Strengthening the role of social partners in mitigating the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 crisis

This call for proposals is financed under the European Programme for Employment and Social Innovation “EaSI” 2014-20201 which is a European-level financing instrument managed directly by the European Commission to contribute to the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy, by providing financial support for the Union’s objectives in terms of promoting a high level of quality and sustainable employment, guaranteeing adequate and decent social protection, combating social exclusion and poverty and improving working conditions.

The 2020 annual work programme for grants and procurement for the European Union Programme for EaSI was adopted on 30 October 2019 as Commission Decision C(2019) 7630, and was amended on 22 April 2020 by Commission Decision C(2020) 2377 and 8 December 2020 by Commission Decision C(2020) 8560. Commission Decision C(2020) 8560 introduced in section II.2 Grants, point 2.3.6b. the basis for this call.

1.2. Policy and economic background

The financed measures should help the cross industry social partner organisations to contribute to addressing the overarching EU employment and social policy challenges as laid down in particular in:

  • the Political Guidelines presented by Ursula von der Leyen in “A Union that strives for more – My agenda for Europe” and the Commission Work Programme 2021;
  • Commission communications “A Strong Social Europe for Just Transitions”, “The European Green Deal”, the “European Digital Strategy” and “European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience”;
  • The joint proclamation of European Parliament, Council and Commission of November 2017 on the European Pillar of Social Rights;
  • the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy, the Joint Employment Report and the recommendations addressed to the Member States in the context of the European Semester.

1.3. Main Purposes

In line with Principle 8 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, this call is targeting European and national cross-industry and sectoral employer and trade union organisations and especially the ones mostly affected by the COVID-19 crisis and being in the most vulnerable situation with a view to ensure their activities and to address the employment and social impact of COVID-19 crisis and strengthen the resilience of workers and employers organisations in the context of COVID-19.

2. Objective(s) – Priorities – Types of actions – Expected Results

2.1 Objectives – Priorities

The consequences of the COVID-19 crisis have created extraordinary and unprecedented challenges for social dialogue.

The call aims at supporting exchanges and dissemination of good practices, innovative approaches and experience, and mutual learning at European level in order to sustain social dialogue activities in the context of the COVID-19 crisis and help national social partners to continue playing their important role in developing and implementing joint responses or contributing to national efforts to protect jobs and support economic recovery strategies.

As underlined in the 2021 Annual Sustainable Growth Survey2, the COVID-19 pandemic has not only highlighted the urgent need to address long-standing challenges that affect the fairness in society but shown specifically the need to create a fairer and more sustainable business environment and rethink working conditions in many sectors, which is a genuine

objective for social partners.

In July 2020, all cross industry social partners have jointly called upon the Commission to consider the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the employers’ and workers’ organisations, in order to maintain these organisations’ capacity to act as social partners both at national and at EU level and help them protect their staff related to these activities,

who might otherwise need to be laid off as a result of this crisis.

At the Tripartite Social Summit of 14 October 2020 the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen,the President of the European Council Charles Michel and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the key role played by social partners during the COVID 19 crisis and stressed they will be essential for making the recovery a success and for anticipating, preparing and managing future change.

Definitions used in the context of this call:

a) “social partner organisation” is either an organisation representing workers – often also referred to as “trade union” – or an organisation representing employers. They engage in some form of “social dialogue”, discussing and often negotiating such issues as wages, working conditions, training, etc.

b) European-level social partner organisations (or “European-level social partners”): either organisations that are consulted in accordance with Article 154 TFEU (an up-to-date list can be found here) or other European social partner organisations fulfilling the definition of social partner organisations representing workers (also referred to as trade union) or employers at regional, national or European level that are engaged in “social dialogue” i.e. the discussion and negotiation of wages, working conditions, training, etc. that are not included in this list, but which: (1) demonstrate that they represent several national social partners (fulfilling as well the definition above); (2) have a mandate of these organisations to engage in social dialogue at European level on their behalf; and (3) are involved in the preparation and functioning of European social dialogue at sector level.

2.2 Description of the activities to be funded / Type of actions

The call intends to support sharing good practices at European level based on the work of the national social partners. The types of activities which may be funded under this call for proposals include:

  • –  promoting and participating in national bi-partite and tripartite social dialogue and collective bargaining to protect jobs and support the economic recovery;
  • –  to fulfilling their role in European social dialogue around the COVID-19 crisis at the cross-industry and sectoral levels in its different dimensions of information exchange, consultation, negotiation and joint action, in particular in the context of the Commission’s priorities and the European Pillar of Social Rights;
  • –  keeping awareness of European social dialogue and improved capacity to participate in it, including in the context of increasing involvement of social partners in the European Semester process and the implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Facility;
  • –  undertaking relevant analytical or training activities;
  • –  continuing the preparation, monitoring, follow-up and/or implementation of joint texts agreed at the cross-industry and sectoral levels. For all of the above, strengthening the capacity of the national social partners and mitigating the impact of the COVID 19 crisis, based on cooperation between EU-level cross-industry and national social partners, will be paramount. 2.3 Expected outputs/results Improved social partners’ capacity notably for joint responses or contributions to national efforts to protect jobs and support economic recovery strategies, especially relating to the COVID 19 impact.

2.4 Monitoring

The Commission, with the support of an external contractor, will monitor regularly the EaSI Programme. Therefore, beneficiaries/contractors will have to transmit qualitative and quantitative monitoring data on the results of the activities. These will include the extent to which the principles of equality between women and men has been applied, as well as how anti-discrimination considerations, including accessibility issues, have been addressed through the activities. Related templates are attached or will be provided.

The Commission will monitor the action for the EaSI programme through the information provided in the specific Annex to the Grant Agreement. The reporting template is published on the respective EaSI call page https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=629&langId=en

In setting up the action, beneficiaries must foresee the necessary funding for monitoring and reporting to the Commission. For events, it is important to get from participants their specific consent by a statement or by a clear affirmative action for processing and transferring their personal data also to an external contractor responsible for the monitoring of the EaSI programme. Beneficiaries/contractors should therefore inform all participants via a Privacy Statement that is not only published online, but is also provided individually to each participant (e.g. as part of the email where the beneficiary/contractor first contacts the individual concerned) that the Commission/external contractor would be processing their personal data. Beneficiaries/contractors have to be able to demonstrate that consent was obtained subject to conditions of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2018 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data by the Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and on the free movement of such data (i.e. keep a record that shows how the consent was obtained and whether it was valid) and Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data.

A model privacy statement is available on the Europa website of the EaSI programme: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1081&langId=en&furtherCalls=yes&callT ype=2

2.5 General requirements for the activities to be funded under EaSI

The EaSI Programme shall, in all its axes and actions, aim to:

(a) pay particular attention to vulnerable groups, such as young people;

(b) promote equality between women and men,

(c) combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation;

(d) promote a high-level of quality and sustainable employment, guarantee adequate and decent social protection, combat long-term unemployment and fight against poverty and social exclusion.

Hence, in designing, implementing and reporting on the activity, beneficiaries must address the issues noted above and will be required to provide detail, in the final activity report on the steps and achievements made towards addressing those aims.

3 TIMETABLE 

a) Publication of the call

15 February 2021

b) Deadline for questions and requests for clarification

16 April 2021

c) Deadline for submitting applications

26 April 2021

Swim, Courier and Post : 24:00 Brussels’ time (CET)

Hand deliveries 16:00 Brussels’ time (CET)

d) Evaluation period (indicative)

May 2021

e) Information to applicants (indicative)

June 2021

f) Signature of the grant agreements (indicative)

July 2021

g) Starting date of the action (indicative)

September 2021

3.1 Starting date and duration of the projects

The actual starting date of the action will either be the first day following the date when the last of the two parties signs the grant agreement, the first day of the month following the date when the last of the two parties signs or a date agreed upon between the parties.

Applicants should note that if their project is selected, they may receive the grant agreement after the start date of the action that they have indicatively set in the application form. It is therefore advisable to number the months in the work programme instead of indicating the name of the month or the date.

No expenditure can be incurred before the date of submission of the application. Any expenditure incurred before the signature of the Grant Agreement may be considered eligible but it will be at the applicant’s risk if the applicant cannot demonstrate the imperative need for starting the action prior to signature of the agreement.

Indeed, an action grant may be awarded for an action, which has already begun only where the applicant can demonstrate in the grant application the need to start the action before the grant agreement is signed.

The project’s duration should indicatively be between between 12 and 24 months.

4 AVAILABLE BUDGET AND CO-FINANCING RATE
4.1 Available Budget

The total budget earmarked for the EU co-financing of projects under this call is estimated at 5,000,000 EUR.

The EU grant requested should indicatively be between 1,000,000 and 5,000,000 EUR. The Commission reserves the right not to distribute all the funds available.

The Commission reserves the right to increase the amount of the funds, if available, and distribute them to proposals admitted in the possible reserve list. This top-up of the budget is limited to 20% of the initial budget of the call.

4.2 Co-financing rate

Under this call for proposals, the EU grant may not exceed 95 % of the total eligible costs of the action. The applicants must guarantee their co-financing of the remaining amount covered by the applicants’ own resources or from sources other than the European Union budget3.

5 ADMISSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

  • Applications must be sent no later than the deadline for submission referred to in section 3(c)

Applications (meaning, the application form, including budget, description of the action and work plan) must be submitted using the electronic submission system available at https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/swim, and by sending a signed, printed version of the complete application form (including all documents specified in the check-list) by post or courier service (one original dossier and one copy; see section 16).

Failure to comply with one of the above requirements may lead to the rejection of the application.

Applicants are encouraged to submit their project proposal in English, French or German in order to facilitate the treatment of the proposals and speed up the evaluation process. It should be noted, however, that proposals submitted in any of the official languages of the EU will be accepted. In this case, applications shall be accompanied by an executive summary in English , French or German (see checklist, point 3).

6 ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA
6.1 Eligibility of the applicants (lead and co-applicants) and affiliated entities4

Please be aware that eligibility criteria must be complied with for the entire duration of the grant.

For British Applicants: Please be aware that following the entry into force of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement5 on 1 February 2020 and in particular Articles 127(6)6, 1377 and 1388, for actions still under the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-20 the references to natural or legal persons residing or established in a Member State of the European Union are to be understood as including natural or legal persons residing or 

established in the United Kingdom even after the transition period has expired on 31/12/2020. UK residents and entities are therefore eligible to participate under this call.9

a) Place of establishment

Applicants (lead and co-applicants) must be properly constituted and registered legal entities, having their registered office established in the participating countries of the Progress axis.

Legal entities properly established and registered in the following countries are eligible as lead applicants:

• EU Member States;
• Iceland and Norway in accordance with the EEA Agreement;

Legal entities properly established and registered in the following countries are eligible as co- applicants:

• EU Member States;
• Iceland and Norway in accordance with the EEA Agreement; • Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey10

b) Type of entities

To be eligible, lead applicants and co-applicants must be social partner organisations at European level (in application of Article 197 2. (c)) of the Financial regulation. Social partner organisations without legal personality are also eligible provided that the conditions of the Financial Regulation related thereto are met).

c) Consortia11
Actions must involve consortia.

The grants shall be awarded to a consortium of a lead applicant and one or more co- applicants.

The lead applicant must be a cross-industry social partner organisation at European level. The lead applicant can represent workers or employers.

d) Affiliated entities

Affiliated entities to the applicant(s) are NOT eligible to receive funding under this call for proposals

e) Associate organisations12

An associate organisation can participate in the action but may not declare eligible costs.

Conditions for rejection

For consortia, if the lead applicant is considered not to be eligible, the application will be rejected.

If a co-applicant is considered not to be eligible, this co-applicant will be removed from the consortium. The related activities and the forecasted costs will be removed as well from the proposal. The eligibility of the modified consortium will then be re-evaluated without the said co-applicant’s activities and costs. If the application is accepted for funding, the Commission would propose to award the funds with the necessary corrections and request a revised work plan and budget from the applicant, to be adapted as appropriate.

6.2 Eligible activities

a) Geographical Location

To be eligible, actions must be fully carried out in eligible participating EaSI countries (see section 6.1).

b) Types of activities
The grant will finance the activities indicated in section 2.2 c) Core activities.

The project management of the action and the role of coordinator (in the case of a multi- beneficiary Grant Agreement) as laid down in Article II.2.3 of the Grant Agreement, are considered to be core activities and may not be subcontracted.

(d) Financial Support to third parties (national social partner organisations)

Financial support to third parties as defined in point 3 of the Financial Guidelines is eligible under this call.

In accordance with article 204 of Financial Regulation, the maximum amount of financial support that can be paid to a third party may exceed EUR 60,000 considering that the objectives to support social dialogue in the context of the COVID-19 crisis would be overly difficult to achieve otherwise13 (see also section 2.1 of the call).

12 See section 2 of the Financial Guidelines for definitions
13 In accordance with Art. 204 of the Financial Regulation, the maximum threshold of EUR 60 000 of financial

support may be exceeded where achieving the objectives of the actions would otherwise be impossible or overly difficult.

Applicants shall use “financial support to third parties” to share at least 80% of the funding with other national social partners.

In that regard, the grant application shall include:

  • an exhaustive list of the types of activities for which a third party may receive financial support out of a fixed list to be submitted in the application. This list is in any case limited to the activities mentioned under point 2.2;
  • the definition of the persons or categories of persons which may receive financial support,
  • the criteria for awarding financial support;
  • the maximum amount to be granted to each third party and the criteria for determining it. The ceiling for the maximum amount to a third party is set at EUR 200,000. For further details on the rules and ceilings governing financial support to third parties, please refer to Annex III attached to the text of this call (Implementing Guide).

6.3 Ineligible activities

The following types of activities are not eligible for EU funding:

  • Volunteers’ work is accepted as an activity but volunteers’ costs in the meaning of art 181(8) and 190(2) of the Financial Regulation are not eligible for reimbursement.
  • Lobbying