The future of the European level collective bargaining
Faculty of Law University of Amsterdam Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The European level collective bargaining was prompted in 1992 by the incorporation of the social dialogue into the framework of the Treaty based decision-making procedures operating in the European Union (EU). The social dialogue procedure stipulates that collective agreements concluded by European level representatives of labour and management can be implemented either through EU law or by the social partners themselves in accordance with respective national procedures. During its formative stage the European social dialogue resulted in the conclusion of several intersectoral collective agreements. Subsequently, it became confined to sectoral bargaining. In recent years it experienced rapid decline since no intersectoral agreement has been concluded for a long period of time and the implementation of successfully negotiated ones is quite patchy.
The paper aims at exploring the impact of the current EU law developments upon the future of European collective bargaining. The European Court of Justice has in 2007 ruled that EU law, in principle, supersedes national collective agreements. Those judgements can potentially have significant implications for the European social dialogue. Since European collective agreements are being increasingly implemented through national arrangements and seldom through EU law, it is questionable whether such practices will be sustainable in future when national accords putting into operation European ones can be displaced by EU law.