Challenges and Opportunities for Social Partners

The project, jointly set up by UNI Europa and Zentrum für Soziale Innovation (Centre for Social Innovation), and promoted by the European Commission, aims to identify and analyse change factors and explore new approaches for social partners on the challenges linked to maintaining effective industrial relations systems in a digitalising services industry. Digitalisation poses challenges regardings securing economic growth, social inclusion and fairness as well as job creation and quality. The project aims to provide policy advice for trade unions, social partners and policymakers on necessary adaptations of institutional frameworks for industrial relations, collective bargaining, social dialogue and capacity building for social partners. It pursues the following five objectives:

  • To identify and analyse convergences and differences between Member States and sectors with regard to change factors for the industry and their impact on national industrial relations systems. The research focuses comparatively on five country groups (Anglo-Saxon, Central and Eastern Europe, Continental, Nordic and Southern Europe);
  • To provide an understanding of current transformation processes in the services industry and their impact on industrial relations at all levels;
  • To formulate policy advice with regard to the regulatory and institutional frameworks for industrial relations, collective bargaining and social dialogue as well as capacity building for social partners;
  • To enrich the debate on digitalisation and the future world of work at the national, European and global level;
  • To develop research activities that improve the knowledge base for industrial relations at EU level.

Research Methodology

Linking expertise from social partner practitioners in Europe and service researchers from social sciences, the project’s research part is structured according to four clusters, namely: 1) service markets, 2) labour markets in services, 3) service company strategies and 4) work organisation. These topics are analysed in the context of Europe’s varied types of industrial relations regimes.

The research will be composed of three work packages:

  • A literature review updating knowledge gathered in the existing UNI Europa report on service research (FORBA study) and identifying a pool of academic experts with whom to discuss the subjects of the project;
  • A series of expert interviews with ca. 40 trade union and employer experts exploring national and sectoral experiences and policies;
  • The preparation of five research reports.

The project is one of UNI Europa’s top priorities for 2017-2018 and a key element of its political platform on the future world of service sectors. The project is also connected to UNI Global Union’s activities on the future world of work. In general, the project strives to establish a network of academic experts and trade unions.


Within the framework of this project, three thematic workshops for 40 industrial relations stakeholders will be carried out. Each workshop will focus on one of the above mentioned-clusters. Furthermore, a dissemination conference will be held, gathering 80 industrial relations stakeholders. Towards the end of the project, two reflection workshops will take place. Whereas the first one will bring together the European sectorial social partners, the second one will foster discussion and exchange between trade union practitioners and researchers.

  • First Steering Group Meeting, 20.03.2017
  • Second Steering Group Meeting, 26.06.2017
  • First Workshop on Services Markets, 19.10.2017
  • Second Workshop on Labour Markets, 11.12.2017
  • Third Workshop on Work Organisation and Company Strategies, 27.02.18
  • Final conference, 15 – 16 May 2018.