European Pillar of Social Rights – A strong social Europe

Monday 12 December 2016

“Changing Europe Together” meets up with a slow sea change of the discussions in Europe concerning its social dimension. This is imbedded in the broader debate on the rise in inequality, Brexit and the digital revolution.

At European level, the main initiative in this regard is introducing a European pillar of social rights. For UNI Europa, the purpose must be to address the imbalance between EU level economic legislation, which often undermines social and labour regulation at the national level. Indeed, what we need is a Europe that fosters the improvement of living and working conditions for all EU citizens where social rights come first. Instead, we continue to see the EU building a neo-liberal EU-wide internal market with new business models and new forms of work hollowing out existing labour standards.

The European Commission has started the process with the slogan of creating a triple A rated social Europe. In our assessment, social Europe as it stands today has rather a junk rating and is close to default. While the EU is increasingly talking about social Europe, actual activities go in a different direction, in particular when it concerns workers’ rights. A case in point is a draft on insolvency and company restructuring: the draft proposal includes taking away the preferential ranking of employees in comparison to other creditors and eroding existing employee protections and consultation rights, even questioning the right to strike.

Cooperating closely with the ETUC, UNI Europa is positive on a social pillar – however, one that has substance and therefore UNI Europa is in favour of a comprehensive social action programme encompassing legislation, policymaking mechanism and financial resources. The ambition for the EU must be that working life once again provides for a positive and predictable future for everyone based on fairness, progress and social safety. We need a broad and large working class that is not in a precarious working and living situation.

A key element for such a social action programme is concrete policy and legislative action that foster social dialogue and collective bargaining throughout Europe at all levels. This must include in particular guaranteeing the right to organise and enhancing the bargaining power of trade unions at national level vis-à-vis multinational companies.

Other objectives for policy and legislative action are:

  • ensuring both that employers cannot evade their existing national and EU obligations towards their employees and that governments cannot or cannot be forced to lower workers’ rights.
  • including social partners in EU and national decision-making processes from the inception of legislation with social relevance.
  • addressing pro-actively the labour dimension of digitalisation and ensuring a just transition.
  • substantively increasing EU investment programmes with a focus on creating quality jobs and fosters a general pay rise in Europe.
  • reforming social security systems to provide decent living standards for all, including for non-standard workers.

Together with the ETUC, the European trade union federation and the entire movement, UNI Europa will continue pushing for a European pillar of social rights that makes a real difference for workers. The current position paper of the ETUC on the pillar of social rights and the ETUC Platform on the Future of Europe can be found here.

Read the position paper in German and French