European framework agreement on professional development signed at Thales

In June 2009, the Thales Group and European Metalworkers’ Federation signed an agreement seeking to improve the professional development of the group’s European employees. The European framework agreement is expected to strengthen the employability of employees within the Thales Group through the implementation of an annual anticipation process linked to future employment prospects. Employee representatives are expected to be closely involved in the anticipation process.

On 11 June 2009, the management of the Thales Group – the French electronic systems company – and the European Metalworkers’ Federation (EMF) concluded a European framework agreement on improving professional development through effective anticipation (IDEA). Built on the basis of existing good practice identified within various European countries, the agreement will cover 56,600 Thales employees based in 11 European countries. It is the first agreement of a transnational nature signed by Thales in the field of labour policies.

Aim and content of agreement

The European framework agreement aims to reinforce the employability of employees within the Thales group of companies through the implementation of an annual process of anticipation linked to future employment prospects. Thus, the agreement seeks to improve the matching of labour market needs through a better anticipation of skills needs and labour market shortages.

In particular, the agreement provides for deploying an annual plan of professional development involving all employees regardless of the level of responsibility in the job, age and occupational group. According to the agreement, professional development includes orientation, learning on the job, networking, mobility, coaching, mentoring and training. Management and trade unions agree that a European approach to professional development should benefit from already existing good practices within the group. For this reason, the agreement includes a collection and analysis of a number of advanced experiences in the various countries. These experiences relate to the following aspects:

  • job and career path information;
  • professional development discussions;
  • training that is consistent with business needs and career paths;
  • promotion of diversity;
  • equal opportunities.

The agreement also states that an ongoing social dialogue with the active participation of employee representatives and trade unions at European and national levels will be key to achieving the objectives laid down in the European framework agreement.

Implementation and monitoring progress of agreement

The agreement goes beyond the statement of principles by also envisaging concrete actions. The annual reports on technological trends, major breakthroughs and skills needs will be presented to trade unions at national and European levels. Furthermore, there will be an annual report presented to and discussed in the European Works Council (EWC). The tools and processes provided by the agreement have to be implemented, as a minimum, for the first time in the three years to come.

The monitoring process will include a joint kick-off meeting, the establishment of anticipation commissions at national and European levels, as well as the organisation of a European Convention nine months after signing the agreement. Furthermore, a set of social indicators monitoring the progress of the agreements’ provisions will be made available at national and European levels. These indicators include:

  • the proportion of employees attending an annual professional development discussion;
  • average training hours per employee a year;
  • total number of employees having benefited from training;
  • total number of ‘career corners’ created, which are specific and dedicated facilities freely accessible to employees on a regular basis allowing access to permanent and confidential information;
  • total number of learning advisers;
  • total number of apprentices a year;
  • number of employees participating in the programme ‘From student to professional’ a year;
  • internal mobility;
  • equal opportunities.


The agreement signed at Thales represents a key development in the emergence of a European industrial relations system. It is another example of a European framework agreement dealing with the anticipation of change (EU0709019I). The significance of the agreement does not only relate to its content but also to the provision of effective coordination mechanisms between the group level and the national entities.

In the view of the Thales Group Human Resources (HR) Director, Yves Barou, the European framework agreement IDEA is a

tailor-made response to accompany the development of a high-tech company like Thales, whose success depends on the expertise of its workforce. It constitutes a first – and very successful – experience with regard to innovatory and responsible negotiations to find European convergence in the social domain.

On the trade union side, EMF Deputy General Secretary Bart Samyn emphasised:

The agreement constitutes a milestone in the construction of Social Europe because of its rich and detailed content. This European agreement clearly illustrates the fact that employee representatives have an important role to play in the future management of employment trends.

Volker Telljohann, IRES Emilia-Romagna, Bologna

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