Industrial relations and social dialogue

EU level: Latest developments in working life Q3 2019

The political agenda of the president-elect of the European Commission, an implementation report on the Enforcement Directive on Posted Workers, and the launch of an open public consultation on the implementation of the European Disability Strategy 2010–2020 are the main topics of interest in this article. This update reports on the latest developments in working life in the European Union in the third quarter of 2019.

President-elect of the European Commission launches 2019–2024 plan

On 16 July, Ursula von der Leyen was elected as the President of the European Commission for 2019–2024. In her opening statement in the European Parliament – delivered before the presidential vote took place – President-elect von der Leyen announced a number of initiatives in the sphere of, or affecting, working life. These include a new European Gender Strategy, a European Unemployment Benefit Reinsurance Scheme, the conversion of the Youth Guarantee into a permanent instrument, the commitment to put forward an action plan to fully implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, and a European Green Deal.

EU framework for a minimum wage under scrutiny

The announcement that von der Leyen intends to develop an EU minimum wage framework was particularly unexpected. The president-elect explained that in a social market economy, every person who is working full time should earn a minimum wage that allows them to have a decent standard of living. The proposed framework will respect the different national labour markets. However, von der Leyen believes that the optimal option is to have collective bargaining with employer organisations and trade unions because they can tailor the minimum wage to the sector or to the region as necessary.

The president-elect repeated her promise on 10 September in a letter to Nicolas Schmit, the candidate for European Commissioner for Jobs. Von der Leyen highlighted that in his new post, Schmit should put forward a legal instrument to ensure that every worker in the EU has a fair minimum wage. This could be set through collective agreements or legal provisions, depending on each country’s traditions.

Accent on climate-neutral economy

In the same speech on 16 July, President-elect von der Leyen announced that she would put forward a Green Deal for Europe in her first 100 days in office. The aim is for Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050.

Other recent events have also placed the issue of a climate-neutral economy at the heart of EU action. During a meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) on 7 Julyministers held a debate on employment aspects and social policy in relation to the Clean Planet for All strategy. The debate was based on the Finnish Presidency's flagship note, which stresses that the transition to a climate-neutral economy may have a major impact on skills needs and people’s skills development. The note emphasises the need to invest in human capital in the next decade and beyond in order to equip current and future generations with the necessary skills (including in green and digital technologies), as well as invest in training systems that react quickly to changing job requirements. Timo Harakka, Minister of Employment for Finland, said:

We need to offer European citizens a landscape of hope, encourage workers to acquire new skills and competences, provide entrepreneurs with new business opportunities, and support sectors and communities which need to adapt to a sustainable economy. A fair transition is our common goal and vital interest [1]

Sustainable growth for all: Choices for the future of social Europe is the title of the 2019 edition of the Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE) review. [2] Published on 4 July by the European Commission, the review shows sustained positive trends in the labour market as well as improvements in the social dimension. The development of appropriate EU policies can enable the EU to remain competitive while ambitiously moving to a climate-neutral economy. According to Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, the recovery of the European economy accompanied by historically low unemployment rates is a good springboard for stepping up delivery of the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights. This includes a fair transition to a climate-neutral economy that makes full use of the ‘green growth’ opportunities ahead.

Report finds no need to amend posted workers Directive

On 25 September, the European Commission published its implementation report on the Enforcement Directive on Posted Workers (2014/67/EU), accompanied by practical guidance on the rules regulating posting. Based on the evaluation exercise, the report concludes that it is not necessary to propose amendments to the directive at this stage. [3] In addition to actually improving the enforcement of posting provisions, the report reflects:

  • confusion between labour law and social security coordination regulations
  • ignorance or ‘selective’ application of EU law and European Court of Justice case law by certain Member States

In the opinion of Commissioner Thyssen:

Enforcing rules on posting is essential to protect workers and for the smooth functioning of the single market.It’s very good news to see that all Member States now apply the rules and increasingly make use of the tools in place to improve cooperation across borders. [4]

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) noted that the report does not provide a clear roadmap to solve the shortcomings in the enforcement of the rules as highlighted by trade unions. [5] In addition, the guidance document on posting according to organisation does not capture the important elements of the revised directive clearly enough, and does not fully reflect the spirit of the revisions to improve the protection of posted workers. There was no reaction from EU-level employer organisations.

Public consultation on implementation of disability strategy

On 31 July, the European Commission launched a 12-week open public consultation on the implementation of the European Disability Strategy 2010–2020. [6] The strategy was adopted by the Commission in November 2010, and it sets out objectives and actions for creating a barrier-free Europe for people with disabilities and their organisations. The strategy includes eight main areas for action: accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education and training, social protection, health and external action.

The consultation is collecting information that will be used to assess what has been achieved in the disability field during the reference period. This will help the Commission to reshape disability policies, making them more effective and targeted.


The period ahead is likely to be very intense. The hearing of designated Commissioner’s in parliament and the inauguration of the new Commission is due to take place in the fourth quarter of 2019, while the Commission will also present its political priorities for the 2019–2024 legislative cycle. In addition, an action plan will be proposed to ensure that the rights and principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights are fully implemented.


  1. ^ EU2019.FI Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union (2019), Economy of wellbeing and climate action at the employment, social policy, health and consumer affairs council, 8 July.
  2. ^ European Commission (2019), Tackling climate change can be a driver for growth and jobs, according to ESDE 2019, 4 July.
  3. ^ European Commission (2019), Posted workers: Commission reports better enforcement, 25 September.
  4. ^ European Commission (2019), Posted workers: Commission reports better enforcement, 25 September.
  5. ^ ETUC (2019), Posting: The ETUC continues to fight for equal treatment and full respect of workers' rights, 25 September. 
  6. ^ European Commission (2019), Public consultation: evaluation of the European disability strategy 2010-2020 (Deadline extended), 15 October.

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