The concept of ‘flexicurity’ attempts to find a balance between flexibility for employers (and employees) and security for employees. The Commission’s 1997 Green Paper on ‘Partnership for a new organisation of work’ stressed the importance of both flexibility and security to competitiveness and the modernisation of work organisation. The idea also features prominently in the ‘adaptability pillar’ of the EU employment guidelines, where ‘the social partners are invited to negotiate at all appropriate levels agreements to modernise the organisation of work, including flexible working arrangements, with the aim of making undertakings productive and competitive and achieving the required balance between flexibility and security.’ This ‘balance’ is also consistently referred to in the Commission’s Social Policy Agenda 2000-2005 (COM (2000) 379 final, Brussels, 28 June 2000).
The demand for security of employment to balance flexibility in the labour market is also reflected in European social dialogue. For example, the Framework Agreement on part-time work (concluded 6 June 1997) and the Framework Agreement on fixed-term work (concluded 18 March 1999) both refer to ‘flexibility in/of working time and security for workers.’ In addition, the General Considerations in the Fixed-term Work Agreement acknowledge that the Agreement is a response to the call by the European Council to negotiate with a view to ‘achieving the required balance between flexibility and security. Employment security is a particular concern in relation to fixed-term work. As the Commission’s Explanatory Memorandum to the proposed draft directive implementing the Agreement explained: ‘the Commission considers Community level provisions on fixed-term work to be an important factor in seeking to strike the right balance between flexibility and security. The social partners’ contribution is positive in itself in that it guarantees that consideration is given both to business competitiveness and to the interests of workers.’
There is also evidence that the concept of ‘flexicurity’ has been extensively applied by collective agreement at enterprise level across the Member States. Research published in 2000 by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions ( Handling Restructuring: collective agreements on employment and competitiveness, K. Sisson) reported on 43 major agreements where so-called pacts for employment and competitiveness had contributed significantly to employment, an increasingly flexible working environment and a ‘partnership’ approach to industrial relations.
Page last updated 28 March 2007