As good as it gets?

Monday 11 January 2016

By Christina J. Colclough, Head of EU Affairs, UNI Europa

Across Europe, wealth and income inequality is rising. The top 10% are getting richer whilst the bottom 40% are stuck in a standstill if not getting poorer by the day. At the same time, and making it even worse, new forms of employment are spreading that leaves workers with no social security, pension, sick- or holiday rights: just think of zero-hour contracts, bogus self-employment, crowdsourcing.. In many of our countries, the number of working poor, that is people who work full time but earn less than the poverty rate, is alarmingly on the rise.

You would imagine the EU Commission and our Heads of States across Europe would be busy trying to tackle this and turn the tide. If not for social reasons than simply because a sound economic growth is dependent on the purchasing power of people.

Yet what signals are we getting? Numerous times I have heard the Commission First-Vice President say: “Let me be clear, Better Regulation, won’t lower social or environmental standards”. At Ver.di’s congress, Chancellor Angela Merkel said with great passion that TTIP won’t lower social standards in Europe.

Whilst this might sound reassuring, I can’t help but question what it is they are actually saying. Sadly, my conclusion is this: Had they any ambition to turn the tide, they would have expressed themselves differently. They would had said: Better Regulation or TTIP will improve social and environment standards.

In other words, and let’s be clear. All of us who are fighting for quality jobs, fair conditions and sound working conditions must continue to push for change in European and national policies. If the tide is to turn, status quo simply isn’t good enough.