The Social Dialogue is a tool to ensure the smooth functioning of labour markets – recognised by Articles 154 and 155 of the EU Treaty.

It refers to the joint cooperation and actions undertaken by the European Social Partners representing the two sides of industry (management and labour).

Social dialogue designates bipartite work by the social partners, whether or not prompted by the Commission’s official consultations. Since 1985, this process has resulted in the adoption of over 60 initiatives by the Social Partners.

The Cross-industry Social Dialogue

At cross-industry level, the bipartite European social dialogue takes place between the following organisations:

The Social Dialogue Committee (SDC) is the main body for bipartite social dialogue at European level. It consists of maximum 64 representatives of the social partners, equally divided between the employers’ and the workers’ representative organisations and including the EU Secretariats of the cross-industry social partners, as well as representatives from the national member organisations on each side.

It can set up technical working groups to discuss various issues like labour market challenges, reconciliation of working and family life etc. The SDC adopts and follows up the results of negotiations between employers and workers’ representative bodies and it takes part in social dialogue summits – high-level meetings chaired by the president of the Commission.

It meets 3-4 times a year to discuss employers/workers’ views on various topics, adopt texts negotiated by both parties and plan future initiatives.

The Tripartite Social Summit

The 2003/174/EC Council Decision of 6 March 2003 establishing a Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment (TSS) institutionalized the informal social summits held since December 2000 in the context of the Lisbon Strategy for Jobs and Growth. The Social Summit replaced the Standing Committee on Employment following a joint decision of the social partners at the Laeken Summit in December 2001. In addition, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) henceforth recognises the Summit’s contribution to the proper conduct of European social dialogue (Article152).

  • It consists of an opportunity to exchange views between the Social Partners, the European Commission, the Council Presidency and the two subsequent Presidencies represented at the highest level. The social partners are divided into two delegations of equal size comprising 10 workers’ representatives and 10 employers’ representatives. Its objective is to ensure the effective participation of the social partners in implementing the EU’s economic and social policies.

The Summit meets twice a year, before the spring and autumn European Councils and it takes place within the context of cross-industry dialogue. Its agenda is determined jointly by the representatives of the institutions and the social partners and therefore includes issues affecting all economic sectors and workers within the European Union.

As European Social Partners, BusinessEurope, SGI Europe, SMEunited and ETUC sit at the Tripartite Social Summit.

Additional information

European Commission related documents and information:

–  European Commission brochure “Consulting European social partners: Understanding how it works”.
–  European Commission, general information site.

+ Information at the sectoral level

– Access to past and ongoing related public consultations.
– List of ongoing and upcoming Impact Assessments, Impact Assessment guidelines and related documents.

Document Database of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.