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Participants and challenges

European social dialogue in the private security sector began in an informal working group in 1992. The Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee (SSDC) was established in 1999. The employers are represented on the Committee by CoESS (the Confederation of European Security Services), formed in 1989, and the workers by the Cleaning/Security section of UNI-Europa.

The stated aim of European social dialogue in the private security sector is to enhance professionalism in the sector through training, modernising work organisation, developing healthy and fair competition, and improving the various Member States’ legislation governing the sector by means of harmonisation. CoESS and UNI-Europa wish to improve the (often poor) image of the sector and make it more attractive.

They believe that action at European (rather than national) level needs to be taken to this end, in order to consolidate a “European model of private security services”, the main characteristics of which are set out in a Code of conduct and ethics adopted in 2003. The Code makes recommendations in various social spheres (e.g. training, health and safety, pay, non-discrimination, work organisation), but also covers relations with clients, with the police and with other private security companies. Its first four points concern compliance with regulations, transparency of procedures, permits and authorisations, and selection and recruitment.

These overall guidelines for social dialogue have led to the production of a number of tools: in 1999 a memorandum on the award of contracts, aimed at helping purchasers to assess the quality/price ratio of the services offered to them; in 2004 a training manual on preventing occupational hazards; and in 2006 a European educational “toolkit” for three private security activities/profiles (mobile patrolling, alarm response centres and airport security).

EU enlargement has been a particularly sensitive matter in this sector, in relation to the social partners’ aim of improving its brand image. At the time of the 2004 and 2007 enlargements, private security was in fact largely unregulated in the central and eastern European countries, and the trade union presence there was minimal. It was difficult to expand European social dialogue in those countries in the absence of well-established national social partners, yet laying down convergent or common standards and regulations was a vital prerequisite for establishing fair competition between firms from different EU Member States.

The sector also engages in lobbying the European institutions: it has done so by adopting joint opinions on regulation and licensing (1996), on the European harmonisation of legislation (2001), on the “services” directive (2004), and on the cross-border transport of funds (2009) (see below).

As far as working conditions are concerned, the European social partners have managed to reach agreements on work-related stress (in this case they implemented the European cross-industry agreement), on preventing occupational hazards, and on combating undeclared work. The SSDC has likewise explored the subject of cash in transit. These deliberations resulted, in 2009, in the adoption of a joint opinion on the cross-border transport of euro cash. The main points at issue here revolve around jobs, the status of “posted” workers and the legislation applying to them, and workers’ training. For instance, a variety of national practices had come to light regarding the carrying of weapons on cash-in-transit operations.

It is worth noting, last of all, that some cooperation has taken place with the cleaning, Horeca and textile sectors on the subject of public procurement. This work resulted, in April 2008, in the adoption of a joint cross-sectoral declaration (UNI-Europa, EFFAT, ETUF-TCL, CoEss, FERCO, EFCI and EURATEX) entitled “Towards responsible awarding of contracts”.

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