Social dialogue in the local and regional government sector: an overview

{April 2009} {{{Introduction}}} This overview looks at how the different forms of social dialogue are working at different levels in the local and regional government sector in the EU Member States and at EU level. It has been prepared for the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) and the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), the two bodies which respectively represent the employers and the employees in social dialogue in the sector at European level. The sector is of great importance in Europe. In the different countries of the EU it delivers a wide range of services, including – depending on the country – health care, public transport, education, police services, fire services and water supply. In almost every country it provides services – from social care to refuse collection, from planning to parks – which are central to daily life. In total, expenditure by regional and local government accounts for 15.5% of GDP in the 27 EU states and 33.9% of total public sector expenditure. The sector employs some 17 million people in Europe Local and regional government is also an important part of the democratic fabric in Europe. Elected representatives take decisions close to those they represent. But although the sector has its own democratic legitimacy, it operates within national frameworks as well as the overall economic context. It faces major challenges as growing public demands for more and better services come up against tight constraints on resources – which may intensify as a result of the current economic crisis. These tensions have a direct impact on those who deliver the services – the employees. Social dialogue – discussions and negotiations between employers and the unions who represent employees – can help to find ways to meet these challenges. It can help to ensure that the provision of efficient, cost-effective public services of high quality goes hand-in-hand with good employment practices. This overview tries to clarify and summarise the existing position on social dialogue in the sector. It draws on work undertaken jointly for CEMR and EPSU and specifically for EPSU (available on the EPSU and CEMR websites). It also benefits from the comments and contributions of those present at the EPSU/CEMR workshop in Bratislava on 11 December 2008 and the CEMR/EPSU plenary meeting the following day.
{{TABLE OF CONTENTS}} {{{1) Introduction}}} {{{2) A definition for social dialogue}}} {{{3) Social dialogue at EU level}}} {{{4) The context of social dialogue within member states}}} The structure of local and regional government The functions of local and regional government Employment status of those working in local and regional government The financing of local and regional government {{{5) Collective bargaining in local and regional government}}} Does collective bargaining take place? Set unilaterally by government Not negotiated in the same way as other employees Subject to legislative approval No need for legislation The level of negotiations Agreements for the whole of the public sector Agreements for the whole of local and regional government Local negotiations Blurring boundaries Pressure from the centre Local flexibility {{{6) Broader social dialogue}}} Definitions Broader social dialogue – where does it take place? The issues covered by broader social dialogue The link with European social dialogue
{with the financial support of the European Commission}