The three-way meeting on wages failed to meet the expectations of the European social partners: after the 1 February meeting, trade unions and employers both denounced the European Commission's choice of format and subjects. All said they would refuse to repeat the experience in its present form.
The wage dialogue was proposed as part of the employment package with a view to "monitoring and debating wage developments in relation to productivity, inflation and domestic demand, unemployment and income inequalities". This first meeting, organised by the Employment Committee (EMCO), brought together representatives of the Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and social partners. All were invited to give their views on wage developments in relation to productivity, on the consequences of these developments on domestic demand and employment, and on income inequalities.
This first experience was not very convincing for the social partners, though, who are very concerned about their autonomy.
PROBLEM OF CONTENT AND FORMAT
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), BusinessEurope, the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME) and the European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public Services (CEEP) all criticised the framework, form and content of the meeting. "Effective social dialogue cannot take place in a framework where one party decides what issues will be discussed and how those discussions are to take place," said ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Segol.
- Practical aspects: the social partners find that the Commission "unilaterally" imposed its agenda. ETUC Confederal Secretary Jozef Niemiec also regretted the limited speaking time given to the European social partners (to the benefit of a few national organisations) and the lack of clarity on what follow-up action will be taken (the Employment Committee may propose conclusions or a report to the Employment and Social Affairs Council).
- Format: from the start, the social partners supported a two-way dialogue between the social partners facilitated by the Commission, rather than a three-way meeting. Employers also regret the creation of a new structure. Andreas Persson of...