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A common interest in social dialogue? 12 March 2013

Posted by cooperatoby in EU, social economy, Social enterprise.
Tags: ,

Discussion at the Social Economy intergroup on 6th March showed that there is some confusion – perhaps deliberate – about what social dialogue is, so when the social economy wants to talk about it various hidden agendas come to light.

L-R: Emmanuel Verny, Karine Pflüger, Salvatore Vetro, Luca Pastorelli

L-R: Emmanuel Verny, Karine Pflüger, Salvatore Vetro, Luca Pastorelli

For the European Commission, social dialogue is inclusive in content, if not in participants. Egbert Holthuis, head of DG EMPL unit D1, dealing with social policy innovation and governance explained how the institutional social dialogue gives a preferential place to the social partners, and the Commission consults them first. The Commission is happy to help the social economy horizontally – the SBI shows this – but the issue of social dialogue would require detailed consideration.
A surprisingly trenchant position came from Patrick Itschert, deputy general secretary of the ETUC, who stressed its view that in social dialogue, two’s company and three’s a crowd. If the social economy wants to do dialogue, it can do civil dialogue.
And so it is in fact – the social economy is largely excluded from the institutional social dialogue. Only in the Czech Republic are the co-operatives members of the employers’ federation, while at EU level the co-operative banks and the mutual insurers are part of the sectoral social dialogue. Nevertheless the social economy is a big employer, with 14m jobs in the EU and growing fast. It is also more resilient and is preserving jobs in this time of crisis.
Emmanuel Verny, head of the French social economy employers’ association CEGES, testified that social dialogue – alongside civil dialogue – is a living reality for the 2.3m workers in France’s social economy.

Expanding the boundaries of dialogue

Welfare and living standards are not only about pay and industrial relations in the old sense – they also include the quality of public service provision, and in this field the social economy contributes a lot. Particularly in social services (SSGIs), an involved workforce delivers a more responsive service. When the interests of citizens as consumers as well as producers are taken into account, it makes sense to give the social economy a place at the negotiating table. In this sense the trade unions, as defenders of our rights, have an interest in more participative approaches to work organisation.
This may be why the ETUC is partnering with Social Economy Europe and DIESIS in the MESMER project to study good practice in social dialogue in the social economy. I am optimistic that, for instance, the way social co-ops work in Italy could be very interesting for NHS mutualisation’s in Britain. There may be useful lessons to be learnt in the opposite direction too. CEEP seems keen to be a part of this learning.



1. Gianluca Pastorelli - 13 March 2013

Hi Toby, I understood Itschert’s speech differently. Sure it was quite trenchant but he said that the (European) Social dialogue does not exist for Social Economy and that Social Dialogue in general is between Employers and Trade Unions. (My comment: Since SE is not recognized as Employer at the European level he could not say otherwise ) Thus he pointed out that Social Dialogue must not be confused with civil dialogue uderlining the necessity of identifying practices or examples that have a significant impact (also in terms of quantities and not only for their quality) on employment.
He was (I think had to be) very careful on this slipping ground because of the fact that some employers from “the classic sectors” were attending the meeting.

I would also like to add that – concerning countries – in Italy Coops are Social Partner like the other employers. Intersectoral umbrellas have their own representative who participate to negotiations at the national level then they rely on different sectors’ representative for sectoral negotiations.


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