Pochet, Philippe. (2007) European social dialogue between hard and soft law. In: UNSPECIFIED, Montreal, Canada. (Unpublished)
[From the introduction]. If the debates raged around the European Employment Strategy (EES) and more generally on Open Method of Coordination (OMC) and the new modes of governance, less and less attention was paid to social dialogue. An evaluation of the cross-industry and sectoral social dialogue is a difficult task as it is an on-going process with various dimensions, among them the information, consultation, and negotiation between the European trade unions, the European employers and the Commission are often underlined (Transfer, 2006). Social dialogue is based on the treaty (Art. 138 and 139) and is generally considered as being part of a hard law approach (Falkner, 1998). Nevertheless, the last cross-industry agreement dated back to 1999 and only few binding agreements have been signed at sectoral level. Since 2000, the agreements signed were autonomous agreements which look like a hybrid between soft and hard law both by flexibility of the content and the nature of instruments to implement the EU agreement. The paper analyses the latest developments at cross-industry and sectoral level in order to evaluate the nature of the dynamics at play (Leonard et al., 2007). We will present in an integrated framework both the cross-industry and sectoral social dialogues. Their stories run mostly in parallel but recently the interaction has increased as they have worked on the same topics (telework for example) and as the Commission (see CEC, 2004) is trying to combine them. Finally, they have more or less reached the same point (soft law as the main regulatory instrument) and are confronted by the same set of problems (implementation, enlargement, representativeness…). As the sectoral social dialogue is much less well-known that the cross-industry one, we will concentrate our attention in this paper on developments at sectoral level (see also De Benecditus et al, 2003, de Boer et al, 2005, Dufresne et al, 2006, for the development at cross-industry level see the annual review by Degryse). This chapter is structured as follows: the first part presents a brief history of the European social dialogue, the second part defines broad categories to classify the joint texts adopted by the EU social partners, the third present a quantitative analysis of the texts adopted in the last ten years at sectoral level. Section 4 briefly illustrates the nature of the exchange and presents a typology. Then we draw some conclusions.
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