First meeting of the year for the EU social partners for central governments: whistleblowers’ protection, digitalisation, violence and harassment on the agenda

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(Brussels 14 February 2023) At their meeting on 8 February, the EU social partners, EUPAE and TUNED, finalized and adopted a statement calling for an effective transposition of the EU directive on whistleblowers’ protection in central or federal governments, see here.

As some  governments have delayed the transposition into domestic legislation, the statement is an opportunity to reaffirm support for the protection of whistleblowers in a collective trade union rights’ framework.

The statement underlines that a speak up culture is key to fighting corruption and upholding the fundamental right to good administration. To ensure workers and civil servants be confident to report internally or externally wrongdoing, they must feel and be protected against all forms of retaliation from the employers or administration.

It reminds that the obligation to establish internal reporting channels must be done in consultation or in agreement with trade unions,  protect the identity of the reporting worker and allow for a quick and effective follow-up. During the discussion it was said that some national laws as in Belgium allow and follow up on anonymous reporting.

Following the adoption on 6 October last of a new agreement on digitalisation which covers telework, right to disconnect, artificial intelligence, outsourcing, protection of data and training, social partners were eager to hear about how the Commission will follow up on their request for a legislative implementation of the agreement.

In a letter to the SDC CGA, Commissioner Schmit confirmed the Commission will tackle the sectoral agreement together with the upcoming cross sector agreement on telework and the right to disconnect.  The Committee therefore agreed to seek a meeting with cross-sector social partners to discuss further the feasibility of the articulation of the two agreements.

Further, Marta Pradanos, EC official at DG EMPL, confirmed at the meeting that the new Communication on EU social dialogue applies to the sectoral agreement. Accordingly TUNED and EUPAE will ask the Commission to start the review of their agreement and get back to them within a 3-month period (see here EPSU reaction to the Communication).

In view of much evidence of the increase of third-party violence and harassment at work against workers from service users, the trade union side presented a follow-up action plan to a multisectoral project led by EPSU with 7 other sectoral social partners on the subject. The action plan, adopted on 25 November last recommends the updating of the 2010 multisectoral guidelines on tackling violence and harassment at work to reflect legislative and collective agreements developments at national, European or ILO level. The employers will get back to TUNED in two weeks’ time to inform whether they can formally endorse the plan.

If approved by all sectoral social dialogue committees concerned, the next step will be to request the Commission to finance the negotiation meetings.  In this regard, Ms Pradanos, confirmed that although the Commission will shortly stop assuming the responsibility of organising the sectoral social dialogue committees, it will continue doing so for negotiation meetings.

The next meeting is on 15 June 2023 (Hybrid format).

Social dialogue committee for central government administration’s statement on the EU directive on whistleblowers’ protection