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Participants and challenges

European social dialogue in the electricity sector was institutionalised by the setting up of a Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee (SSDC) in February 2000, a few years after the elaboration of a discussion paper on health and safety in the workplace and a study of gender equality, both carried out in the late 1990s.

The employers are represented by EURELECTRIC, a body created in 1999 following a merger between two sectoral associations (UNIPEDE and EURELECTRIC) , while trade union representation is the task of EMCEF (the European Mine, Chemical and Energy Workers’ Federation) and the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU).

Energy liberalisation and its social implications have been central to social dialogue ever since the founding of the SSDC. In 2000 the social partners drew up a joint opinion about an initial study carried out for the Commission on the likely social implications of liberalisation and the scale of job cuts. In 2007 they signed a declaration on the same topic, stressing in particular the need to devote careful attention to employment trends among subcontractors and in electricity-intensive industries.

The social partners have also addressed themselves to the changing skills required by employees as a result of transformations in the sector, and to continuing training: they have issued a study and declaration on lifelong learning (2002-2003) and a declaration on future skills needs in the sector (2004). More recently, in 2008, they produced a “toolkit” for socially responsible restructuring, based on a study of best practice.

Other noteworthy topics covered in the social dialogue are:

a) ageing of the labour force and its effects in terms of employment and skills (“Toolkit on promoting age diversity and age management strategies”, in 2008);

b) equal opportunities and diversity (2003 recommendation, 2004 report and a toolkit/best practice guide in 2007);

c) health and safety and training (2006 recommendation);

d) corporate social responsibility (2004 declaration, 2007 report and another declaration in 2009).

In addition, the social partners have held a conference and issued a declaration on the social implications of restructuring in the central and eastern European countries (2002), as well as producing two joint opinions on the social aspects of establishing a European Energy Community in South East Europe (2004 and 2007). Finally, they have signed four documents aimed at implementing in the electricity sector some agreements reached by the cross-industry social partners (on telework in 2002, work-related stress in 2004 and 2007, and harassment and violence at work in 2007). They are currently looking into the social impact of EU environmental policies.

ETUI and Observatoire Social Européen (2010) European Sectoral Social Dialogue Factsheets. Project coordinated by Christophe Degryse, online publication available at www.worker-participation.eu/EU-Social-Dialogue/Sectoral-ESD