European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

Social dialogue

Since its creation in 1985, the European social dialogue has followed an ambitious and successful - but not always straightforward - ascent towards the institutionalisation and autonomy of this unique process of industrial relations at European level.

A key moment for the European interprofessional social dialogue came in 1992 with the incorporation of the so-called 1991 Agreement on Social Policy/Social Protocol into the Maastricht Treaty, giving the European social partners (now ETUC, BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME and CEEP) the possibility to negotiate framework agreements that could be converted into Directives (e.g., on parental leave, 1996/2010) or so-called autonomous framework agreements (e.g., on telework, 2002).

But 2002 was also pivotal with the adoption of the first joint autonomous work programme whereby the European social partners set their own negotiating agenda and the instruments to be used more independently. The European sectoral social dialogue also received a major boost in 1998 with the creation of so-called European sectoral social dialogue committees, of which there are now 40 which have between them produced more than 500 joint texts including framework agreements.

The European social dialogue is now part of the core business of the European trade union movement and hence also a central focus of the work and activities of the ETUI. Although tripartite consultations at EU level have gained in importance and visibility with the institutionalisation of the Tripartite Social Summit in article 152 of the Lisbon Treaty, this section focuses more specifically on the ETUI work on the interprofessional and sectoral European social dialogues.