionale Cooperative Italiane)
UPA Craftwork Employers' Association (Union professionnelle artisanale) (France)
VNO-NCW Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (Vereniging van Nederlandse Ondernemers-Nederlands Christelijke Werksgeversverbond)
VOSZ National Association of Entrepreneurs and Employers (Vállalkozók és Munkáltatók Országos Szövetsége) (Hungary)
WKÖ Chamber of the Economy (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich) (Austria)
ZDODS Slovenian Employers' Association of Crafts (Zdruzenje delodajalcev obrtnih dejavnosti Slovenije)
ZDS Association of Employers of Slovenia (Združenje delodajalcev Slovenije)
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