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Procedures

The European Social Partners have to be consulted on Union initiatives in the social field. This consultation takes place in several stages. If the social partners decide to negotiate on a proposed subject, this can lead to the signing of framework agreements, which may be implemented in two different ways.

1st stage – consultation:

The Commission consults the social partners on proposals in the social field to get a feeling as to which political direction will be possible on this topic. The social partners are invited to give their opinion, either jointly or separately (usually the latter).

2nd stage – consultation:

If union action is perceived as necessary, a second consultation takes place on the possible content of the proposal in question. Again, the social partners can give their input in the form of an opinion or recommendation. If the social partners inform the Commission that they do not intend to negotiate on the given topic, the Commission can take action itself without further involvement of the social partners.

3rd stage – negotiations:

If the social partners decide to negotiate they have nine months in which to do so. This timeframe can be extended by mutual request. If at the end of the negotiations the social partners do not come to an agreement, the Commission is free to take the subject up again and to take action.

4th stage – implementation:

If the social partners do reach agreement in their negotiations there are two approaches to implementation.

  1.  

    An agreement may be implemented by the social partners within the national context and in accordance with their national procedures and practices (example: agreements on telework, stress at work, the agreement on violence and harassment at work and the fourth autonomous agreement on inclusive labour markets).

     

  2.  

    The signatory parties of an agreement can jointly request implementation through a Council decision (up till now this has always been done by a Directive) on the proposal of the Commission. In this case the Council cannot change anything in the substance of the text as negotiated by the social partners (example: agreements on parental leave, part-time work and fixed-term work).