A framework agreement is the term used to describe the successful outcome of the European social dialogue. The term ‘framework’ is intended to highlight the particular nature of the agreement as providing an outline of general principles to be implemented in the Member States ‘either in accordance with the procedures and practices specific to management and labour and the Member States or at the joint request of the signatory parties, by a Council decision on a proposal from the Commission’ (Article 139(2) EC).
There are parallels with the ‘framework directives’, such as the ‘framework’ directive on health and safety (Council Directive 89/391/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work), which contains ‘general principles’ (Article 1(2)) and led to ‘daughter directives’ concerning specific risks; or Council Directive 2000/78 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, and Directive 2002/14/EC establishing a general framework for informing employees and consulting with them in the European Community.
The Commission’s Communication of 26 June 2002 on The European social dialogue, a force for innovation and change (COM (2002) 341 final) lists in Annex 3. 12 consultations of the intersectoral social partners under Article 138 EC (nowArticle 154TFEU) Seven European framework agreements have emerged from this social dialogue:
- the European Framework Agreement on parental leave concluded by UNICE, CEEP and ETUC on 14 December 1995 (transformed into Council Directive 96/34/EC of 3 June 1996);
- the European Framework Agreement on part-time work concluded by UNICE, CEEP and ETUC on 6 June 1997 (transformed into Council Directive 97/81/EC of 15 December 1997);
- the European Framework Agreement on fixed-term work concluded by ETUC, UNICE and CEEP on 18 March 1999 (transformed into Council Directive 1999/70/EC of 28 June 1999);
- the European Framework Agreement on telework concluded between ETUC, UNICE/UEAPME and CEEP on 16 July 2002, which has not been transformed into a Directive, but should be transposed in accordance with procedures and practices specific to management and labour and the Member States;
- the European Framework Agreement on work-related stress concluded between ETUC, UNICE, UEAPME and CEEP on 8 October 2004.
- the European Framework Agreement on harassment and violence at work concluded by ETUC, Business Europe, UEAPME and CEEP on 26 April 2007.
- the European Framework Agreement on inclusive labour markets concluded by ETUC, Business Europe, UEAPME and CEEP on 25 March 2010.
Sectoral social dialogue agreements have been concluded, for example, concerning working time in the maritime and civil aviation sectors, which have also been transformed into directives. However, these have not been characterised as framework agreements: European agreement on the organisation of working time of seafarers, concluded between ECSA and the FST on 30 September 1998 (transformed into Council Directive 1999/63/EC of 21 June 1999); and European agreement on the organisation of working time of mobile staff in civil aviation, concluded by ARA, EFT, ECA, ERA and IACA, on 22 March 2000 (transformed into Council Directive 2000/79/EC of 27 November 2000).
In contrast, an agreement in the agricultural sector, which has not been transformed into a directive, is characterised as a framework agreement: Recommendation framework agreement on the improvement of paid employment in agriculture in the Member States of the EU concluded by COPA/GEOPA and EFA/ETUC on 24 July 1997. Another outcome of the European social dialogue via Articles 154-155 TFEU is the ‘Agreement on workers’ health protection through the good handling and use of crystalline silica and products containing it’. This agreement is considered to be the first European multi-sector agreement.
See also: EU system of industrial relations; European collective agreements; European social dialogue; European social partners; European social dialogue and implementation of agreements; harassment and violence at work; right of collective bargaining.