In the past years, social dialogue in Romania has decreased in significance within labor relationships, considering the quite old-fashioned framework, having no collective bargaining agreements in place at the industry level, the lack of impactful voices at the trade union level, and the lack of general awareness of the legal framework – and of its potential positive impact on how workplace representation and collective negotiations could contribute to better business performance.
The end of 2022 brought a new major piece of legislation on social dialogue (Law no. 367/2022, called the New Social Dialogue Law), repealing the former social dialogue law and changing it entirely, with the aim of bringing the social partners (namely the employer and the employee representative bodies) to the negotiation table again.
The purpose of the new regulation is to redefine and extend the scope of collective relationships and to encourage them, both in terms of making trade union organizations stronger, easier to set up, more flexible, and more present (broadening the scope of participation in collective bargaining), as well as in terms of clarifying and resolving labor disputes quickly. The New Social Dialogue Law has several objectives to achieve.
First, making the creation, organization, and operation of trade unions and employees’ organizations more flexible by reducing the number of members required to set up a trade union (ten employees from the same company or 20 employees from different companies in the same collective industry); by redefining the concept of representation in collective negotiations at company level – the trade union could obtain their representative status if it includes at least 35% of the total number of employees at the employer level – while the number was previously at least 50%+1); by recognizing both representative and non-representative trade unions as negotiating partners, while observing the principle of representation of the majority of employees, etc.
Second, strengthening the role of trade unions in the exercise of their prerogatives and redefining the institution of employee representatives by granting employees the possibility to elect their employee representatives in companies with at least ten employees (as opposed to 21, as was the case up until now) and where no representative trade union organizations exist; by regulating procedural aspects as regards the election of employee representatives, including the minimum threshold required for the elections to be valid – namely to obtain the vote of at least half plus one of the total number of employees; by creating the possibility for employee representatives to benefit from hours allocated from their working time to carry out specific activities in order to fulfill their mandate, etc.
Third, regulating the possibility of joining or opting out of a concluded collective bargaining agreement – the law provides for the possibility of joining a sectoral collective agreement for non-signatory organizations, as well as the possibility of opting out (i.e., non-signing by the employers in the negotiating group of the collective agreement, although they participated in the collective bargaining).
Fourth, regulating the possibility for unrepresentative trade unions to participate in collective negotiations is provided by law, thus eliminating the limitation imposed on unrepresentative trade unions in the exercise of trade union prerogatives.
And fifth, regulating a clear procedure regarding the triggering, representation, and monitoring of collective labor conflicts and strikes. The possibility of starting the collective labor conflict is also provided in case of the non-existence of a collective bargaining agreement at the level of the company, and the organization of the strike is facilitated by eliminating the condition that such could be triggered only by the representative trade unions.
Among other important updates that are certainly worth mentioning is the introduction of a new legislative concept, namely an information meeting for employees – the employer has the obligation to allow, at least once a year, the organization of a public meeting to inform employees or workers of their individual and collective rights.
Last, but not least, employers are prohibited from interfering in employees’ adherence to or establishment of a trade union, and cannot limit or prevent employees from exercising their rights in this respect.
By Roxana Abrasu, Partner and Head of Employment, Nestor Nestor Diculescu Kingston Petersen