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European social dialogue in the electricity sector is very varied. It has, since its inception, explored topics as diverse as working conditions, social aspects of Community policies, corporate social responsibility, restructuring, health and safety, and EU enlargement, among others.

The European Social Observatory, in its typology, likens the electricity sector to other sectors – telecommunications, postal services and building – all of which are coping with “competition and interconnection within the national arena”. These sectors, which are only moderately affected by Community policies, are highly exposed to European legislative activity but have little exposure to international competition.

It is noticeable that the social partners in the electricity industry have issued relatively few joint opinions compared to other sectors with similar characteristics: the joint opposition to the direction of travel of Community policy-making (liberalisation) that is reflected in the signing of such opinions, most notably in the telecommunications and railways sectors during the 1990s, has not been apparent in the electricity sector, where the social partners have addressed themselves primarily to the social implications of liberalisation. Indeed, ever since the start of social dialogue the sector’s employers have always been in favour of the reforms introduced by the Commission.

Another noteworthy feature of social dialogue in the electricity sector is the production of a large number of toolkits incorporating best practice guides, intended for national social partner organisations, while at the same time ensuring that common policies and their social consequences are kept under review.

The negotiation of agreements is not currently part of the scope of the SSDC, which is therefore only indirectly involved in social regulation of the sector. However, the social partners have adopted a number of documents which reflect reciprocal commitments (declarations and recommendations) in respect of restructuring, telework, equal opportunities and discrimination, skills, lifelong learning, stress, violence at work, and so on.

ETUI and Observatoire Social Européen (2010) European Sectoral Social Dialogue Factsheets. Project coordinated by Christophe Degryse, online publication available at www.worker-participation.eu/EU-Social-Dialogue/Sectoral-ESD