Commission consults social partners on modernisation of work

In late June 2000, the European Commission issued a first consultation document to the European-level social partners on the issue of "modernising and improving employment relations". This consultation in is line with the conclusions of the March 2000 Lisbon European Council, which agreed to encourage the social partners to take a more active role in the modernisation of the "European social model".

The European Commission issued a consultation document to the European-level social partners on 26 June 2000, asking for their views on ways in which to "modernise and improve employment relations". This development should be viewed in the context of the March 2000 European Council, held in Lisbon (EU0004241F), which decided to encourage the social partners to play an active role in modernising the "European social model". The new consultation document also builds on a series of measures drafted in recent years, such as the Commission's April 1997 Green Paper on Partnership for a new organisation of work (EU9707134F), the subsequent November 1998 Commission Communication on Modernising the organisation of work – a positive approach to change (EU9901146F) and the "adaptability pillar" of the Employment Guidelines, which were given effect at the November 1997 European Council in Luxembourg (EU9711168F).

The particular areas where the consultation document invites the social partners to give their views on the possible future direction of Community action are as follows:

  • the principles to be followed in order to modernise and improve employment relations; and
  • the establishment of a mechanism to review existing legislative and contractual rules governing employment relations.

More specifically, the two areas in which the Commission wishes the social partners to consider early action are:

  • telework. The Commission believes that the time is now right for framework provisions at Community level to be developed in this area. Although it does not suggest what form any such provisions may take, it does suggest that any provisions should be implemented in accordance with the "procedures and practices specific to management and labour", as provided for by Article 139(2) of the Treaty establishing the Economic Community- ie through agreement between the EU-level social partners, implemented by a Council decision; and
  • "economically dependent workers". These are workers who are not employees in the traditional sense, but nevertheless relay upon a single source of employment. The Commission concedes that this is a difficult issue to tackle and invites the social partners views on how best to approach regulation of the problems associated with such workers.

The Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner, Anna Diamantopoulou, welcomed the consultation, stating that: "The main problem is that many of the present laws and collective agreements were designed for an organisation of work which is no longer adapted to the increased diversity of situations emerging in the labour market. A thorough review of the system is needed to make sure that it is adapted to a modern organisation of work and that it supports the modernisation process rather than hindering it." She gave a reassurance that modernisation does not mean abolishing current regulations or putting into place swathes of new regulations, and that improved organisation of work requires a high investment in human resources and a high level of worker involvement.

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