Social Europe in ‘last chance saloon’

Friday 20 January 2017

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) together with the European trade union federations is warning the European Commission that the EU is in the ‘last-chance saloon’ to tackle popular resentment towards the EU.

“I believe the Pillar of Social Rights can be a way of getting Europe back on track, but only if it provides a credible promise of hope for working people and leads to a real and substantive social action programme encompassing legislation, policymaking mechanisms and financial resources. It must promote trade union and collective bargaining rights at national level and with multinational companies and also proactively address the labour dimension of digitalisation in order to guarantee a just transition for workers.” said Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary, UNI Europa

Next Monday – January 23 – the European Commission will reveal its latest thinking on social policy and legislation at a conference “The European Pillar of Social Rights: going forward together” with President Juncker and Commissioner Thyssen.

President Juncker was elected by the European Parliament on the promise of a fairer and more social Europe,” said Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the ETUC. “With the long-awaited Pillar of Social Rights he has the chance to deliver what he promised.

The EU is in the last-chance saloon to tackle working people’s anger towards the EU. It can either fiddle while people fume, or it can offer a better deal for working people.

We expect an ambitious approach from the European Commission in which social rights are promoted and defended with the same urgency and commitment as economic and fiscal rules.”

The ETUC expects ambitious proposals, that

  • include enforceable rights as well as benchmarks and recommendations,
  • improve social rights and standards of living,
  • invest for strong public services, jobs and quality employment, sustainable growth,
  • promote social dialogue, collective bargaining and wage increases to support economic demand and to tackle inequalities,
  • go beyond the Eurozone and minimum standards.

The ETUC has done everything it can to convince the European Commission of the need to act ambitiously and decisively in favour of social rights for working people,” said Esther Lynch, ETUC Confederal Secretary. “Now it has to deliver its promised AAA Social Europe.”

The Commission’s proposals will be judged and accepted by European trade unions only if they make a real and positive difference to the lives of working people.

A key ETUC demand is for legislative proposals to promote quality work and halt excessive moves towards flexibility and casualisation, for example by better regulation of on-line platforms and better enforcement of existing rights along with rights for the self-employed. The proposals should guarantee the social model built on trade union rights and protecting collective agreements especially in the context of free movement, introduce better economic rules so that workers can negotiate a pay rise, and encourage investment in much-needed public services such as transport and childcare.

The Commission is expected to publish a white paper on the Pillar of Social Rights in March.