Social Dialogue for the European Metal Industry

In an era dominated by information and communication technology, the metal sector, which in the 1970s held centre stage in industrial relations, seems to have been relegated to the wings of the socio-political scene.

However, although it is currently going through a complex restructuring phase, it is still one of the most important portions of the European economy, as it involves a vast number of firms and employs millions of workers.

Globalization processes, job mobility, social protection, safety at work, unemployment and other factors such as EU enlargement entail new challenges both for the firms and for the workers in this sector, in particular for those belonging to EU recent accession and candidate countries. Strengthening social dialogue might help workers’ organizations and employers’ organizations to cope with the sector’s deep transformation.

Being aware of facing a common challenge and recognizing, in particular, the existence of skill shortages on both sides, in 2006 the two main European employers’ and workers’ associations, i.e. CEEMET1 (the Council of European Employers of the Metal, Engineering and Technology-based Industries) and the EMF2 (European Metalworkers' Federation), established a permanent working group in Brussels “to discuss competitiveness and employment, education and training over the next two years”.

In 2007, the EMF and CEEMET also agreed to set up a permanent social dialogue body to “seek to contribute to creating and maintaining an environment that ensures a competitive manufacturing sector able to deliver high quality and sustainable employment. Equipping workforces and companies in the metal sectors to meet the challenges arising from globalization and the need to cope with ever faster technological and organizational changes is of vital importance in this context”.

In the meantime, the European Commission proposed a Recommendation by the European Parliament and the Council on the establishment of a European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning.

The ILO’s Training Centre has been given an important role to play, namely designing and running two parallel EU-funded projects to strengthen the metal sector workers’ and employers’ organizations in new member and candidate states, thus promoting social dialogue at national and European level.

The Centre’s Programme for Workers' Activities, in partnership with the EMF, is targeting metalworkers' trade unions in new member states and candidate countries. A first training-of-trainers workshop took place in Turin from 18 to 22 February and was attended by 23 trade unionists from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey. It will be followed by five sub-regional activities, a European conference on social dialogue and a follow-up conference on-line.

The project will assist metalworkers’ trade unions to gain the necessary know-how and experience for national and European social dialogue. It will also take into consideration organizational, structural, financial and professional expertise-related needs of trade unions, with a special focus on negotiations, coordination of activities and successful representation of workers at all levels.

The Centre’s Employers’ Activities Programme, for its part, is seeking to equip metalworking employers’ organizations with modern tools and skills with which to attract more members and serve them better, with a view to promoting the interests of the companies in this sector through effective social dialogue. A first workshop took place in Turin from 25 to 29 February and provided an opportunity for 18 high-level executives from metal industry employers' organizations in Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia to exchange views with their peers from Belgium, England and Germany.


1 CEEMET represents employers’ organizations in the metal, engineering and technology-based industries in 19 countries, with a particular focus on social policy issues. Their member organizations currently represent around 200,000 firms, employing some 12 million people.

2 The EMF is the umbrella organization representing 69 metalworkers’ unions from 32 countries with a combined total of 6.5 million affiliates. The EMF acts on behalf of representative metalworkers’ unions from all the Member States of the European Union and from other European countries.

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