Social partners reach draft agreement on part-time work

A draft European-level agreement on part-time work was reached by ETUC, UNICE and CEEP on 14 May 1997. Padraig Flynn, the commissioner for employment, industrial relations and social affairs, has welcomed the deal as a positive step towards Social Europe and a reminder of the important role played by the social partners.

The negotiating teams representing the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE), the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and of Enterprises of General Economic Interest (CEEP) reached a draft framework agreement on part-time work in the evening of 14 May 1997.

The European social partners had started negotiations on 21 October 1996, with the aim of reaching a European intersectoral framework agreement on part-time work. The negotiations were based on the Agreement on Social Policy annexed to the Maastricht Treaty and followed two rounds of consultations with the Commission.

Welcoming the draft accord reached by the social partners, social affairs Commissioner Flynn expressed his satisfaction that the draft text "catered for the main issues raised by the Commission when it launched the consultations under the Social Protocol". These issues were primarily concerned with the need to eradicate discrimination against part-time workers and to improve their working conditions. At the same time, the Commission was keen to ensure that any regulation would not stand in the way of the encouragement of part-time work, while raising the status of this increasingly important form of employment.

In the context of the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference and discussions on the incorporation of the social protocol into the Treaty, Mr Flynn argued that the draft agreement was particularly timely and "must be seen as a positive ... signal regarding the development of Social Europe and a reminder of the key role that the social partners have to play in this" (Commission press release, 15 May 1997).

The draft agreement must now be ratified by the decision-making bodies of ETUC, UNICE and CEEP.

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