The relationship between legislation and the collective agreement
in labour law. Some European options
Professor Raluca DIMITRIU1
Is the intervention of the state in regula ting collective labour relations a useful
and beneficial tool, or rather a discouraging one? This is a long time concern of the
doctrine, of the law-makers a nd of the practice of European industr ial r elations. And, on
the background of different trad itions a nd goals, the options a re most diverse. Almost
everywhere, the economic crisis and the digita lisation ha ve a ltered the ratio of what the
legislator has assumed and what is left to the social partner s to r egulate. Sometimes, the
state ha s withdra wn to a certain extent from the process. F reed from constra ints, the social
partner s have become more r esponsible than in the previous decade for the concr ete way of
negotiating a nd regulating collective relations. In other cases, the legisla tor felt the need to
intervene more forcefully to offset the fragility of social dialogue. The paper aims to
present some of the European options in the field and to place the experience of the
Romanian law in context.
Keywords: labour law, collective agr eement, legislation, industr ial relations.
JEL Classification: K31, K33
A first question that can be addressed concerns the purpose of the
legislative intervention itself: why would the law intervene in the field of collective
relations? There are, in principle, two levels where the impact of legislative
intervention can be felt:
First, there is a procedural level: the intervention of the legislator in the
sphere of collective relations, in order to regulate them, especially by procedural
rules, establishing conditions of representativeness, terms, stages, outcomes etc.
From this point of view, the regulation of collective relations would aim at
promoting trade union activity, limiting industrial conflicts and promoting trade
The law and collective agreements are often mutually reinforcing, and
from this point of view, European experiences range from ensuring the full
freedom of the social partners, which they will use to set their own rules (self-
regulation) – to deep legislative intervention, determining the limits and content of
the social dialogue. Similarly, the law can support the centralization of collective
1 Raluca Dimitriu – Department of Law, Bucharest University of Economic Studies, Romania,
2 Dau-Schmidt, Kenneth Glenn, Regulating Unions a nd Collective Barga ining, in K. Dau-Schmidt, S.
Harris and O. Lobel (eds.), “Labor and Employment Law an d Economics”, E dward Elgar
Publishing, 2009, p. 96.