PARTNERSHIP FOR THE CHANGE IN AN ENLARGED
EUROPEENHANCING THE CONTRIBUTION OF SOCIAL DIALOGUE (12002/04)
Letter from Gerry Sutcliffe MP, Minister
for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs, Department of Trade
and Industry to the Chairman
Further to your letter of 13 October 2005
I am writing to formally update you on matters relating to this
On 17 November 2005 the UK Presidency held a
Conference on the European Social Dialogue that included a very
useful exchange of experience and good practice on the implementation
of European social partner agreementswith presentations
made by social partners from the UK, France and Hungary as a basis
for the discussion. This discussion highlighted the importance
of effective implementation of such agreements and recognised
that this could be achieved in very different ways according to
the different traditions and structures that prevail in different
Member States. I attach a copy of the Conference Report.
There has, as yet, been no notification of the
proposed ad hoc meeting of technical experts nor have there been
further moves to establish a specific social dialogue expert group
under the auspices of the committee of Directors General of Industrial
Relations. I understand that the last Directors General meeting
did not discuss the communication further; neither were the results
of the legal study on transnational collective bargaining made
I will of course inform the Committee if there
are any further significant developments arising from the Communication.
21 March 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Gerry Sutcliffe
Thank you for your letter dated 21 March which
was considered by Sub-Committee G on 30 March.
We note the absence of any significant progress
on this long-outstanding item, about which we continue to have
the reservations expressed in earlier correspondence.
On looking again at the papers we notice, however,
that the present informal arrangements for dialogue between social
partners do not appear to include any representation for SMEs.
That omission seems regrettable if this process is to have significant
value. We would be glad to know whether the Government share that
view and, if so, what might be done about it without formalising
the process or creating unnecessary bureaucracy.
The document will remain under scrutiny. We
look forward to hearing from you when you have some progress to
30 March 2006
Letter from Jim Fitzpatrick MP, Minister
for Employment Relations and Postal Services, Department of Trade
and Industry to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 30 March, to my
predecessor Gerry Sutcliffe, asking about representation of small
business in the European Social Dialogue.
The Government agrees with the Committee about
the importance of engaging small business in European Social Dialogue.
Since November 1998 the European Association of Craft, Small and
Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME), that is the employer's organisation
representing the interests of European crafts, trades and SMEs
at EU level, has been a recognised European Social Partner and
as such is recognised by the Commission for the purposes of consultation.
We welcome this.
However there remain a number of barriers to
effective small firm engagement in European Social Dialogue. This
emerged as a particular concern of new Member States, many of
which have particularly high concentrations of small firms.
That is why the UK Presidency held a conference
to focus on this issue, and bring together a range of actors to
look at ways in which this could be achieved. That conference
identified a number of ideas on how small firm engagement might
be developed that set out in the report of the conference (a copy
of the report was attached to my predecessor Gerry Sutcliffe's
previous letter of 21 March).
Beyond the formal European Social Dialogue there
is also the question of engaging small business in European policy
making more generally. The European Commission appointed a special
Envoy for SMEs to step up exchanges with SMEs and their representative
bodies. It acts as a key interface with the SME community, considering
their specific interests and needs in EU Programmes and legislation.
We would look to the SME Envoy to take a particular interest in
the whole range of small business engagement in EU policy and
regulation including the European Social Dialogue.
17 May 2006
Letter from Jim Fitzpatrick MP to the
Further to my predecessor's, Gerry Sutcliffe,
letter of 21 March 2006 and mine of 17 May 2006, on the above,
I am writing to update you further.
The Directors General for Industrial Relations
met on 19 May 2006 in Helsinki. However there continues to be
no notification of the proposed ad hoc meeting of technical
experts nor further moves to establish a specific social dialogue
expert group under the auspices of the committee of Directors
General for Industrial Relations.
Transnational collective bargaining
Regarding the results of the legal study on
transnational collective bargaining, I attach a copy of the final
Report which has just been made available to my officials. The
Report provides an appraisal of existing transnational tools in
Europe and the definition of reasons and means to develop an optional
framework for transnational collective bargaining at EU level.
13 June 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Jim Fitzpatrick
Thank you for your letters dated 17 May and
13 June which were considered by Sub-Committee G on 22 June.
We are grateful to you for explaining the existing
arrangements for representing SMEs and for drawing attention to
the UK Presidency conference on social dialogue held in London
on 17 November last year. While we appreciate the difficulties,
we continue to believe that every effort should be made to ensure
that SMEs have a proper voice in this process, as well as in European
policy-making more generally. We are glad to note that the Government
shares that view. We look forward to hearing whether the SME "Envoy"
is able to make a positive contribution to this process and what
British SMEs think about this innovation.
Thank you for sending us a copy of the lengthy
Commission legal study on transnational collective bargaining.
It would be helpful to know what the Government think about this
document and how it is expected to contribute to the overall process.
The continuing lack of any apparent progress
with either the proposed ad-hoc meetings of technical experts
or the social dialogue expert group is both puzzling and regrettable.
It seems to us to be symptomatic of a general lack of any sense
of urgency or enthusiasm over this initiative on the part of the
Presidency, and perhaps of other Member States. It is not clear
from your letters where, if anywhere, it is going.
After this Communication was first considered
by the Committee I wrote to your predecessor on 28 October 2004
sharing the Government's caution about any legislative intervention
by the Commission in this field. I commented then that we found
it hard to judge precisely what this initiative would amount to
in practice and whether it was likely to make a significant and
cost-effective contribution to the Lisbon objectives, as intended.
Our reservations remain while our understanding of what is involved
does not seem to have advanced any further in any of these respects
since then. We are beginning to wonder whether the time has not
come to ask the Commission either to formulate some specific proposals,
based on this Communication, or to shelve it altogether, and would
be glad to know how the Government see the way forward.
We will continue to retain the document under
scrutiny pending your reply.
23 June 2006
216 Correspondence with Ministers, 45th Report of
Session 2005-06, HL Paper 243, pp 675-676. Back