Members of the Social Employers and EPSU meet to exchange on common priorities for social dialogue in social services

(Brussels, 4 May 2018) On 24 April 2018, EPSU and the Federation of European Social Employers (or short: “Social Employers”; read their information leaflet) organised the first joint Thematic Seminar in the framework of the PESSIS+ project. This project i.a. aims at strengthening the capacity of the Federation of European Social Employers to participate in EU-level social dialogue structures.

The project’s main activities include:

1) national events in ten EU Member States to engage with relevant national employer organisations, mainly from the not-for profit sector (in Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia), and to work towards a “National Action Plan” amongst employers,

2) an exchange with trade unions – concretely EPSU affiliates – in these 10 countries in view of setting-up the right structures at national level to engage in EU-level sectoral and cross-sectoral social dialogue,

3) research for 7 EU MS on the state of play of social dialogue structures in social services in 28 EU Member States (these “mapping exercises” will be done for Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg and Malta; all other 21 EU MS have already been covered by three project done since 2012) and three EU-level thematic seminars. EPSU affiliates can read a more detailed description of the project-related activities in a briefing note available in EN, FR, DE, CZ, ES, IT and SV. Summary information on the PESSIS+ Project can also be found on the page of Social Services Europe.

The first joint Thematic Seminar aimed at exchanging ideas on the three topics jointly identified:

1) “Digitalisation”,

2) “Job Creation and Recruitment and Retention” and

3) “Socially-Responsible Public Procurement”.

The second seminar is planned for October 2018, the third later in 2018. The aim of these meetings involving national affiliates of the two organisations is to have at the end of the project (i.e. in mid 2019), building on the discussions in the three thematic seminars, a common joint list of priority issues on which to elaborate a work plan for a possible future “test phase” of EU level social dialogue in the field of social services.

Fourteen representatives of EPSU from 10 affiliates and 9 countries attended the initial thematic seminar. It presented a good opportunity to start an exchange what affiliates of the Federation of European Social Employers are working on in their national context, which aspects they are prioritising “back home” and which aspects could be taken up at European level. The exchange and discussion on key trends and impacts of digitalisation, automatisation and robotisation on social services, their organisation and the workforce was introduced scoping documents prepared by the Social Employers (you can access this document here) and EPSU (EPSU Scoping Document on “Digitalisation and Social Services”; you can also have a look at the EPSU Presentation). Both organisations shared the view that technological innovation offers an opportunity to drive improvement in social and health care services, e.g. by offering more convenient access for patients to advice, treatment and medication. Risks and threats were also referred to.

The common challenge for social partners is to help accompanying and framing the ongoing and future changes in a way to embed the health, safety, dignity and rights of workers in new ways of working, of collaborating, of providing care services, thereby also giving coordinated and negotiated answers to the new needs and rights connected with the increased use and role of new technologies in the daily practice of an increasing number of workers and work situations. On behalf of the Social Employers illustrations for the main challenges seen and their own ongoing work and own initiatives were presented by the Belgian and German members to kick-off the exchange.

On Job Creation and Recruitment, the Social Employers and EPSU shared their views and exchanged in a first round their priorities and demands in view of the conditions for effective recruitment and retention policies/measures. This entails the question which measures can be put in place to improve the recruitment and retention conditions of staff, including wages and working conditions, work organisation and working time, health and safety at the workplace, addressing the opportunities and risks of an ageing workforce, access to continuing professional development, but also the support from colleagues and management (see the EPSU Scoping Document on “Recruitment and Retention”, including on ethical cross-border recruitment and retention; you can also have a look at the EPSU Presentation). This session was underpinned by a presentations from Czech and French members of the Social Employers.

The last topics shortly covered was the promotion of socially-responsible public procurement in the field of social services. For EPSU and the EPSU affiliates it is key to use the options of the 2014 EU Public Procurement Directive and e.g. to public tenders to also o account the past collective agreements and quality or social considerations (for more details see the EPSU Scoping Document on “socially-responsible public procurement”). For the Social Employers a Spanish member organisation gave a presentation on the current state of the implementation of Directive 2014/24/EU and of aspects of particular importance for the social employers in Spain.

In her introduction to the meeting on behalf of EPSU, Maryvonne Nicolle, Vice Chair of EPSU’s Standing Committee for Health and Social Services, said that “this meeting will be the first attempt to start sharing views about the challenges and opportunities in a sector where – despite employing over 10 million workers in Europe, with 2 million new jobs created in only a decade – there is not yet a comprehensive and well developed social dialogue in the field of social services in quite some countries and no coverage of a workforce, growing in numbers but often with non-attractive or even precarious working conditions when compared to other economic sectors – by structures of EU-level sectoral social dialogue. This lack of EU-level social dialogue means the voice of the sector and of the workforce is not as audible as it should be to better influence legislative and policy initiatives at EU-level."

She added: "EPSU is committed to further engaging in this process, including in the context of the thematic seminars, to jointly assess the challenges and opportunities for the provision of social service and the workforce and where possible and agreed to deepen the exchange and joint political work on a number of topics in a more structured and recognised framework at EU level “.

Please also read the press release issued by the Federation of European Social Employers.