EESC calls for enhanced social dialogue in the EU

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) threw its support behind fostering effective social dialogue in EU Member States as it plays a key role in shaping economic, labour and social policies that create better living and working conditions across the EU. It is thus necessary for promoting and achieving economic sustainability.

In the opinion Social dialogue as an important pillar of economic sustainability and the resilience of economies taking into account the influence of lively public debate in the Member States, the EESC gave an overview of national social dialogue practices, examining it in the context of past crises. It also explored how the concept of social dialogue, and especially its tripartite form, which involves public authorities, can go beyond collective bargaining and how it is a key instrument for sound governance of any process of change.

The opinion was drafted at the request of the German EU Presidency by former EESC member Vladimíra Drbalová and current member Cinzia Del Rio.

Countries with well-established social dialogue mechanisms respond better and more quickly to crises, including those of global proportions like the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the opinion found that in many countries, social dialogue remains fragmented and takes places only occasionally, or has been weakened, with the autonomy of the social partners undermined.

The opinion lists several recommendations for sound post-pandemic management in the near future, including securing active social partner involvement in designing and implementing national recovery plans and encouraging sound corporate governance based on social dialogue and collective bargaining.

However, to be effective, social dialogue must include representative and legitimate social partners as well as the governments committed to engaging in it. It is equally essential to respect social partners' autonomy and freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

European social dialogue is enshrined in the EU Treaties and the European social partners should exploit all of the potential that this offers them.

They should be involved in the European Semester of economic governance and especially in developing and implementing employment, social and, where relevant, economic reforms and policies.

"We need a binding consultation mechanism for social partners in the European Semester. Nowadays, bearing in mind the economic and social impact of the pandemic, it is more important than ever to involve social partners in drawing up recovery and resilience plans, including government reporting tools," Ms Del Rio said. (ll)