Cleaning industry social partners demand action against illegal work

On the eve of the European Council summit in Vienna in December 1998, the European-level social partners in the cleaning industry, Euro-FIET and EFCI, signed a joint declaration calling for an immediate end to undeclared work. The document calls for Member State action to curb such illegal work, including the provision of greater incentives for legitimate businesses.

In the days prior to the European Council summit meeting in Vienna on 11-12 December 1998, the European-level social partners in the cleaning industry - the European Regional Organisation of the International Federation of Commercial, Clerical, Professional and Technical Employees (Euro-FIET) and the European Federation of Cleaning Industries (EFCI) - signed a joint declaration calling for an end to undeclared work in the sector.

Private cleaning services legitimately employ approximately 2 million people across Europe. The number of individuals illegally operating in the sector is difficult to estimate, but is likely to range in the millions. Euro-FIET and EFCI have long been concerned with the problem of undeclared work, as it is seen to be damaging to the interests of both employers and employees. Individuals working in the "underground" economy do not benefit from any employment or social protection and have no access to training or career structures. Illegal work is perceived to: undermine market opportunities for private companies by depressing prices; tarnish the public perception of the industry; and deprive the state of receipts from business activities.

A joint memorandum on new sources of employment in the cleaning industry, signed by the social partners on 21 October 1996, emphasised the importance of making legitimate private provision of cleaning services affordable in order to combat the problem of illegal work and create employment opportunities in the sector (EU9710153F). The new joint text calls for concrete measures to be taken at Member State level to curb illegal work, for example through a reduction of Value Added Tax on domestic cleaning services. The declaration also stresses the importance of encouraging businesses to operate across the EU by simplifying employment and operational rules. Euro-FIET and EFCI pledge to work closely with local, national and EU bodies to identify problem areas in the sector, to encourage professional training of workers and to monitor progress in fighting illegal work.

A letter announcing the joint declaration was sent to the President of the Labour and Social Affairs Council of Ministers, the member of the European Commission responsible for employment and social affairs and the Vienna summit.

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