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The range of topics covered by sectoral social dialogue in the European shipbuilding sector has so far remained very narrow: indeed the sole topic is human resources. The objectives set for social dialogue in the SSDC rules of procedure remain a long way off. Whereas the trade union side would like to see a stepping up of dialogue, internal splits on the employers’ side appear to be hampering progress.

Although shipbuilding was the first subsector of the metalworking industry to establish a Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee, its outcomes appear for the time being to be rather limited. This applies both to the topics addressed and to the output of joint documents. Only two texts have been signed: the rules of procedure and a study on human resources.

On the trade union side, the EMF would like to enhance the social partners’ capacity to adopt joint declarations and joint opinions, particularly concerning the need for qualifications and skills, but also on European policies (especially the Commission’s Green Paper on maritime policy). The EMF would also like to embark on talks about social standards in the sector.

On the employers’ side, the CESA appears to be suffering from internal splits over whether or not to hold, or even continue, certain discussions within the SSDC – for example about a “toolkit” containing information on good practices recorded in the EU. The CESA would prefer to tackle topics such as migration and health and safety at work.

For now, therefore, the establishment of fully-fledged social dialogue in the sector would appear problematical. This state of affairs undoubtedly has to do with the specific nature of European shipbuilding: the diversity of enterprises, fierce international competition, the absence – so far – of common international (OECD) rules on competition, and the need for European companies to emphasise their distinctiveness from their Asian competitors: research and development, innovation, vessel safety, environmental aspects, etc.

All in all, the SSDC currently remains a long way from achieving the aims it set itself in its 2003 rules of procedure.

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