EU Level: Latest working life developments – Q2 2016

The latest Country Specific Recommendations for Member States, the recent EU-level boost for social dialogue, the latest developments on the revision of the Posting of Workers Directive and recent migration initiatives are among the main topics of interest in this article. This update reports on the latest developments in working life at EU level in the second quarter of 2016. 

European Semester

On 18 May 2016, the European Commission presented the 2016 Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs), which set out its economic policy guidance for individual Member States for the next 12–18 months. The CSRs, published every spring as part of the European Semester, are for all Member States except Greece, which is currently under a stability support programme. The issues covered by the CSRs for 2016–2017 are summarised in a table published by the European Commission (PDF)

The CSRs include a focus on the reduction of poverty and social exclusion, recommending that Member States fill gaps in their social safety nets and integrate traditional income support programmes with activation measures. There are 11 poverty-related recommendations – an increase from six in 2015.

Thematic fiches complement the more detailed country-specific analysis which underpins the CSRs. They provide a comprehensive picture of the main policy themes and enable cross-country comparisons.

Boost for social dialogue

On 27 June 2016, the Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, Valdis Dombrovskis, together with the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, both signed a statement, A New Start for Social Dialogue (PDF). The other signatories were the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European cross-industry social partners – the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), BusinessEurope, the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME) and the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation (CEEP). The statement highlights the fundamental role of social dialogue as a significant component of EU employment and social policymaking and identifies actions to be taken by the signatories with the aim of further strengthening social dialogue at EU and national levels.

Press releases about the statement were issued by ETUC, CEEP and BusinessEurope on 27 June. More information about the initiative is given in a European Commission fact sheet.

Single market

Posting of workers

On 8 March 2016, the European Commission issued a proposal to revise Directive 96/71/EC on the posting of workers. Eleven Member States submitted a reasoned opinion opposing the proposal. This triggered the yellow card procedure, which requires the Commission to review these opinions, after which it can decide to maintain, amend or withdraw the proposal. The Commission must give reasons for its decision, which was expected before the end of July 2016.

In May 2016, the European Parliament Research Service released an initial appraisal of the Commission’s impact assessment of the targeted revision (PDF) of the Directive. The appraisal concludes that the Commission has attempted to provide information as clearly and transparently as possible in its Impact Assessment based on external expertise and wide consultation. Nonetheless, the appraisal states that the limited availability of data suggests that the qualitative and quantitative evidence used to support the problem definition and the assessment of impacts might require further exploration. The appraisal also argues that the impact assessment would have benefited from a clearer explanation of the interaction with, and impact on, the Enforcement Directive.

On 20 July, the Commission adopted a Communication re-examining its proposal for a revision of the Posting of Workers Directive in the context of the subsidiarity control mechanism that several national parliaments triggered in May. After careful consideration of their views, the Commission concludes that the proposal for a revision of the Directive does not constitute a breach of the subsidiarity principle. The Commission will continue its political dialogue with the Parliaments on this file in the coming months throughout the legislative process and its decision of 20 July should open the way for further progress in Council and in the European Parliament.

Undeclared work

The European Platform to enhance cooperation in tackling undeclared work was set up on 27 May 2016. Participants (members and observers) at the launch event identified thematic priorities and approaches to undeclared work that should be included in the first work programme of the Platform. The European Commission has published operational conclusions from the launch event (PDF).

Services passports

Within the framework of its 2015 Single Market Strategy, the Commission announced an initiative to introduce a ‘services passport’ for some sectors, including construction and business services. The Commission describes the services passport as a:

document issued by a national authority to help service providers going cross-border show that they comply with the requirements applicable to them in the Member State where they want to provide the service. … The services passport does not change the applicable rules or reduce labour law or social protection requirements that service providers need to comply with.

In April 2016, BusinessEurope published its position paper on the services passport (PDF), ahead of the Commission’s public consultation on the proposal, launched at the beginning of May. BusinessEurope expressed its support for the plans, which would allow companies to operate more easily across borders.

New skills agenda

On 10 June 2016, the European Commission presented its New Skills Agenda for Europe (PDF), which includes 10 key initiatives as part of a long-term strategy to make sure people acquire the skills they need to thrive both in the labour market and in wider society. These initiatives include:

  • a Skills Guarantee;
  • a review of the European Qualifications Framework;
  • a Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition;
  • a Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills;
  • a Skills Profile Tool for third country nationals.

Digital agenda

During the second quarter of 2016, the European Commission presented further initiatives on the Digital Single Market strategy.

In April, the Commission released plans to digitise European industry (PDF). These include a set of measures to support and link up national initiatives for the digitisation of industry and related services across all sectors and to boost investment through strategic partnerships and networks. The CEEP (PDF) and the European Public Service Union (EPSU) (PDF) both published opinion pieces about digitisation of public services. ETUC has published a resolution on digitalisation, emphasising fair digital work.

On 2 June 2016, the European Commission adopted a European agenda for the collaborative economy (PDF), which provides legal non-binding guidance and policy orientation to Member States, public authorities, market operators and interested citizens. The Commission encourages Member States to assess the adequacy of their national employment rules, considering the different needs of workers and self-employed people in the digital world (addressing the issue of the EU definition of ‘worker’), as well as the innovative nature of collaborative business models. It also encourages Member States to provide guidance about how their national employment rules apply to labour patterns in the collaborative economy.

Sectoral EU developments

On 5 April 2016, the European Commission earmarked €3.45 million from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund for projects in the field of skills development in the ‘blue economy’. Blue Careers in Europe funds will be made available to:

  • equip job-seekers with useful skills necessary for the marine and maritime economy;
  • retrain people who are willing to join the sector;
  • help people already working in the blue economy to progress in their career;
  • make maritime professions more visible and attract young talent, particularly women.

The initiative is a follow-up to the European Commission Communication on Innovation in the Blue Economy (PDF), which addressed innovation in sectors such as aquaculture, biotechnology and ocean energy. It also assessed the obstacles – such as the lack of highly skilled professionals – that can hold back the drive for innovation.

On 29 April 2016, the European Commission presented a proposal for a directive designed to improve working conditions for workers in the fishing sector (PDF). In 2013, the EU social partners in the fishing sector reached an agreement, which proposed to align EU law with the International Labour Organization’s Work in Fishing Convention 2007. The proposed directive includes minimum requirements for work on board, conditions of service (including working time limits and definition of night work), and occupational safety and health protection. The directive would apply to all fishermen employed on board a vessel and to self-employed people working on the same vessel.

On 17 May 2016, the European social partners in the hairdressing sector adopted a health and safety declaration (PDF), including recommendations on risk assessment, training, maternity protection, musculoskeletal disorders, mental health and well-being at work. It was drawn up in parallel to the European Framework Agreement on Protection of Occupational Health and Safety in the hairdressing sector, which is currently under discussion. This agreement would increase protection for workers, minimise social security costs for employers and promote better working conditions. It will soon be submitted to the European Commission for assessment and forwarding to the Council so that it can be implemented at a national level through a Council decision.

Further information on the declaration is available in press releases from the social partners, UniEurope and CoiffureEU.

Initiatives to address migration crisis

In April 2016, the European Commission adopted a series of initiatives with the aim of addressing the current migration crisis. It published a Communication, which launched the process of a reform of the Common European Asylum System and set out measures to ensure pathways for legal migration to Europe.

In June 2016, the Commission presented the reforms of the EU Blue Card scheme (PDF) for highly skilled workers from outside the EU. It also launched an Action Plan on Integration of Third Country Nationals (PDF), which provides a common policy framework and supporting measures to help Member States as they further develop and strengthen their national integration policies for third country nationals.

In May 2016, the Commission published its first report on progress in the fight against human trafficking (PDF) since the adoption of the Anti-trafficking Directive. The report presents trends and challenges in addressing trafficking of people, examines the progress made, and highlights key challenges that the EU and its Member States need to address as a priority.

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