Social dialogue is a process of negotiation by which different actors in society (“social partners”, representing workers and employers) reach agreement to work together on policies and activities. It is mutually agreed upon and based on the right to collective bargaining and on freedom of association.
Social dialogue can take place at multiple levels and is adopted based on context-specific circumstances which are diverse in legal framework, power relations, practices, and traditions. Underlying processes may thus not only vary from country to country, but also across sectors and sports disciplines based on the particular mutual relationships and interdependencies in place.
The following criteria characterise social dialogue within the present research context:
- In addition to the general exchange of information on working conditions between employers and workers, the objective of social dialogue includes reaching mutual agreement(s) on labour and employment-related issues and processes.
- Social dialogue requires, at a minimum, a two-way interaction between parties involved and is thus distinct from one-sided consultation processes and lines of communication.
- None of the parties has unilateral decision-making power. Social dialogue requires equal rights and obligations during the negotiation process between the partners.
- Social dialogue is characterised by some level of continuity and regularity in the exchange that arises from the mutual recognition of actors.
- Social dialogue requires an adequate level of representativeness of the involved actors towards their respective constituencies.
While the usual social partners in professional sports encompass player unions and club associations, processes fulfilling the above criteria may also include other actors of the professional sport system, including, but not limited to, leagues, federations, and associations of trade unions.
For the purpose of this survey, we have divided the overarching types of “social dialogue” into three distinct categories:
- Collective bargaining
- Formal negotiations covering codified outcomes
- Formal negotiations covering only the documentation of processes
TYPE A: Collective bargaining is a common form of social dialogue at the company (club), sector (national sport federation, league), or cross-industry level between social partners that mutually recognise each other and represent their respective constituencies (workers, employers). Underlying negotiation processes can be bipartite as well as tripartite with the involvement of public/governmental authorities. Within this meaning, outcomes are collective bargaining agreements (CBA) that:
- determine working conditions and terms of employment; and/or
- regulate employment relations between employers and workers; and/or
- regulate relations between employers or their organisations and a workers’ organisation or workers’ organisations (e.g. Memorandum of Understanding, terms of cooperation)
TYPE B: Formal negotiations covering codified outcomes that qualify as social dialogue in the sport sector do however not necessarily imply collective bargaining. Therefore, outcomes of social dialogue are not limited to collective (bargaining) agreements. Other (tangible) negotiation outcomes are for example minimum standards, joint action plans, standard form contracts, and/or recommendations. Here, the scope of negotiations can go beyond two or more (clearly) identified social partners as commonly practised in industrial relations. For example, in European football, this would not only entail negotiations between clubs and their players, but also the potential involvement of federations and leagues.
TYPE C: Formal negotiations covering only the documentation of processes may also qualify as social dialogue in the sport sector as long as they live up to the criteria introduced above. However, minutes, records and/or protocols of the meetings held are required to prove the formal character of the negotiations.