Restructuring and SMEs

The recent economic crisis has emphasized the role of Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as a way to create new jobs, employment and future growth. However, SMEs are often excluded from the policies and measures aimed at managing and anticipating change and restructuring. In particular, the social dialogue that often takes place in times of restructuring and change is almost non-existent in SMEs going through change and restructuring.

Some of the challenging questions to address

1) How the crisis makes SMEs operate and organize in innovative ways

• When everybody was looking at downsizing in the 80s there was also developing a new structure of companies and relations between companies: i.e., outsourcing and externalization created new structures of employment and business. Nevertheless a silent restructuring took place in the world of SME’s. Is the actual crisis an opportunity for SMEs to work and organize themselves in new ways?

• Not all SMEs are victims, the majority are survivors. What are their secrets? What are survival strategies and tactics in SME’s

• Under what conditions can economic crisis create, even restore, or substitute social dialogue?

2) What access do SMEs have to shock absorbers and transition services ?

• To what extent are they excluded of services, benefits and support ? To what extent are they aware of them? What are in fact the shock absorbers and the transitions services accessible for SMEs if any?

• What are the fears and complexities among SMEs to ask for help and using existing facilities, also as a result of administrative burdens ?

• Many existing policy measures are responses to old problems, what are the new problems and policy measures? Are these policy measures relevant for SMEs?

3) Are regional and sectoral dialogue the way for social dialogue in SME’s?

• Can regional social partners cover and help find solutions for SME’s and the people working there? Is there a receipt for sectoral social dialogue to take on board and facilitate the problems and needs of SME’s and their employees?

• If there is internal social dialogue in SMEs (union representation, works council, employee representation), how can it best relate to social dialogue in the sector or the region?

4) Big and small companies: what common interests and responsibilities in restructuring and social dialogue ?

• Subcontracting: in some countries big companies take care of their suppliers, they help their suppliers to survive or help them to die. In the automotive sector, it is key to work closely with suppliers. To what extent are big companies helping SMEs during restructuring operations?

• Co-operation between SME’s and bigger companies, how to avoid dependency of the SME’s?

• Do common restructuring programmes exist for big players and SME’s within the value chain?


ico1 ► SMEs, restructuring, innovations and social dialogue - policy paper 1, english version.
ico1 ► PME, restructurations, innovations et dialogue social - policy paper 1, version française.
ico1 ► Crisis, Social dialogue and Renewals in Restructuring : restructuring in SMEs - workshop cahier 2, english version.