(14 February 2018) The 16th and 17th of January were important days for social services in Europe. They marked the official kick off of the latest PESSIS project on social dialogue in social services. PESSIS + will aim on one side at strengthening the ability of the European Social Employers Network (ESEN) – in the first months of its existence called Federation of European Social Employers (FESE) – to be representative and to negotiate and to adopt agreements at European level; and on the other it will in a first step focus on verifying the feasibility and preparing a test phase of the social dialogue in the social services sector in a second step.
The meeting took place in the offices of EASPD, the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities, and was attended by colleagues of the EPSU Secretariat, representatives of the newly formed Federation of European Social Employers (FESE) launched on 20 October 2017, other European networks of social service providers such as Solidar and the European Platform for Rehabilitation. The participants discussed the three main axes of action of PESSIS+ (a mapping exercise, national events and meetings of the national social partners at EU-level) plus its communications strategy.
Three European thematic seminars will be organised. It is planned to dedicate them to topics such as the impact of digitalisation on the social services workforce, job creation policies and measures (in particular focusing on the attractiveness of the sector, on ethical recruitment and on retention strategies) and socially-responsible public procurement. They will be the opportunity for FESE and EPSU to develop their capacity to exchange and – if a number of conditions are met – to negotiate at European level with a view to enter into a test phase of European social dialogue.
The project will also complete the mapping of social dialogue structures in the social services sector throughout the 28 European Member States and will support capacity building events in 10 EU Member States (Croatia, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia). These will help consolidate the interest of national employers in those countries to become members of the ESEN and build up the capacity to take part in the European social dialogue.
For EPSU quality social services are a key element in ensuring social justice and the values of human rights, solidarity, ecological sustainability, and democratic participation at the European level. This is why EPSU joined as the trade union organization in the PESSIS+ consortium and is working with relevant national employers’ organisations and their European network towards the creation of structures for European sectorial social dialogue in the field of elderly care, child care, care for disabled persons and other social services that can ensure quality, equality and transparency and improve conditions for social services workers.
In advance of the kick-off meeting, EPSU General Secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan on 15 January 2018 had met with the newly elected FESE/ESEN Board to first have a first exchange of views and to assess future perspectives. The meeting was a useful moment to discuss ways and formats for cooperation and possible activities between the two organisations in a sector that is still largely characterised by low pay and poor working conditions, part-time work (especially of the very dominantly female workforce), challenges linked to (fake) self-employment, understaffing and work overloads, a high level of staff turnover, an ageing workforce, and related problems with recruitment and retention.