Social partner involvement in the 2002 NAPs - background and questionnaire

In May-June 2002, the European Industrial Relations Observatory has examined the involvement of the social partners in the EU Member States' 2002 National Action Plans (NAPs) on employment. Each EIRO national centre has assessed this involvement in a special EIROnline article, drawn up on the basis of a questionnaire. Here we provide the background to this exercise and the questions asked.

The European employment strategy (EES) is in its fifth year of operation in 2002. Under the strategy, annual Employment Guidelines are issued in the autumn of each year by the EU institutions to the Member States. These are then implemented through the Member States' National Action Plans (NAPs) on employment, which are forwarded to the European Commission for assessment. The Commission and Council of Ministers then draw up a joint employment report on Member States' implementation of its guidelines and, if they deems necessary, make recommendations to Member States on how they could improve their implementation of the guidelines.

While national governments and public labour market authorities are mainly responsible for drawing up and implementing the NAPs, the role and the contribution of the social partners has been progressively emphasised as the EES has developed, acknowledging the fact that many issues addressed in the Employment Guidelines (at present in about half of the guidelines) directly concern the social partners, and in many cases the collective bargaining process. The social partners are invited to act in a wide range of areas.

The contribution of the social partners has been expressed most clearly in the 2001 and 2002 Employment Guidelines. The 2002 guidelines state under objective D: 'Member States shall develop a comprehensive partnership with the social partners for the implementation, monitoring and follow-up of the Employment Strategy. The social partners at all levels are invited to step up their action in support of the Luxembourg process. Within the overall framework and objectives set by these guidelines, the social partners are invited to develop, in accordance with their national traditions and practices, their own process of implementing the guidelines for which they have the key responsibility, identify the issues upon which they will negotiate and report regularly on progress, in the context of the National Action Plans if desired, as well as the impact of their actions on employment and labour market functioning. The social partners at European level are invited to define their own contribution and to monitor, encourage and support efforts undertaken at national level.'

In collaboration with the European Commission's DG Employment and Social Affairs (which intends to use the results of the exercise in its 2002 joint employment report), in May-June 2002 the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO) has examined the involvement of the social partners in the EU Member States' 2002 NAPs. Each EIRO national centre has drawn up a special feature article on the issue, based on a questionnaire, which is being published on the EIROnline website (see under June 2002 in the 'Browse by date' section of the website, or in each individual country section under 'Browse by country'). The aim is to explore the input of trade union and employers' organisations into the preparation of the 2002 NAPs (in procedural and policy content terms) and to highlight actions they may have taken under the various guidelines which call for social partner involvement. This applies especially to the guidelines under the 'adaptability pillar', where information has generally been scarce, not because nothing has happened, but probably because these areas mainly concern the social partners and governments do not always have the necessary information available.

The questionnaire to which the EIRO national centres responded is set out below. It was drawn up by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.

Issue 1: Procedural aspects

  1. Which organisations has the government consulted on the preparations of the 2002 NAP? Have these organisations been informed in time? Did they have enough time to react?
  2. If social partners have submitted their views, are these represented in the NAP?
  3. Does NAP include a chapter/part written by social partners? Is NAP a joint text? Did social partners sign the NAP?
  4. What was the degree of consultation? Was the consultation important or social partners were asked to say just 'yes' or 'no'?

Issue 2: Matters of policy content

  1. To what extent were social partners involved at national (and/or regional/local) level, as mentioned in objective D of the 2002 Employment Guidelines?
    • i) Was a comprehensive partnership developed or not and why?
    • ii) How did the social partners implement the guidelines - key responsibilities?
  2. How do social partners assess the employment policy of the government?
  3. Are there any gaps or any insufficiencies identified by the social partners in the NAP?

Issue 3: Bargaining

Have there been any major, innovative collective agreements or bargaining since the Employment Guidelines 2002 were sent to the member states (end of November 2001) and the preparation of NAPs started, that contribute to:

  1. improvement of the quality of work and employment
  2. modernisation of work organisation (guideline 13)
  3. life long learning in the context of competence and skill development in enterprises as addresses in the adaptability pillar (guideline 15)
  4. active ageing (guideline 2)
  5. gender policy (tackling of the gender pay gap, desegregation on the labour market, reconciliation of work and family/private life, etc) (guideline IV: 16,17,18)
  6. social integration by way of better access to the labour market, giving emphasis on weaker groups such as minorities, migrant workers, long-term unemployed people, disabled workers (guideline 7)

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