EU Unions Cool On ‘Social Rights Pillar’

UnknownThe ETUC has welcomed the proposed Pillar of Social Rights, an initiative launched by the European Commission.

But ETUC has expressed doubts about where and how it will be implemented, and about some discredited policies such as ‘flexicurity’ that will make workers suspicious of this much-needed initiative.

The Commission’s Communication stated “the pillar should become a reference framework to screen the employment and social performance of participating Member States, to drive reforms at national level and, more specifically, to serve as a compass for renewed convergence within the euro area.”

“The European Commission has published an ambitious list of principles, much of which we can support,” said Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). “Nevertheless, we are wondering how and where such principles will be implemented. The Commission seems not to be suggesting anything legally binding for the moment, which would make this pillar rather weak. The ETUC would find it very hard to accept rights applying only to people in the Eurozone and not to workers in the rest of the EU.”

The ETUC questions how the protections will be achieved given the lack of legal underpinning for the social rights, which appear to apply primarily to the Eurozone.

The ETUC has serious misgivings about some of the contents of the draft social pillar including;

  • ‘Flexicurity’, which in the past has tended to mean more flexibility and less security;
  • Not enough protection and promotion of collective bargaining and social dialogue, as a means of achieving fair wages;
  • The proposal to review the entire ‘social acquis’ (all social legislation), knowing that the Commission’s ‘REFIT’ and ‘better regulation’ reviews have damaged rather than improved social rights;
  • Constraints on public finances are often addressed, but the need for adequate, universal and quality welfare systems and public services must be clearly stated;
  • The lack of assurance that higher standards in some countries will not be undermined by convergence.

“After years of crisis, high unemployment, and austerity, a new initiative for social rights is very welcome,” added Visentini. “For the moment there are too many questions and doubts to fully assess  today’s announcement. The ETUC will participate actively in the consultation and in discussion with governments, the Commission and MEPs to get the best possible result for working people, and asks the Commission for specific consultation with social partners, the most relevant players in the labour market and in society.”

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