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Participants and challenges

European social dialogue in the temporary work sector was launched in 2000. The social partners in the sector, UNI-Europa for the workers and Euro-CIETT for the employers, initially shaped their social dialogue around European-level discussion of the directive on temporary agency work.

We must go back to 1995 to fully understand and assess the dynamic of sectoral social dialogue in the temporary work sector. In that year, before the sectoral social dialogue in this sphere had been put on a formal footing, the Commission launched a round of consultations with the cross-industry European social partners. This led to the start of negotiations between them on three topics: part-time work, fixed-term contracts and temporary work. Framework agreements were reached on the first two, both of which were transformed into directives, in 1997 and 1999 respectively.

In May 2000 the cross-industry social partners began to discuss temporary work. In July of that same year, the sectoral social partners, UNI-Europa and Euro-CIETT, made their sectoral social dialogue official by signing a declaration of recognition – even though an informal SSD already existed. The declaration defines the role of social dialogue as follows: “given that agency work may play a positive role in the labour market, the sectoral social dialogue should devote itself to improving the quality and operation of the labour market in Europe, the employment and working conditions of agency-supplied workers and greater professionalism in the sector”.

This newly established SSD was however suspended between July 2000 and June 2001 while the cross-industry talks on the subject were underway. But the cross-industry social partners failed to reach an agreement. The Commission therefore stepped in again and (once more) proposed a directive on temporary work in 2001.

The Commission’s legislative initiative prompted UNI-Europa and Euro-CIETT to negotiate and adopt joint opinions on various aspects of the draft directive and on working time (2001). Then, bit by bit, their talks expanded into areas such as flexicurity (2007), working conditions (2008) and vocational training (2009).

In 2008, just before the directive on temporary agency work was adopted, UNI-Europa and Euro-CIETT focused their talks on the content of that directive in the hope of being listened to by the European Parliament and the Council. The Council reached a qualified majority agreement on the proposal on 10 June 2008. Following its approval by the European Parliament on 22 October 2008, the directive was officially adopted by the Council on 19 November 2008, with its entry into force scheduled for three years later. The Commission and the social partners – both cross-industry and sectoral – gave their backing to this agreement.

As is evident from the work programmes for 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, UNI-Europa and Euro-CIETT wish to continue their social dialogue on the topics of flexicurity (following up on their joint opinion of 2007) and vocational training, but they also intend to analyse the cross-border activities of temporary work agencies, promote national social dialogue and also of course monitor legislative developments within Europe (employment contracts, the posting of workers, etc.) and internationally (ILO Convention No. 181, decent work, non-discrimination, etc.).

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