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Outcomes

The start of an “official” sectoral social dialogue in the temporary work sector was closely linked to EU efforts to regulate this sector. These regulatory efforts were initially undertaken, without success, by the cross-industry social partners, and then in a legislative context by the Community institutions. The borderline between “cross-industry” and “sectoral” in this area of social dialogue has therefore remained vague.

 

 

It may in fact come as a surprise that the content of the temporary agency work directive was not negotiated directly by UNI-Europa and Euro-CIETT. They did however spend the first decade of the 2000s trying to put across their shared points of view on the document’s content. What has so far developed between them since the turn of the millennium is in essence, therefore, a social dialogue geared to lobbying activity, given that the social partners saw a need to influence the content of the directive.

 

The most contentious issue in the directive, namely equal treatment for temporary agency workers and staff of the user company, has been resolved. The directive no longer stipulates a general waiting period before the principle of equal treatment comes into effect: it is only possible to deviate from this rule where a collective agreement or, under certain circumstances, a specific agreement has been signed by the national social partners. The social partners are also given responsibility for checking on the implementation and enforcement of this principle in practice, thereby ensuring flexibility as well as protection for workers.

 

EuroCIETT reacted positively. According to its Managing Director, Denis Pennel, the agreement “will, by aligning the protection granted to temporary agency workers, improve the image of a sector that is still all too often discredited”. It should be pointed out, lastly, that under the directive any existing restrictions or prohibitions on the use of temporary agency work must be justified by Member States before December 2011. Only where these can be explained on grounds of general interest – subject to verification by the Commission – may such measures be maintained.

 

It now remains to be seen where the temporary work sectoral social dialogue will go from here. As we have seen, the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 work programmes indicate a desire to pursue dialogue on the topics of flexicurity, training, cross-border activity, etc. It nevertheless has to be acknowledged that this dialogue has hitherto focused more on lobbying than on reciprocal commitments. Only the 2009 “declaration” demonstrates a desire to engage in autonomous activity (in the field of vocational training).

 

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