Sectoral Social Dialogue is essential for driving the economic recovery in Europe

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted and transformed labour markets and the way we work. Remote working has become the norm for many people. Workers need new skills,  training and guidance to adapt to new realities and sustain their employability.

Sonja van Lieshout, Chair of the Employers’ Delegation of the EU Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for temporary agency work and Dr. Michael Freytag, Public Affairs Manager of the World Employment Confederation-Europe

A deeper need to reform labour markets and to adapt social protection schemes also emerged in order to cope with the crisis and to drive economic recovery. One of the most visible changes in the past year has been the extension of short-time working schemes to diverse forms of work and the creation of new training programmes.

In the temporary agency work industry, training schemes are often initiatives driven and supported by sectoral social partners, based on collective labour agreements. Also, the European Commission has recently highlighted the importance of social dialogue at the cross-industry and sectoral level for adapting to the new normal and for driving economic and social recovery.

But we need to move beyond mere recovery. And social dialogue will play a key role in the broader transformations that we need for labour markets to be more agile and inclusive. Our Manifesto published in June 2021 “Recovery, Reform and Resilience” outlines a vision during and after the Covid-19 pandemic and puts forward policy recommendations for the European and national level. Managing labour market risks and fostering social innovation by developing new ways of working, learning and social protection are central elements of this Manifesto.

Recovery, Reform and Resilience can be best achieved through a spirit of partnership and cooperation between social partners at European and national level, policymakers and other labour market actors. The theme of PARTNERS was, therefore, an evident choice for the new Work Programme of the EU sectoral social partners for temporary agency work. Together with UNI-Europa,  we define eight main areas in which  we want to take joint actions in the coming three years, namely:

Platform work and the collaborative economy – discussing the relationship between online talent platforms and temporary agency work and contributing to the EU policy initiative to improve the working conditions for people working via online platforms.

Apprenticeships and the EU Skills Agenda – examining changing skills needs for workers and training schemes for young people, who are particularly hard hit in the current crisis, giving them hope and access to new opportunities through training.

Regulation – looking at appropriate regulation for temporary agency work, which on the one hand offers protection to workers while at the same time promotes appropriate conditions for agency work companies to operate and create new jobs.

Thought leadership on the future of work and new forms of work –  identifying trends, challenges and opportunities in the changing world of work and fostering convergence of views.

New normal – discussing the immediate and long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on economies and labour markets.

Employment policy debates at European and national level – focusing on activation, labour market transitions and a level playing field on the labour market by preventing undeclared work and ensuring compliance with existing regulation and industry quality standards.

Role of sectoral social partners on the labour market – encouraging capacity building and the exchange of good practices between employers and trade unions across Europe.

Social Innovation –  fostering new ways of working, learning and social protection to the benefits of workers, employers and society at large.

The 2021 – 2023 Sectoral Social Dialogue Work Programme for the temporary agency work sector builds strongly on priorities and achievements of the last years. The World Employment Confederation-Europe and UNI-Europa already conducted several joint projects on topics such as “Online talent platforms, labour market intermediaries and the changing world of work” and “Social Innovation in the temporary agency work industry”.

We also issued joint recommendations on work via online talent platforms, social innovation and recovery from Covid-19. This year, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on temporary agency work. Is there a better milestone to further cement our willingness to shape the changing world of work as partners?

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