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The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS) is coordinating the new international research project BARSOP: Bargaining and Social Dialogue at the Public Sector. The project Bargaining and Social Dialogue at the Public Sector will address, from a multidisciplinary and multi-level governance perspective, how the economic and financial crisis has transformed industrial relations, social dialogue and employment in the public sector in the European Union and, in particular, in nine EU Member States: Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The BARSOP project will, in the nine countries mentioned, review how social partners have been responding to the pressures created by the crisis, both in terms of collective bargaining and social dialogue processes, in terms of specific social partner crisis initiatives and in terms of outcomes. In addition, it will review changes in the legal, budgetary and broader public policy setting in which the public sector social partners operate and their effects on industrial relations and the quantity and quality of employment in the public sector.

Within the public sector, BARSOP will focus on three major sectors: healthcare, education, and local and regional authorities. In addition, from a multi-level governance perspective, BARSOP includes in its analysis the EU dimension of the selected sectors by studying the respective European Sector Social Dialogue Committees, the initiatives that these Committees have developed to respond to the crisis, and the follow up given at national level to these initiatives as well as their effects.

For that purpose, national reports will be prepared outlining the findings of these activities and describing the case of each specific sector. Also, for each country a policy paper will be prepared summarising the main findings, lessons and policy implications from the national study. Based on the nine national reports an overview report will be prepared comparing the findings of the country studies and the supranational dimension of the research. The overview report and the case studies will be made available on the websites of the partners involved in the project. They will also be discussed at the mid-term seminar in Amsterdam, and at the closing conference of the project at the ETUI in Brussels, where representatives of the social partners from EU member states and from the social partners at European level, will be invited.

Information on the action / Specific objectives

The BARSOP project foresees measures actions aimed at:

  • delivering better insights in how the economic crisis has transformed industrial relations and social dialogue in the public sector in several EU Member States;
  • deepening expertise and disseminating information on the effects of the economic crisis on working conditions and quality of work in the sectors of healthcare, education, and local and regional authorities;
  • expanding the collection and dissemination of information on how collective agreements and other social dialogue initiatives are dealing with the quantity and quality of work in the public sector.

The BARSOP project main objectives are:

  • to analyse the changes that have taken place during the crisis in industrial relations, employment and working conditions in the public sector and, in particular, in the sub-sectors of health care, education, and local and regional authorities;
  • to analyse the responses of national and EU social partners in these sectors to the crisis and their results in terms of quantity and quality of employment;
  • to disseminate the results of these analyses among social partners and policy makers at EU, national and sector level and to stimulate information exchange, social dialogue and collective bargaining.

Implementation of the action

The foreseen research is multidisciplinary, involving legal experts, sociologists, political scientists and economists. The research team will follow a comparative research strategy, aiming to learn from the similarities and differences between cases with different economic, social, institutional and sectoral characteristics. The team also follows a mixed-method approach, including:

  • desk research of available literature, policy documents, reports of the national authorities, European institutions, and agencies, as well as legislation, relevant case law, and texts of collective agreements;
  • data analysis concerning economic, social and labour market developments, the quality of employment, wages and industrial action;
  • semi-structured interviews with social partners’ representatives and policy makers at sector, national and EU levels.

Each national case study will cover:

  1. General description of the transformations of industrial relations and collective bargaining structures in the public sector, focusing on the sub-sectors of health care, education, and local and regional authorities;
  2. Description of the social partners’ initiatives –including collective agreements- dealing with the effect of the economic crisis and identifying best practices designed to improve the quality of work in the public service, in the three sectors selected.

BARSOP will produce 9 country reports and an overview report, which includes a comparative analysis of the country cases, as well as an analysis of the European Social Dialogue processes and outcomes for the three sectors.

The research team will disseminate the findings and lessons from the project among the relevant social partners and policy makers at the national and EU level. Moreover, the project foreseen events will bring social partners together to discuss the best ways to jointly safeguard good quality employment in the public sector under conditions of crisis and austerity.

Targeted groups / sectors

The main group directly concerned by the project is social partners within the EU. The project will strengthen their knowledge on the impact of the economic crisis in employment and working conditions in the public sector and the challenges to improve the quality of work in the context of the recovery from that crisis. Therefore, the action BARSOP aims to promote transnational and multidimensional learning and improve the capacity of trade unions and employers to improve the quality of jobs in the sectors of healthcare, education, and local and regional authorities. Indirectly the project also concerns workers in those sectors who have been affected by the crisis in their working conditions or lost their jobs.

Transnational dimension

The project BARSOP has four transnational dimensions

  • regarding the organisation of the project: co-operation among 7 EU research institutions, as well as with social partners in the 9 countries under study;
  • regarding the analyses of the data and the reports: the focus is on comparing data and information from nine EU member states (Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Spain, France, Denmark and the United Kingdom);
  • regarding the target audience at the main conference: trade union officials and employers’ representatives will be invited EU-wide;
  • regarding the locations of the seminars and conference: these will be held in two member states, namely, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

The working language of the seminars will be English. At the final conference translation to 6 languages will be offered (English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Slovak). The country reports and the overview report will be written in English.

Arrangements for evaluation/monitoring of the action

A scientific committee has been set up for the purpose of monitoring the adequate progress of the research and the organization of diffusion activities. This committee is integrated by the following persons:

  • Prof. Dr. Evert Verhulp, Director of the Hugo Sinzheimer Instituut (HSI) and Director of the Department of Labour and Social Security Law - University of Amsterdam;
  • Dr. Paul de Beer, Director of the Amsterdams Instituut voor ArbeidsStudies (AIAS) – University of Amsterdam;
  • Prof. Dr. Maarten Keune, Chair in Social Security and Employment Relations and co-director of AIAS–University of Amsterdam.

Description of the quality control procedure:

The daily management of the research project will be done by the project leader, Professor Maarten Keune, in collaboration with Dr. Nuria Ramos Martin, as legal expert and assistant manager. Prof. Verhulp and Prof. de Beer will be available for consultancy and will monitor the study. They will comment upon the draft design, provide contacts from their networks if required, and comment upon the draft and final reports.

Innovativeness of the action

In three ways the foreseen research, seminars, and conference will have added value and will be innovative:

  • It is a pioneering comparative study covering a substantial number of EU countries that analyzes the actual effects of the economic crisis in transforming industrial relations, collective bargaining and social dialogue in the public sector:
  • It is an innovative comparative study, covering several EU Member States that will provide three specific case studies on the impact of the recent economic crisis and the initiatives of the social partners responding to that situation for the sectors: health care, education, and local and regional authorities.
  • It is a multidimensional study. The comparative findings on the social partners’ activities and agreements for each specific sector will be described at the overview report, as well as the interaction between the EU and the national dimensions of social dialogue.
  • The study will be interdisciplinary, complementing the analysis of collective bargaining and social dialogue practices with an assessment of the legal framework of these Member States, concerning the regulation of working conditions and social rights in the public sector.

Expected results and dissemination plans

The project BARSOP will provide new information on the effects of the economic crisis on employment and working conditions in the sectors of healthcare, education, and local and regional authorities; on the transformation of industrial relations in these sectors; and on innovative ways of improving the quality of work through collective bargaining and social dialogue.

This action will stimulate learning and the exchange of experiences among public authorities, trade unions, and employers’ associations in the public sector. In this way, the project will contribute to the on-going academic and social partners’ debate on the impact of the economic crisis on industrial relations and how to counteract its negative effects.

It can be expected that the project contributes to the deepening of expertise among the participants in the planned dissemination activities and will promote knowledge exchange between academics and social partners, as well as among the social partners at different bargaining levels.

In more detail, expected results will be:

  • better insights on social partners responses to the pressures created by the crisis, both in terms of collective bargaining and social dialogue processes;
  • lessons concerning the ways in which social partners in the public sector can deal constructively and productively with the challenges posed by the crisis;
  • growing awareness of the transformation processes occurring on industrial relations.

During the research project, the AIAS website: will act as the project website. This fully publicly accessible website will be used to provide information about the project to the social partners and to post documents and information concerning the seminars and main conference. In addition, the project partners will further disseminate the results from the project in their own countries though information activities such as seminars, round tables, and lectures. They will be presenting their findings in informative policy papers and scientific publications.

Research consortium

Six partners have committed themselves to participate in the BARSOP research project with the applicant organisation –AIAS-UvA from the Netherlands-. These partners, coming from Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, and Slovakia, as well as the applicant organization, will participate in the research activities, bringing in the required national expertise. The BARSOP partners are: Universiteit van Amsterdam (AIAS), Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut-Hans- Böckler-Stiftung (HBS), Employment Relations Research Centre at the University of Copenhagen (FAOS), Central European Labour Studies Institute (CELSI), Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB), The University of Teramo (UNITE), and the University of Leicester (ULEIC).

The Dutch Trade Union Confederation FNV has also committed itself to the project and undertakes to provide contacts, send participants to the seminars/conference, disseminate the results and provide support for the Dutch case study.

Disclaimer excluding Commission responsibility

This communication related to the action BARSOP is made by the beneficiaries and it reflects only the author’s view. The Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

Prof. dr. M.J. (Maarten) Keune


Acroniem BARSOP
Looptijd Apr 2016 — Apr 2018
In opdracht van European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Social Dialogue, Industrial Relations
Contract nummer VS/2016/0107 (C.2125.0139)
Budget € 310 509
Partners University of Amsterdam - AIAS (nl) (coordinator)
  University Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) (es)
  Central European Labour Studies Institute( CELSI) (sk)
  University of Teramo (UNITE) (it)
  FAOS-University of Copenhagen (dk)
  Hans- Böckler-Stiftung (HBS) - Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut (de)
  University of Leicester (ULEIC) (uk)