Collective bargaining and the care challenge as “new” social security theme – a supranational (EU) perspective

  • Dagmar Schiek (Invited speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited or keynote talk at national or international conference


Trade Unions historically evolved from a number of roots, including forms of organisations which provided social protection of members in cases of unemployment and other risks. While those risks have since been covered by statutory social security in a number of states, trade unions and collective bargaining agreements retained a role in others. The risks workers have to shoulder have changed, creating new challenges for social security systems. This leads to the question whether and how collective bargaining can retain or acquire a role in addressing those new challenges. The 10 top new challenges for social security, according to the International Social Security Association ( ), include the risk of needing long term care (the care challenge). On a more comprehensive understanding, the risk comprises the situation of those providing as well as needing care at different stages of their lives.
While this risk is not fundamentally new, as evidenced by the long tradition for maternity and parental leaves as elements of social rules, the increase in care needs beyond early childhood, and the fact that “the family” no longer absorbs these caring needs have increased its relevance considerably. The novelty of the risk also lies in the combination of strategies to combat the care risk. For example, promoting healthy employment environments would reduce the risk of needing care on grounds of long-term conditions acquired at work, while covering the need to receive care in social security would create revenue that could be used to provide employment for those providing care, including social security for times when this physically demanding work takes its toll.
All this points to the necessity of combining the regulation of employment with provision of social security. This might render an increasing role for collective bargaining and trade union involvement the way forward to addressing the care risk. On the other hand, those identifying the potential of collective bargaining to engender “flexicurity” (Marginson Galetto (2014) EID 37 (1) 95-117) often use care leaves as an example of how costs of employment could be reduced in a crisis. This points to the risks of employment regulation addressing a care risk to contribute to levelling down of employment security.
This paper asks the question whether collective bargaining agreements can address new social security challenges, that may pave the way for innovative solutions which legislators at state or supranational level may not be able to deliver. It uses the European Union and the risks emanating from caring and needing care as a case study. It discusses whether the care risk is indeed a suitable candidate for being addressed by collective bargaining, and identifies specific risks emanating from European Union law and policy, including the potential barriers erected by a conservative interpretation and application of EU competition law for the creation of common transnational institutions of social partners providing care for the elderly and/or children.
Period23 Jun 201925 Jun 2019
Event titleA Global Conversation about Labour Law : Labour Law Research Network Conference
Event typeConference
Conference number4
LocationValparaiso, ChileShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational