The social partners are the bodies representing the two sides of industry: the employers and the employees. The ETUC is the only organisation authorised to speak on behalf of workers and their representatives at European level. On the employers' side there are three: BUSINESSEUROPE (private firms), UEAPME (small businesses) and CEEP (public employers).

The European social partners also meet with heads of government and the Commission President at the annual Tripartite Social Summit each spring, to monitor progress on the EU's Lisbon Agenda for economic growth and social cohesion.