Social partners in the European Union

Social partners in the European Union

This is jargon for the two sides of industry i.e. employers and workers. At EU level they are represented by three main organisations:

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), representing workers;
The Union of Industries of the European Community (UNICE), representing private sector employers;
The European Centre for Public Enterprise (CEEP), representing public sector employers.

The European Commission consults them when drawing up proposals for social and employment legislation.

Social partners and their representatives

The social partner organisations represent the interests of workers and European employers. The main cross-industry organisations representating social partners at European level are:

the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC);
the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe (BUSINESSEUROPE);
the European Association of Craft, Small & Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME)
the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation (CEEP).

Alongside these cross-industry organisations are many other socio-professional groups representing specific or sectoral interests.

The Treaty of Lisbon (Article 152 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU) recognises the role of the social partners in labour relations and European social dialogue. They represent their members during consultations with the Commission and the negotiation of collective agreements.

They also sit with the European Economic and Social Committee, alongside other organisations representing civil society.

The social partners play a key role in implementing the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs, by launching projects and initiatives at European and national level.

The European Social Fund supports building their capacity to act, particularly in regions covered by the convergence objective.


European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
Social dialogue
Social policy



See Also

References and Further Reading

About the Author/s and Reviewer/s

Author: international

Mentioned in these Entries

History of Industrial Councils, History of the International Labour Organization.



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