Social dialogue committee for steel industry at European level

The European Metalworkers’ Federation and the Confederation of Iron Steel Industries have set up a European social dialogue committee in the steel industry. Its establishment comes three years after the European Coal and Steel Community ceased to exist. The committee aims to monitor the impact of European Union social policy on the steel industry and changes within the industry, as well as to develop common positions.

Building on European Coal and Steel Community Treaty

In 2002, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), set up under the 1951 Treaty of Paris, ceased to exist. This represented the end of an historical period in the development of what is today the European Union. Founded in 1952, the significance of the ECSC can be measured by the fact that it represented the first Treaty organisation. It developed a common production and consumption policy for steel between France, the former West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and played a huge role in developing cooperative relations between these countries. Undoubtedly, the ECSC was an important milestone in the development of European social dialogue.

Within a year of the ECSC ceasing to exist, the European Metalworkers’ Federation (EMF) and the Confederation of Iron Steel Industries (Eurofer) submitted a request to the European Commission to establish a social dialogue committee in the steel industry. In April 2006, the Commission announced its support for such a committee and the body was formally ratified in June 2006.

Aims of the social dialogue committee in steel sector

The establishment of a sectoral social dialogue committee for the steel industry by EMF and Eurofer is primarily designed to continue in the spirit of the ECSC by promoting productive relations between both sides of industry. Given the far-reaching changes in the steel industry (TN0412101S, EU03001A) in terms of competition and working practices, constructive social dialogue between the social partners is as important as ever. To address the significant challenges faced by the industry, this new committee will undertake the following tasks:

• monitoring European and worldwide structural developments within the industry and their subsequent impact on employment;

• supporting measures to promote high quality jobs;

• seeking to influence policy developments at both EU and national levels;

• monitoring the social, economic and employment impact of EU policies within the steel industry.

In addressing the above points, EMF and Eurofer have already proposed an extensive programme of work.

Governance of committee

To support the social partners in achieving their above aims, as outlined in Article 1 of the agreement between EMF and Eurofer, the agreement denotes various governing measures. In addition to Article 1, the following measures will support the committee’s activities:

• an annual plenary meeting at which a programme of work is to be developed (Article 2);

• the committee to be composed of 50 delegates with parity guaranteed between the social partners (Article 3);

• the chair to alternate between the two organisations every two years (Article 4);

• a steering committee comprising three employer and three employee representatives to prepare and coordinate meetings with the Commission (Article 5);

• the secretariat for the committee and ad hoc committees to be provided for by the Commission (Article 6);

• the Commission can request confidentiality in relation to the information it imparts (Article 7);

• decisions taken by the committee to be informed by the principle of consensus (Article 10).

Commentary

This new EMF and Eurofer initiative represents a significant step in affirming the central importance of social dialogue within the EU. In a world of increasing transnational competition in which market consolidation, restructuring and changes in working practices are the main characteristics, the social dialogue committee in the steel industry represents an important forum in which the social partners can attempt to address some of these difficult issues.

Michael Whittal, Technical University Munich for AWWW GmbH ArbeitsWelt – Working World

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