Conference in Milan (Palazzo delle Stelline) on 5 and December 6, 2013

Social partnerships for digital jobs in Europe

The European social dialogue for Information Communication Technology: a non-confrontational approach to address the problems of the sector.

On Friday December 6th, Palazzo delle Stelline in Milan hosted the final event of the European Commission sponsored project “Promoting dialogue and fostering cooperation between employers and employee organisations: building social partnerships in the ICT sector.”

The conference was jointly organised by PIN-SME, European association representing SMEs in the ICT sector, and UNI Europa, the trade unions’ federation at EU level.

Employers’ representatives and trade unions from several EU countries exchanged views on the need to establish a European sectoral social dialogue for ICT, as well as on more recent Commission initiatives for the sector. Namely, a good part of the debate focused on the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs launched by President Barroso in the framework of the Digital Agenda.

Speakers included MEP Patrizia Toia and Lucy Sioli, Head of Unit at European Commission DG Connect in charge of the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs.

We interviewed Fabio Massimo, Vice President of PIN-SME and representative of the Italian SME association CNA. Mr Massimo was involved as moderator of the afternoon conference session and was asked to draw some conclusions of the event.

Q: What is the European sectoral social dialogue?

FM:Social dialogue is a non-confrontational approach to the problems that affect economic activities in a particular sector. It is an exchange and collaboration between the trade unions and the business community. The parties together analyze the problems of common interest and identifying solutions or paths that can lead to solutions. It is an open dialogue comparison free without preconditions, whose aims are both to tackle short-term problems and to define strategies for sustainable long-term development of a specific sector.

Q: Why the social dialogue?

FM:The principle of the social dialogue is a non-confrontational approach to the economic problems with a view on finding solutions shared by the different parties. Reducing conflicts allows more efficient use of resources and is a precondition to economic and social sustainability.

Q: Why is this relevant to the ICT sector?

FM:ICT is a strategic sector for the economic future of Europe. ICT is strongly based on personal competences, but it does not necessarily require high density of capital. So, it is quite suitable to characteristics of small and medium-sized companies that constitute the backbone of Europe’s economy.

Although the sector is strategic it still does not receive sufficient attention in the national industrial policies and, currently, the social dialogue is only in its infancy.

Q: What is the difference between national and European social dialogue?

FM:There is complementarity between the national level and the EU one. While the national social dialogue focuses on negotiations about contracts and labour conditions, the EU treaties give a much broader scope to European social dialogue. According to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union agreements made by the representatives of employers and workers within specific areas can be directly enforced into law.

Q: What are the issues that ICT employers associations and unions are currently discussing about?

FM:The focus was on issues such as ICT skills, workers’ and companies’ mobility, employability and gender balance. All this was looked also with the angle of the initiatives undertaken by the Grand Coalition. A recent EC report highlights the growing trend of shortage of ICT skills in the coming years. Measueres are discussed at EU level to tackle this shortage, including the use of the European Social Fund to support ICT trainings to people and companies. Enhanced mobility within EU borders can also be a response to the uneven distribution of opportunities. Similarly, more attractiveness of ICT jobs towards women could prove to be a solution. The Grand Coalition has until now focused primarily on the initiatives that can be deployed by the large IT coroporates. Nevertheless, we are stressing that SMEs have a huge potential to create job opportunities while minimizing the risk of offshoring and delocalizing to non-EU countries.