Restructuring Forum holds first meeting

A new EU Restructuring Forum met for the first time in June 2005. The meeting was addressed by key figures from European social partner organisations and institutions. The debate focused on how to help minimise the negative effects of restructuring.

The European Commission proposed the establishment of a Restructuring Forum in its five-year social policy agenda, issued in February 2005 (EU0502205F). The Forum is a high-level body made up of representatives of all players and stakeholders in restructuring. It aims to meet regularly to discuss ways to manage restructuring so that it has as little detrimental impact as possible on the employees involved, the wider community and the environment.

The Forum met for the first time on 23 June 2005 in Brussels and was addressed by a range of key figures. President of the Commission José Manuel Barroso stated that Europe could not afford to stand still and needed to take advantage of globalisation, technology and demographics. He cited specific cases of restructuring, including the recent developments at the UK motor manufacturer MG Rover (UK0505103F), and also gave special mention to the problems being experienced by the textiles sector in Portugal. He stated that Europe needed an industrial policy that is 'adapted to modern times'.

Philippe de Buck, general secretary of the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE), stated that although restructuring was inevitable and necessary to promote jobs and growth, it could be painful. He argued that the best way of dealing with this was to promote the EU’s strategy for jobs and growth: 'Trying to prevent restructuring operations or limit them by tightening the regulatory straitjacket around the company would be counterproductive.' He also stated that, given the fact that there were many bodies discussing restructuring, UNICE had 'strong reservations' about the creation of an addition forum: 'Before deciding on creation of a new forum, it is important to determine what value it would add and to define clearly its missions, membership and modus operandi.' This view was echoed in the debate by UNICE’s social affairs director, Thérèse de Liedekerke, who expressed doubts about the suitability of an EU-level framework for managing the consequences of restructuring. She put forward UNICE’s view that the local level was better suited to managing the social consequences of restructuring.

The view of small and medium-sized companies was presented by Liliane Volozinskis of the European Association of Craft and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME), who stated that the large number of small firms in the European economy are affected by industrial change and steps need to be taken to ensure that this sector of the economy is not ignored.

Trade union and employer representatives from sectors particularly affected by restructuring in recent times attended the forum. These include the metalworking sector and the sugar sector. Speaking for European sugar producers, Dominique Lund of the European Committee of Sugar Producers (Comité Européen des Fabricants de Sucre, CEFS) stated that access to structural funds and the EU’s social fund was extremely important for companies and sectors that are undergoing restructuring.

Bernadette Tesch-Segol from the UNI-Europa trade union body stressed that the services sector has been subject to significant levels of restructuring in recent years, and singled out the following sectors in particular: finance, telecommunications, postal services, the media, information technology and graphics. She believes that managing restructuring at the level of the company is not sufficient and is therefore in favour of putting into place some kind of framework at European level.

The Restructuring Forum aims to meet twice a year. It was stated that the next meeting will focus on the role of the regional level in anticipating and accompanying restructuring, industrial policy, the external dimension and the link between innovation and job creation.

This information is made available through the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO), as a service to users of the EIROnline database. EIRO is a project of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. However, this information has been neither edited nor approved by the Foundation, which means that it is not responsible for its content and accuracy. This is the responsibility of the EIRO national centre that originated/provided the information. For details see the "About this record" information in this record.

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