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Sectoral social dialogue committees
The European social dialogue is one of the pillars of the European social model as well as a tool for social cohesion. Complementing the cross-industry social dialogue, the sectoral social dialogue is an instrument of good political governance.
The Commission is pursuing the creation of Sectoral Social Dialogue Committees (SSDC) in order to foster dialogue between the social partners at European level. European organisations of social partners who wish to form such a committee must jointly submit a request to the Commission. These organisations must consist of affiliated members from several Member States who are recognised as social partners nationally. They must be capable of negotiating agreements at European level, be suitably structured and ensure effective participation in European social dialogue. These criteria enable the Commission to judge the representativeness of the organisations at European level.
The SSDCs act as a forum for consultation on the drafting of European Union (EU) legislation and policies on employment and social affairs. The committees also constitute an independent framework for social dialogue between the European social partners, particularly for carrying out joint actions and negotiations.
Sectoral social dialogue committees consist of a maximum of 54 social-partner representatives, with an equal number of representatives of both employers and employees. They are chaired either by one of the social-partner representatives or, at their request, by the representative of the Commission, which in all cases provides the secretariat for the committees.
Each committee adopts its own rules of procedure and work programme. It holds at least one plenary meeting per year. More specific questions are dealt with by meetings of extended secretariats or select working groups (employment, health and safety at work, enlargement, training, etc.).
Representativeness is essential for the legitimacy of the social dialogue. For that reason, whenever an application to establish a committee is put forward, the Commission sends the social-partner organisations concerned a questionnaire to enable them evaluate the extent to which they meet the criteria for establishment, such as the authority to negotiate agreements or the representativeness which determines the relevance of the social dialogue. The representativeness requirement will vary depending on the nature of activities. For example, it will be stricter in the case of a negotiated agreement than for simple consultation.
To date, 40 committees have been set up by the Commission. The decisions, declarations and agreements adopted by these committees concern nearly 145 million workers, or three-quarters of Europe’s active population. The committees have adopted more than 500 texts, and in particular certain agreements which are set to be implemented in the Member States in the form of directives or national procedures.