Thematic feature - social partner involvement in the 2003 NAP

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This article examines social partner involvement in the preparation of Spain’s 2003 National Action Plan for employment drawn up in response to the EU Employment Guidelines.

The European Union'sEuropean employment strategy (EES) has been in operation since 1997 (EU9711168F). The strategy enables the coordination of national employment policies at EU level and one of its main components has been the adoption (on the basis of a proposal from theEuropean Commission) by theEuropean Council of a set of annual Employment Guidelines setting out common priorities for Member States' employment policies. The Member States then draw up annual National Action Plans (NAPs) which describe how these Guidelines are being put into practice nationally.

Following a review of the EES undertaken in 2002 after five years of operation (EU0209204F), and proposals for its streamlining, made by the Commission in aCommunication in September 2002 (EU0210206F), the strategy has now been renewed and simplified, with a stronger focus on implementation and a new timetable. In July 2003, the Council adopted the 2003Employment Guidelines (EU0308205F), which had been proposed by the Commission in April 2003. Compared with previous years, the Employment Guidelines have been revised so as to: ensure a stronger link with EU economic policy coordination (through streamlined timetables); lay down fewer guidelines with a broader perspective; provide a medium-term time horizon in order to achieve an increased emphasis on results and outcomes; and strengthen the involvement of the social partners, local authorities and other stakeholders.

The2003 Employment Guidelines to the Member States set out three main objectives:

  • full employment;
  • improving quality and productivity at work; and
  • strengthening social cohesion and inclusion.

While still maintaining the employment targets set at the Lisbon (EU0004241F) and Stockholm (EU0104208F)European Council meetings in 2000 and 2001, in order to achieve these three objectives the Guidelines focus on 10 policy priorities, rather than grouping a range of guidelines into four pillars, as has previously been the practice. These 10 priorities are

  1. active and preventative measures for the unemployed and inactive;
  2. job creation and entrepreneurship;
  3. address change and promote adaptability and mobility in the labour market;
  4. promote development of human capital and lifelong learning;
  5. increase labour supply and active ageing;
  6. gender equality;
  7. promote the integration of and combat the discrimination against people at a disadvantage in the labour market;
  8. make work pay through incentives to enhance work attractiveness;
  9. transform undeclared work into regular employment; and
  10. address regional employment disparities.

Under the revised EES, Member States still draw up NAPs setting out how the Employment Guidelines are being implemented. The NAPs present the progress achieved in the Member State over the past 12 months and the measures planned for the coming 12 months, and are thus both reporting and planning documents. The NAPs based on the 2003 Guidelines - which should have a stronger focus on implementation and the medium term - were due to be adopted in October 2003.

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 directly concern the social partners, and in many cases the collective bargaining process. The 2003 Guidelines include a section on'good governance and partnership' in their implementation, with Member States requested to ensure the effective implementation of the Guidelines, including at the regional and local level, and involve parliamentary bodies, social partners and other relevant actors. Good governance and partnership are seen as important issues for the implementation of the EES,'while fully respecting national traditions and practices'. With regard to the social partners, they should be invited at national level -'in accordance with their national traditions and practices'- to ensure the effective implementation of the Guidelines and to report on their most significant contributions in all areas under their responsibility, in particular concerning: the management of change and adaptability;'synergy' between flexibility and security;'human capital development'; gender equality; making work pay; active ageing; and health and safety at work. The European-level social partners at intersectoral and sectoral level are invited to contribute to the implementation of the Guidelines and to support efforts undertaken by the national social partners at all levels. As announced in theirjoint work programme for 2003-5 (EU0212206F), the European intersectoral social partners will report annually on their contribution to the implementation of the Guidelines. Furthermore, the European sectoral social partners are invited to report on their respective actions.

In October 2003, the EIRO national centres in each EU Member State, were asked, in response to a questionnaire, to outline how the social partners were involved in the preparation of their country's2003 NAP (a similar exercise was conducted in relation to the 2002 NAPs -ES0206205T). The Spanish responses are set out below (along with the questions asked).

Procedural aspects

1) Which organisations did the government consult on the preparation of the 2003 NAP? Were these organisations informed in time? Did they have enough time to react?

As in previous years, the government consulted the most representative social partner organisations on the NAP - the Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organisations (Confederación Española de Organizaciones Empresariales, CEOE), the Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (Confederación Española de la Pequeña y Mediana Empresa, CEPYME), the Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Comisiones Obreras, CC.OO) and the General Workers’ Confederation (Unión General de Trabajadores, UGT). The consultation process took place at three meetings in July and September. The government started this process by asking the employers' organisations and trade unions to submit their opinions on what the main priorities and measures of the NAP should be, particularly with regard to those Employment Guidelines in which the role of the social partners is most relevant. Responses were sent in writing by CEOE-CEPYME and by CC.OO and UGT. The government then sent the social partners a first draft of the NAP in July and a second draft in September. At the end of this process, CEOE-CEPYME, CC.OO and UGT drew up and published a written report on the new NAP.

2) If the social partners have submitted their views, are these represented in the NAP?

Appendix VII of the 2003 NAP is entitled'Views of the social partners' and is composed of two general assessments on the 2003 NAP, the first drawn up by CC.OO and UGT in July and the second drawn up by CEOE-CEPYME in September. The trade unions also drew up a final report in September, but it is not included in this appendix. Furthermore, as explained under the next point, some parts of the NAP were directly written by the social partners.

3) Does the NAP include a chapter/part written by the social partners? Is the NAP a joint text? Did social partners sign the NAP?

In addition to Appendix VII, some parts of the 2003 NAP were written directly by the social partners. Specifically:

  • a section entitled'Joint position of the social partners' in the NAP's chapter on guideline 3 is a literal transcription of a report on the partners' central'agreement for collective bargaining 2002' (Acuerdo para la Negociación Colectiva 2002, ANC 2002) - which laid down guidelines for lower-level bargaining on pay policy, employment, occupational classification, functional mobility, health and safety at work and the bargaining procedure (ES0201207F) - drawn up jointly by the signatories of this agreement (CEOE-CEPYME, UGT and CC.OO) (ES0302204F);
  • a section entitled'Joint position of the social partners' in the NAP's chapter on guideline 6 summarises the guidelines for collective bargaining on gender equality in the'agreement for collective bargaining 2003' (ANC 2003) signed by CEOE-CEPYME, UGT and CC.OO (ES0302204F); and
  • in sections entitled'Comments by the employers' organisations' and'Comments by the trade unions' in the NAP's chapter on'Participation and management', the two sides report separately on the process of consultation and participation of the social partners in the 2003 NAP.

However, the NAP is in no way a joint text and has not been signed by the social partners.

4) What was the degree of consultation? Was the consultation important in substance or were social partners asked to say just'yes' or'no'?

Both the employers' organisations and the trade unions were critical of the consultation process, though to different degrees.

CEOE-CEPYME considers that there has been an improvement in comparison with previous years, consisting in the fact that the government requested the contribution of the social partners before handing over the first draft of the NAP. However, it feels that the consultation process must continue to improve. The employers therefore stress that the government should provide clearer, more relevant and more detailed information on the results of past actions and the plans for future actions, and should send this information to the social partners earlier.

CC.OO and UGT are more critical. They consider that there have been no substantial improvements in the consultation process and that the social partners had no more than a token participation in the drawing up, monitoring and assessment of the 2003 NAP. They state in particular that the government ignored a proposal made in 2002 to establish a stable and regular working method for organising the exchange of information and proposals on each of the relevant guidelines, which would guarantee a dialogue with the most appropriate members of the government.

Matters of policy content

1) To what extent were social partners involved at national (and/or regional/local) level, as mentioned under the'good governance and partnership' part of the Employment Guidelines?

a) Was a comprehensive partnership developed or not, and why? Have there been significant tripartite arrangements in view of implementing some or all of the Employment Guidelines?

A comprehensive partnership over the implementation of the Employment Guidelines has not been developed between the government, the employers' organisations and the trade unions. Indeed, 2002 was marked by a breakdown in the social dialogue in the wake of a labour market reform (notably related to unemployment benefits) unilaterally approved by the government (ES0206210F) and the calling of a general strike by the trade unions (ES0207201N). After the practically total withdrawal of the reform in late 2002 and early 2003 (ES0212201N), the social dialogue was resumed, but no substantial progress was made in the understanding and cooperation between the government and the trade unions on economic and employment policy.

Over the course of the past year, the only tripartite agreement concluded that was relevant for employment policy was the agreement on improving occupational risk prevention (ES0301208F), signed in late December 2002 by the government, CEOE-CEPYME, CC.OO and UGT. Furthermore, the validity of tripartite agreements on resolving labour disputes out of court (signed by the government, CEOE-CEPYME, CC.OO and UGT) was extended to the end of 2004 (ES0104238N). There has also been an intense process of consultation between the government and the social partners on reform of the continuing training system (ES0310110F) and on a proposed new Employment Law on labour market matters.

b) How have the social partners at various levels implemented the Employment Guidelines - eg through collective bargaining, consultations, joint or unilateral actions etc - notably with regard to those aspects which are identified as their key responsibilities (where appropriate, taking into account the employment policy recommendations addressed by the EU to the Member States)? This should cover the following areas:

  • Management of change and adaptability
  • Synergy between flexibility and security, work-life balance
  • Human capital development
  • Gender equality
  • Making work pay
  • Inclusion and access to the labour market
  • Active ageing and increase in labour supply
  • Health, safety and well-being at work

The most significant contribution of the social partners was the conclusion of the'agreement for collective bargaining 2003' (ANC 2003) in January 2003 by CEOE-CEPYME, CC.OO and UGT after they had made a favourable assessment of ANC 2002 (see above). This intersectoral agreement establishes a set of joint guidelines for lower-level collective bargaining, including a number which are of relevance to the Employment Guidelines.

In relation to the areasmanagement of change and adaptability andsynergy between flexibility and security, work-life balance, together with the EU's 2003 employment recommendation 1 to Spain, the ANC 2003 agreement calls for:

  • a suitable balance between wage moderation in order to foster productive investment and job creation (or maintenance), and the establishment of guarantees that workers will not lose purchasing power if the inflationary trend continues; and
  • a balance between flexibility for companies and security for workers, particularly by fostering a trade-off between employment stability and flexible working time. Other measures, such as promoting occupational classification systems that are less compartmentalised and more compatible with functional mobility, are also included in the accord.

With regard togender equality and EU employment recommendation 2, the ANC 2003 contains a wide-ranging set of recommendations on promoting gender equality in collective agreements, including:

  • the adoption of anti-discrimination clauses in collective agreements;
  • positive action measures in sectors in which women are under-represented;
  • gender-neutral systems of selection, classification, training and promotion;
  • application of the principle of equal pay for work of equal value;
  • measures for reconciling work and family life for workers of both sexes; and
  • assessment of the application of agreements in relation to gender equality.

These recommendations are also based on the dissemination of a set of clauses selected as'good practices' with regard to gender equality.

Beyond the ANC 2003, other relevant actions of the social partners in relation to the various Employment Guidelines include the following:

  • health, safety and well-being. The tripartite agreement on occupational risk prevention concluded in late 2002 (see above) should, according to the 2003 NAP, serve as a basis for legal reform in this area. This agreement deals with aspects such as reinforcing the actions of the Labour Inspectorate (Inspección de Trabajo), specific action in companies with a high industrial accident rate, specific action in the construction sector and coordination of prevention actions when different companies operate in the same workplace;
  • human capital development. The social partners contributed their opinions to the reform of the continuing training system recently presented by the government; and
  • inclusion and access to the labour market. The social partners contributed their opinions to the new Employment Law recently presented by the government.

2. What is the social partners’ assessment of the employment policy of the government?

The degree of agreement/disagreement with the content of the NAP varies. Though CEOE-CEPYME criticises specific aspects, in general it supports the government's employment policy. CC.OO and UGT, on the other hand, consider that a strategic reorientation of employment policy is necessary and state that the government has failed to take into account the observations and proposals presented jointly by the two trade unions.

3. Are there any gaps or any insufficiencies identified by the social partners in the NAP?

In the opinion of CEOE-CEPYME, the main inadequacies of the 2003 NAP are as follows:

  • despite the large surpluses in the revenue from social security contributions, the NAP does not include a reduction of these contributions and thus misses the opportunity of reducing non-wage labour costs and promoting job creation;
  • in order to promote recruitment on open-ended contracts, the NAP should further strengthen some measures that have proven to be effective (such as reducing the cost of dismissal and reducing the social security contributions on open-ended contracts) instead of recent measures that penalise temporary recruitment (increasing the social security contributions for temporary contracts, and compensation at the end of the contract);
  • the NAP should establish a more integrated strategy to anticipate future labour shortages, particularly by favouring the incorporation of women in employment, suitable immigration policies, geographic and functional mobility, more effective mediation services and greater professional qualification; and
  • the NAP should substantially improve the assessment of the efficacy and impact of employment policies.

CC.OO and UGT consider that, on the whole, the NAP fails to respond to the problems and deficits of employment in Spain or to the challenges raised by the three basic objectives of the European employment strategy. In their opinion, the NAP should have established its own quantified objectives in the following priority areas:

  • reducing inequalities between men and women in employment. The union are particularly critical of the absence of commitments to increase day care for children under the age of three and consider that the relevant tax deductions are insufficient because not all women are eligible for them;
  • reducing the high number of temporary contracts. They consider that the NAP introduces no new measures in this area;
  • increasing the levels of productivity of work, by increasing investment in education, training, innovation and technological development. In the unions' opinion, the few measures that are included only consolidate Spain’s backwardness in comparison with other European countries;
  • improving the functioning of public employment services. They place special importance on finalising the process of drawing up the new Employment Law, as a basic regulation for a new model of more decentralised, preventive and proactive employment policies; and
  • promoting equal treatment and integration in employment for certain groups, particularly immigrants. On this point, the unions stress that Spain still does not comply with objectives laid down in 1997 for preventing long-term unemployment. They also consider that it is highly important to deal with the problems of both legal and illegal immigrant workers.

The trade unions consider that the specific proposals that they have drawn up for each of these priority areas have not been taken into account by the government.


Please add here any other comments on the NAP, its procedures and its implementation.

The employers' organisations and trade unions both stress what they see as the bureaucratic nature of the NAP. CEOE-CEPYME states that the successive NAPs'still consist in an accumulation of actions by different bodies rather than a general planned and coordinated strategy'. CC.OO and UGT state that'as has happened in previous years, the approved NAP is the sum of measures and programmes that were already being carried out within the assigned budget, and there has been no specific increase in the budget.' (Maria Caprile, CIREM Foundation)

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