Friday 12 April 2013

The Eurocrisis and Industrial Relations

That the Eurocrisis has changed industrial relations in Europe is the understated conclusion of the Commission's new paper, Industrial Relations in Europe 2012. The report comes from the DG for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, headed by Commissioner László Andor, and focuses on:

  • how the outcomes of European social dialogue can make a real difference to the working lives of Europeans, for example on improved health and safety at work and working conditions;
  • industrial relations in the public sector (public administration, education and healthcare) in light of the government spending cuts in many Member States;
  • the state of social dialogue in Central and Eastern Europe;
  • the involvement of social partners in unemployment and pension system reforms and in the transition towards an economy that is more sustainable and less dependent on fossil fuels.

It's a hefty document at 338 pages, and in the light of the release of the Commission's in-depth review of macroeconomic imbalances earlier this week (see Social Europe Journal for an interesting critique of the Commission's approach here), it's may be tempting to see it as a note of dissent from one of the few Commissioners from the PES family, but he's insisted that there's no contradiction - and, reading it, the language is carefully constructed to portray support for dialogue with social partners as a part of the austerity process:

"This report argues that social dialogue mechanisms and instruments, which have served Europe well over many decades, are still relevant means of addressing the crisis and contributing to creating favourable conditions for growth and employment."

In itself the language is interesting as it shows how technocratic the Commission still is, years after Margot Wallstrom pushed for more politics in the Commission. Social dialogue is presented as a way of legitimising the implementation of austerity policies and of tailoring them to get the best results for employment and growth (comparisons between Ireland and the other bail-out countries are interesting here, although the renegotiation of the public sector Croke Park Agreement is facing some hurdles for trades union acceptance). The report's endorsement of social dialogue will be welcome for the left (as will it's call for progress on social dialogue in Central and Eastern Europe), though the failed attempt of the Commission to address concerns over collective action and the Viking and Laval cases and the review of the Working Time Directive show that there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to practical policy.

No comments:

Post a Comment