Restructuring and social dialogue

Used mostly to mitigate the social effects of restructuring – from severance payments to active re-employment and retraining schemes – social dialogue is also a tool for anticipation and preparation. It addresses issues such as observatories and forecasting tools, life-long learning schemes, and comprehensive flexicurity systems such as that in Denmark.

In Europe, many countries show a tradition of social dialogue at company, regional and national levels. This facilitates discussions between employers’ and workers’ organisations on restructuring.

At company level, a sound information and consultation process, as required and strengthened by EU and national legislation, has to take place. Many examples show how effective this can be in the context of restructuring. But, when it comes to more strategic anticipation at company level, there are still many difficulties related to sharing of information and acting in a timely manner. And some problems are not easily left to the social partners to handle.

Therefore, although social dialogue is crucial, the crisis has revealed some limits and challenges. Furthermore, in the context of a move towards more decentralised collective bargaining at company level in most countries, it is unclear whether social dialogue will really be able to address structural changes.