Flexicurity (collective bargaining and the role of social dialogue)

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EESC opinion: Flexicurity (collective bargaining and the role of social dialogue)

Key points

The EESC welcomes the Portuguese presidency's request to draw up an opinion on flexicurity, since the flexicurity debate has hitherto been limited predominantly to increasing external flexibility and ways of compensating for such an increase by strengthening labour market policies or social security provisions. Instead, the aim should be to focus on other dimensions to better create win-win situations.

The role of the social partners has to be strengthened. The social partners should be a protagonist in any debate on flexicurity and should have a privileged role in the European Commission's consultations. The Commission should thus have placed more emphasis on consulting, in particular, the European social partners on the European definition of the concept of flexicurity.

Strengthening industrial relations systems at European and national levels is essential for any discussion on flexicurity. A strong and vital social dialogue where the social partners actively participate and are able to negotiate, influence and take responsibility for the definition and components of flexicurity and evaluation of its outcomes is a key element.

The Commission and the Member States should give more attention to gender equality and
intergenerational solidarity in the context of flexicurity. Women, older workers and young people are often at a disadvantage in the labour market in terms of flexibility and security, and upward convergence should be sought for these groups.

The EESC wants the Member States and the Commission to explore the enhancement of adaptability through internal flexibility and make this a viable and acceptable dimension of flexicurity. Internal flexibility can play a key role in advancing productivity, innovation and competitiveness, and can thus contribute to reaching the goals of the Lisbon strategy. A balance between working time flexibility and worker protection should be pursued; this is best guaranteed through regulations established by collective bargaining, in line with national practices. Such bargaining on working time flexibility requires a solid context of rights, well-functioning social institutions and employment-friendly social security systems to back it up.