Effective Stakeholder Engagement in European Sectoral Dialogue. What Are the Drivers behind Specific Engagement Outcomes?

Friday, June 24, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
187 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Barbara Bechter, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The objective of this paper is to identify and analyse factors stimulating and constraining effective engagement of stakeholder organisations in European Sectoral Social Dialogue (ESSD). Social partners’ engagement in social dialogue and policy making varies significantly across the European member states and also across sectors. Barriers to effective engagement identified in previous research are: the structure of industrial relations systems, decreasing union density and coverage of collective bargaining, the lack of interest of employer organisations in participating in dialogue at the European level, or social partners’ general lack of interest in the issues addressed in ESSDCs. Little however is known about the conditions associated with these causes and how stakeholder engagement drives the outcome of ESSD. This research seeks to model and analyse stakeholder interaction patterns for different sectors and member states. Knowledge about stakeholder engagement practices may improve ESSD governance and enhance the reflexivity of social dialogue institutions at both the national and supra-national level.

A multi-level analytic approach is used to identify and analyse the interactions and communication between social partners at national and the ESSD level. Hence, the analysis encompasses both vertical and horizontal dimensions of engagement between and within trade unions and employer organisations. The vertical dimension of engagement represents the intensity of engagement. The horizontal dimension represents the number of stakeholders and countries involved in ESSD. Combing both dimensions serves as a conceptual map to analyse the complex relationship between stakeholder engagement and various forms of ESSD outcomes. Thus the paper aims to advance our understanding of: (i) the motivations of trade unions and employers organisations to engage in ESSD, (ii) the factors stimulating and constraining engagement and (iii) how (i) and (ii) materialize in different ESSD outcomes. The findings indicate that effective stakeholder engagement is necessary but not sufficient to ensure that ESSD does materialize. The overall purpose of stakeholder engagement is to drive strategic interests. Shared values and expectations among stakeholders in the EU member states about the potential outcome of ESSD are more important than common interest in specific EU topics and may result in more binding outcomes such as ESSD agreements.