Hairdressing social partners’ persistence pays off – Occupational Health and Safety Agreement finally signed!

Thursday 23 June 2016

It took many years of efforts and determination, but UNI Europa Hair & Beauty and Coiffure EU did not budge and were rewarded today. The Social Partners in the hairdressing sector signed the European framework agreement on the protection of occupational health and safety.

Protecting the health and safety of hairdressers is crucial. Not only are their working conditions strenuous, they are 10 times more likely to develop skin conditions and 5 times more likely to develop musculoskeletal diseases such as arthritis and tendinitis than the average worker. 20% of hairdressers develop work-related asthma and they are regularly exposed to chemicals that research suggests potentially causes cancer.

Not only is this agreement good for the hairdressers, it will also benefit society as a whole as the costs borne by social security schemes and public healthcare systems will be lowered. Furthermore, the promotion of sustainable working conditions in a mainly young female sector with a high prevalence of work-related illnesses and a high turnover of staff due to occupational health risks, will be a benefit for the many small hairdressing salons – and their owners.

Despite these multiple benefits, the European Commission had stalled further progress on the agreement since 2012, leaving UNI Europa no choice but to launch a sharp advocacy campaign, using both digital methods and tactics such as.a large-scale posters campaign in Brussels metro stations.

Commenting on this, Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa, asserts: ‘The signing of this agreement is a milestone – for the hairdressing sector but also for the European Social Dialogue as a whole. After many disappointments and multiple attacks on their autonomy and legitimacy under the previous Commission, the Social Partners have succeeded in acting upon their Treaty rights to initiate social legislation at European level. We have worked towards this agreement since 2012 – this is a big success.’

What’s next?

The signature of the agreement means that the social partners now officially and jointly request that the agreement is implemented as European law. This would ensure that hairdressers across Europe are protected by the same laws and provisions creating a level playing field.

Before the Council can receive the agreement for their final decision, a so-called proportionate impact assessment will be carried out by the Commission.

UNI Europa together with Coiffure EU will follow these next steps closely, and will maintain that the agreement must be made legally binding.

Oliver Roethig concludes: ‘The European labour movement stands united in their steadfast view that the legal implementation of the Hairdressing agreement is a test case for not only the Commission’s, but also the member states’ commitment to Social Dialogue and Social Europe.

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