Jonathan Winterton is Professor of Human Resource Development and Director of Research and International Development at Toulouse Business School, where he has been based since September 2000. His main research interests are social dialogue and European strategies for employment and training, fields in which he has published extensively. Among his most well-known publications are Coal, Crisis and Conflict: The 1984-85 Miners' Strike in Yorkshire (Manchester University Press, 1989) and Developing Managerial Competence (Routledge, 1999), both jointly authored with Ruth Winterton. He has recently finished editing Trade Union Strategies for Competence Development, also to be published by Routledge.
His keynote presentation is titled Capitalising on European diversity: Trade unions and competence development at work. Abstract:
In the wake of the Lisbon summit, the social partners at European level made competence development at work one of their key priorities, as evidenced by their agreed Framework of Actions for the Lifelong Development of Competencies and Qualifications signed on 28 February 2002.
Recognising the need for this engagement to be informed by comparative analysis of progress in this domain, the SALTSA Programme of the Swedish trade unions sponsored a research project into Trade union strategies for competence development at work, which forms the basis of this presentation.
Eight countries were chosen to reflect different approaches to competence models, training systems and social dialogue approaches. Four countries from the 'old' EU15 were selected as representing the three dominant competence models (UK, France and Germany) and the existence of alternative conceptions to these (Sweden). These countries also capture diversity in terms of the main types of vocational training systems and approaches to social dialogue. Four other countries were also included in the study to help distinguish the different effects of competence models, training systems and social dialogue approaches. Latvia, Malta and Slovenia from the 'new' EU10 and Turkey as a 'candidate' country were chosen as representing the diversity of the new Europe and for their close ties with each of the four 'old' EU15 member states.
The presentation provides an overview of the findings and attempts to explain the patterns of social dialogue over competence development. Despite the considerable diversity in competence models, these appear to be largely irrelevant in explaining trade union influence. Social dialogue approaches inevitably play a major role in explaining trade union effectiveness in this area, but training systems have a mediating effect between social dialogue traditions and the extent of trade union influence over competence development at work.
The diversity of experience illustrated by this study confirms that a 'one size fits all' policy approach to developing competence at work would be ineffective and that European initiatives must continue to be crafted to work in very different contexts, irrespective of important efforts to secure European-wide recognition of training outcomes from these different systems. Moreover, while the differences identified in trade union initiatives are largely explained in terms of differences in social dialogue approaches and training systems, there is considerable scope for transfer of good practice. If it were possible to combine a national framework agreement on training, like that negotiated recently in France, social partner collaboration over sector training, as in Germany, and workplace union learning representatives, as in Britain, the trade unions could truly capitalise on European diversity to promote learning at work.