forthcoming in The Role of Social Partners in Managing Europe’s Great Recession Crisis Corporatism or Corporatism in Crisis? (Routledge Taylor & Francis Group) , by Bernhard Ebbinghaus, J. Timo Weishaupt (eds.), 1st Edition, Part 4: Crisis Concertation in European Perspective

Conflict or Cooperation? Explaining the European Commission’s and Social Partners’ Preferences for Low-Level Social Dialogue

This chapter explains the breakdown of cross-industry European Social Dialogue (ESD) in the aftermath of the financial crisis and assesses the attempts to revive it since 2014. The central argument is that the Barroso Commission saw social dialogue as an obstacle to crisis management in 2010 and that their support was crucial for employer participation. Without pressure from the Commission, the employer organizations did not feel any further need to engage with trade unions in a meaningful way at a European level. Additionally, trade unions moved towards more confrontational positions during the crisis, making compromise harder to achieve.

The incoming Juncker administration made the relaunch of social dialogue a high priority, but could not foster meaningful bipartite social dialogue. Instead, social dialogue now dominantly takes the form of social partner involvement into the European Semester and the Commission’s legislative agenda as seen with the European Pillar of Social Rights and is, hence, highly contingent on political will.