Social partners sign fixed-term contracts agreement

Following approval by the executive bodies of ETUC, UNICE and CEEP of a text agreed in January 1999, the European framework agreement on fixed-term employment contracts was officially signed on 18 March 1999.

On 14 January 1999, the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE), the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and of Enterprises of General Economic Interest (CEEP) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) reached a draft framework agreement on the rights of workers on fixed-term employment contracts (EU9901147F). Following approval by the statutory bodies of the three organisations - the executive committee of ETUC was last to do so on 16-17 March - the framework agreement on fixed-term work was signed formally on 18 March at a major conference on social dialogue and enlargement in Warsaw. The Commissioner responsible for employment and social affairs, Pádraig Flynn, welcomed the agreement, calling it "a very important contribution from the social partners to the employment strategy".

The agreement applies to fixed-term workers apart from those placed by temporary work agencies - the social partners have expressed their intention to consider the need for a similar agreement covering temporary agency workers in the future. The aims are to improve the quality of fixed-term work by ensuring the application of the principle of non-discrimination, and to establish a framework to prevent abuse arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts or relationships. Fixed-term contract workers must not be treated less favourably than comparable permanent workers solely because they have a fixed-term contract, unless justified on objective grounds - this covers areas such as length-of-service qualifications for entitlement to conditions of employment. Employees on fixed-term contracts should be taken into account when calculating company workforce-size thresholds. The agreement is intended only to set a framework of minimum requirements, recognising that their detailed application must take account of different national, sectoral and seasonal situations.

The social partners have asked the Commission to present their agreement to the Council of Ministers, for implementation across the Member States through a Directive under Article 4 (2) of the social policy Agreement.

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