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“Effective social dialogue made labour markets more resilient to Covid-19”

On June 24 the World Employment Confederation-Europe and UNI-Europa organized a joint webconference to discuss with EU stakeholders the policy framework needed to put Europe on the pathway to an inclusive economic and social recovery and demonstrated through concrete examples by agency work sectoral social partners how social dialogue can make the difference.

Published on 26th June 2020

“Social dialogue has played a key role at European, national, sectoral and company level during the Covid-19 crisis to ensure continuity of employment, enable workers’ transitions between sectors and invest in skills and qualifications,” said Sébastien Delfosse, chairman of WEC’s EU Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee. “, to open the event.

After an introduction of the joint recommendations adopted by the World Employment Confederation-Europe and UNI-Europa in April, Sigrid Caspar, Team leader Sectoral Social Dialogue at the European Commission’s DG Employment, praised the social partners of the agency work sector for delivering exactly what the Commission expects of social dialogue. She then explained the different measures took to mitigate unemployment risks, such as the EU Sure initiative to support national short-time working schemes and the recovery plan put forward by the European Union.

Tina Weber, Research Manager, Eurofound presented the conclusions of research done by the Foundation on the employment impacts of Covid 19 and the role of social partners in the crisis. In general, the research found that social dialogue was often a ‘victim’ of the rapid evolution of the pandemic which made it difficult for social partners to be involved in the adoption of government measures.

Yet, in the agency work sector, many concrete actions were taken through sectoral social dialogue at national level. Social partners from the Netherlands, France and Italy presented some of these initiatives. In the Netherlands, agency workers who had lost their jobs because of Covid-19 were offered training vouchers, so they could gain new skills and maintain their employability. For some, it was an opportunity to embrace a career change they had been considering. This benefit comes on top of the training benefits already available to agency workers through the bipartite fund, DOORZAAM.

In France, social partners worked a lot on providing adequate information to ensure health and safety of agency workers. For instance, dedicated fact sheets made available on the Ministry of Labour’s website clarified the obligations for the temporary work agency, the client company and the worker. In Italy, sectoral social dialogue also offered extensive support to agency workers, mobilizing the bipartite fund to guarantee continuity of employment and salary for more than 100 000 workers in March and April. This was particularly critical as government support was not yet provided.

Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI-Europa, concluded the event by reflecting on how the crisis has shown that countries which had effective collective bargaining had been more resilient. “The work we have been doing together for more than 20 years is actually delivering and stabilising the system,” he said, pointing out that in view of rising challenges like digitalisation, the model of the agency work sector could serve as inspiration to make flexibility positive by empowering workers and ensuring responsible providers.

The World Employment Confederation-Europe and UNI-Europa will continue working together through the EU Sectoral Social Dialogue. Their latest joint research project focuses on social innovation in training, working conditions and social protection for agency workers and its conclusions will be presented by the end of 2020.

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