Voluntary Agreements

Posted by on December 20, 2020

See also collective agreements as a mechanism for enforcing EU law; European social dialogue and the implementation of the agreements; Common opinions Stress at work. The European social dialogue is one of the most important examples of this new “alternative” mode of governance; In its 2002 communication entitled “European Social Dialogue, a Force for Innovation and Change” (COM (2002) 341 final, 26 June 2002), the Commission declares that social dialogue is “the key to better governance” and calls for greater participation of social partners “on a voluntary basis”. The 2004 communication, entitled “Partnership for Change in an Enlarged Europe – Strengthening the Contribution of European Social Dialogue” (COM (2004) 557 final, 12 August 2004), places particular emphasis on voluntary agreements (called “autonomous agreements” in communication). In the CONTEXT of the EU, the term `voluntary agreement` generally refers to an agreement which is not the result of a political decision-making process exclusively within the framework of the official EU institutions (European Commission, Council of the European Union, European Parliament – i.e. the so-called Community method), but mainly the result of negotiations between organisations of legitimate social partners to reach such agreements through EU legislation. The main failure of a voluntary agreement is that they are not enshrined in EU law. The initial proposal for a voluntary agreement in December 2018, announced with great enthusiasm by the directors of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Water Resources, turned out to be nothing but smoke and mirrors. Unfortunately, there is ample reason to believe that the same is true of this latter proposal, which was developed without public intervention or revision. Over the past twelve years, the National Water Management Board has conducted a comprehensive and transparent public process to review and update water quality standards for the Bay Delta. As part of this process, the Council evaluated a number of alternatives, and the scientific basis for these alternatives has been subject to several rounds of independent peer review – a review by independent scientific experts. However, as part of a parallel process to avoid regulatory action, a group of interested parties negotiates a so-called voluntary agreement, often held at confidential meetings (which for years has required public authorities, local water districts and other parties to sign a confidentiality agreement to participate in discussions, regardless of the requirements of the Public Records Act).

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