A Commission report points to a progressive deterioration of social dialogue in the European Union

According to the Industrial Relations in Europe 2012 report published by the European Commission, the relations between social partners have been increasingly strained since the crisis began. Budgetary adjustment measures and reforms implemented by governments have contributed to labour relations which are increasingly conflictual in European industry.

The relationships and dialogue between the "social partners", i.e. the representatives of workers and employers; have been under an increasing pressure since the beginning of the crisis. Safeguarding the social dialogue between the two sides is however essential to ensure that the proposed measures and solutions are socially accepted and can be applied more effectively. These are some of the points highlighted by the European Commission in its report analysing the state of social dialogue in Europe.

The report shows how the results of this dialogue can result in visible effects for working lives of European workers in areas such as occupational health or general improvement of their working conditions. It also notes that those cases where there is an established social dialogue and the institutions involved have the necessary weight for negotiation, are usually the same cases where the economic and social situation has been less deteriorated.

The European Commission published its first report on industrial relations in 2010, which is then to be published every two years. In its 2012 edition, the report makes a detailed study of labour relations in the public service - especially in health, education and healthcare, as well as a review of the state of social dialogue in Central and Eastern Europe. It also includes aspects of social participation in the promotion of a green economy and in the reform of pensions and unemployment benefits.

Regarding the situation of social dialogue in the public service in view of the cuts carried out in public spending in several Member States, the report notes that in the main sectors affected governments have prioritised efficiency gains within public sector restructuring. However, the reforms have been received differently in different countries. Some states have applied a more balanced approach that has allowed to maintain the dialogue preserving the scope for collectively agreed solutions, while in other cases the reduction of public spending has led to an increase in labour disputes increasing the rejection of measures taken outside the social dialogue.