Central government administrations to get sectoral social dialogue committee

In January 2010, following a positive evaluation of the results of the 2008–2009 test phase of enhanced informal social dialogue for central public administrations, the European social partners agreed to advance the setting up of a sectoral social dialogue committee during 2010. So far, some of the EU Member States have expressed their full support for the formalisation of social dialogue; however, others would prefer to maintain an informal social dialogue instead.

Social partners agree to set up social dialogue committee

On 11 December 2009, the Directors General for public administration of the 27 EU Member States (EU27) – representing the European Public Administration Network (EUPAN) and the Trade Unions’ National and European Administration Delegation (TUNED) – met in Sweden’s capital city, Stockholm, to discuss the results of the 2008–2009 test phase of enhanced informal social dialogue for central public administrations. As a result of the positive evaluation, the European social partners agreed at their meeting in Spain’s capital city, Madrid, on 12 January 2010 to advance the setting up of a sectoral social dialogue committee of central government administrations.

Positive evaluation of test phase

Between January and October 2009, Ramböll Management Consulting carried out the final evaluation of the test phase of enhanced informal social dialogue for central public administrations. In general, the evaluators concluded that the test phase has been very successful in the sense of promoting and improving the European social dialogue for central government administrations.

According to the evaluators’ report (797Kb PDF), a strengthened and structured informal social dialogue has been promoted by rules of procedure as well as a joint work programme specifying particular work themes and topics similar to those of formal social dialogue. The cooperation between the parties has led to outputs, including a joint position on work-related stress, statements and events such as a workshop dedicated to the framework agreement on harassment and violence at work (4.8Mb PDF), as well as a joint conference on ‘Improving trust in central government administrations through effective social dialogue’.

The test phase is assessed as ‘highly relevant in terms of the expectations and priorities of the stakeholders and to a quite high extent in terms of the possibility to test what the test phase wanted to test’. According to the evaluators, the effectiveness of the test phase could be described as high, as most respondents agree that it has achieved the objectives laid down in the joint work programme.

The evaluators highlight that, given the short timeframe, the work within the test phase has been very efficient in terms of producing formal statements. The test phase has also been efficient in relation to the organisation of its work. Most members of EUPAN and TUNED see an added value in terms of the opportunity to exchange experiences and share knowledge between the EU Member States.

The evaluators conclude that the formalisation of social dialogue should be based on gradual steps forward. This scenario involves formalisation within a given timeframe. All of the TUNED and a certain number of the EUPAN respondents agreed that formalisation represents the most adequate development within the social dialogue between EUPAN and TUNED.

Signing of joint declaration

A further step was taken when the Secretary of State for Public Administration, Carmen Gomis Bernal, signed a declaration (49Kb PDF) with the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) and the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CESI) to formalise social dialogue in the public sector during Spain’s term of office in the European Presidency. The joint declaration was signed on 12 January in Madrid in the presence of the Citizens’ Service Federation of the Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Federación de Servicios a la Ciudadanía de Comisiones Obreras, FSC-CCOO), the Federation of Public Services of the General Union of Workers (Federación de Servicios Públicos – Unión General de Trabajadores, FSP-UGT) and the Independent Trade Union Confederation of Public Servants (Central Sindical Independiente ye de Funcionarios, CSIF).

In the declaration, the social partner organisations recognise the role that social dialogue plays in advancing and modernising public administrations. It is considered as a framework for negotiations on the working conditions of public employees. Furthermore, the social partner organisations highlight that the improvement of such working conditions is not contrary to the enhancement and modernisation of public services that these administrations provide to European citizens in their respective states. Thus, the social partner organisations agree to advance the setting up of a sectoral social dialogue committee of central government administrations during 2010.

To this end, the Spanish government has agreed to take all the necessary steps to formalise social dialogue during the mandate of Spain’s European Presidency, which is due to end on 30 June 2010. The Spanish government will instigate the necessary contacts with the other Member States to promote the social dialogue process, preparing rules of procedure and a work programme to formalise it. Furthermore, the Spanish government will endeavour to remove any obstacles that might impede the achievement of the formalisation of sectoral social dialogue. To this end, it intends to create a working group between TUNED – in its capacity as the trade union representative body comprising delegations from the European federations representing their corresponding trade union sectors – and delegations from those Member States in favour of the formalisation of social dialogue.

So far, officials from the public administrations of the Czech Republic, France, Germany and the United Kingdom have expressed their full support for the formalisation of social dialogue. In contrast, representatives from Denmark and the Netherlands are opposed to a social dialogue committee, preferring instead to maintain informal social dialogue.

Positive response to social dialogue plans

Welcoming the positive results, the Belgian and Spanish Directors General, Jackie Leroy and José Martín Arahuetes respectively, stated that the DG Resolution on social dialogue, adopted on 11 December, will be fully implemented under their respective EU presidencies.

Mr Leroy stated:

As regards formalisation of the social dialogue, we will, together with the incoming Spanish Presidency, prepare the rules of procedure and joint request to the Commission for a sectoral social dialogue committee. It is hoped that the committee will be launched either in the heat of Madrid or autumn in Brussels.

On the trade union side, the TUNED spokesperson, Charles Cochrane, concluded:

We are very pleased about the concrete plan to formalise the social dialogue, as a logical step after the two-year test phase and many years of informal talks before that. It is the only way to have a seat at the EU table and access EU funding. The fact that some countries are not yet ready to engage in this process should not prevent others from moving forward. We will fully engage in the preparations of formalisation from January 2010. We will keep the door open for informal discussions with EUPAN on the basis of the good progress achieved with formalisation.

Volker Telljohann, IRES Emilia-Romagna, Bologna

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