Social partners urge European Commission to clarify EU framework for local initiatives on social procurement

(14 October 2009) EPSU and CEMR at the meeting of their sectoral social dialogue committee on 9 October discussed possible joint actions on social procurement in light of the forthcoming guide from the European Commission on socially responsible public procurement (SRPP), expected now to be published towards the end of 2009.

EPSU and CEMR affirmed that local and regional authorities must have freedom to take into account the full range of economic, social and environmental costs and benefits of public procurement, thereby making the best possible use of tax payers’ money.

EPSU and CEMR are committed to promoting “quality local and regional government public services based on values of accountability and social responsibility.”(1) Quality local services depend on both good management and quality of working-life and efficient service processes meeting the citizens’ needs. It is therefore vital that workforce issues are addressed in procurement in labour-intensive services where labour costs make up a high percentage of operating costs.
Social procurement can also be an opportunity for local and regional authorities to act responsibly when buying goods.

The social partners expect that the new guide on socially responsible public procurement will clarify the situation. The social partners of the local and regional government sector will continue to analyse how the procurement process can best take the social aspects into account.

CEMR and EPSU also stressed that local and regional authorities must have the opportunity and necessary information available for assessing if public procurement is the right method to provide a particular service and be able to compare and evaluate different options, as well as to monitor and evaluate how the services are provided in practice. “Balanced information regarding the ”pros” and “cons” of different ways of delivering public services is lacking, and indeed biased against public sector delivery. Public authorities need to be in a better position to monitor and evaluate the different ways of providing local services and to assess the different risks involved, for example regarding the difficulties of defining quality criteria in public contracts, and indeed problems that arise from fragmented procurement processes.” (2) An assessment in local and regional government should pay attention to the gender equality aspect and consequences for industrial relations as well (3).

CEMR and EPSU agreed in their meeting on the 9 October to establish a working group to discuss further the Commission’s SRPP Guide and to build on the social procurement practices of their members.

1) Joint work programme 2008-2010

2) CEMR and EPSU conclusions adopted on 24 June 2008 on their report “Supporting the reform process in local and regional government: Joint evaluation of the experience in different forms of service provision”

3) Gender equality is a priority for the local and regional government social partners and the EPSU / CEMR social dialogue committee adopted guidelines on gender equality action plans in December 2007