Social dialogue was started by the European Commission in 1985, and ever since the [Single European Act] the Treaty has formally required the Commission to develop the dialogue (Article 139, formerly Article 118b). So far the outcome has been fifteen joint opinions on (among other things) economic growth, the introduction of new technology, education, and vocational training. Social dialogue may also lead to contractual relationships, including agreements, the implementation of which is subject to a decision by the Council on a proposal from the Commission. There have been two agreements of this type between employers and labour to date - on parental leave and on part-time working. Besides this ongoing dialogue between the two sides of industry, the Commission organised the first European Forum on social policy in March 1996, which brought together representatives of voluntary organisations, non-governmental organisations, trade unions, employers' organisations, the European Union institutions and the Member States.
The European Commission is required to consult various social partners when it wants to submit proposals in this field. This social dialogue occurs via the three main organisations representing the social partners at European level: (1) the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), (2) the Union of Industries of the European Community (UNICE), and (3) the European Centre for Public Enterprise (CEEP).