Small and medium-sized enterprises in the European Union

Even if the most of the public’s attention is focused on social dialogue in large companies, the overwhelming number of workers in Europe are employed in small and medium-sized enterprises (SME).

What opportunities are there for workers in SMEs to play a part in important decisions in terms of company policy? How can worker participation be reconciled with the specific structures of smaller and small-sized companies? And how is the dialogue shaped between employers and employees in the individual countries and sectors? These questions characterise the challenge facing trades unions and worker organisations in relation to SMEs in Europe, all the more so, because the smaller the company, the more improbable it is to stumble across workers organised into trades unions and a properly-working functioning workers’ council.

 Within the context of its research work, in 2008, EZA, using selected countries (Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia) and sectors (the textile and clothing industries, the retail sector and the building industry) investigated the social dialogue situation and the opportunities to enhance it within SMEs in Europe. At this point, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of those employer and worker organisations, which, by completing the questionnaires devised by us, have allowed us to have a snapshot of social dialogue in SMEs in the afore-mentioned countries and sectors.

This brochure is available in German, English, Spanish, French, Italian and Hungarian and can be requested from EZA.