Last Thursday 21 November 2019 CEEP held the final dissemination conference for its project “Social services in European cross-industry social dialogue: towards a strong and deeper involvement”. Co-funded by the European Commission, this CEEP project was co-organised with the following national social services’ organisations from across Europe: UDES – French association of social enterprises, UNISOC – Belgian national employer organisation for non-profit organisations, and ALAL – Lithuanian association of local authorities. It aimed at providing a better understanding of how social dialogue is organised in social services, focusing on the situation in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta and Romania.

In her opening remarks, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, emphasised the importance of social services and of social dialogue, and how they can support each other. “The aim of this project is three-fold: it raises political awareness about the key role played by your services to ensure the stability of the EU economy and citizens’ participation in the social and economic life”, said Ms Ronzitti. She continued: “It is also a major contribution to further raise the involvement of social services in cross-industry social dialogue. Social dialogue provides means and solutions to cooperate with institutions, both at EU and at national level. And social services have their place at the table, when the EU must strive for more balance between economic and social.”

Adam Rogalewski, who opened the session on behalf of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) together with Ms Ronzitti, insisted very much on the key role of social dialogue to ensure Social Services of General Interest (SSGIs) are prepared to face the future challenges ahead. On this point, Sven Matzke, the appointed European Commission’s contact point for the project for the past two years, underlined that one of the aims of the project was to give more attention to SSGIs in cross-industry social dialogue, looking at what this European Commission has achieved in this field, and the projects of the incoming European Commission. To this purpose, it was important to benefit from Eckhard Voss’s presentation of the study that was conducted by Wilke Maack Partners (WMP)  over the two years of the project, since the introductory remarks were corroborated by the findings of the research that highlighted the importance of developing cross-industry social dialogue in the 6 countries targeted by the study, since there has hardly been any collective bargaining in those countries during the past decades, due to the inexistence of providers and employers in these sectors.

A first panel discussion in the morning gave the audience an in-depth insight of the situation of SSGI providers in the 6 EU Member States targeted by the project research, especially in terms of the challenges faced by SSGIs in each of the countries and the level of preparedness in each national context to tackle and address them.

The afternoon session was opened by a panel featuring the project partners and EUROFOUND that provided relevant examples of countries and SSGI employers that have had the time and resources to develop social dialogue at the cross-industry level, and shared with the audience the process of how they managed to do it.

The conclusions were positive since the best achievement of this two-years project was indeed the creation of a long-standing networks of providers and actors at the national level through which CEEP intends to continue promoting the importance of social dialogue, now that they are better equipped to know the difficulties such actors face at the national level. The aim of this project was to do more capacity building and raise at the EU level the importance of addressing the SSGI challenges at the cross-industry level of social dialogue, since the diversity of sectors can only be addressed in this context.

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