NAPs and business transfers Directive among Council agenda items

Meeting on 3-4 June 1998, EU Labour and Social Affairs Ministers - plus, on the second day, their colleagues from education ministries - discussed the National Action Plans for employment, in preparation for the Cardiff summit. The Council also reached political agreement on changes to the Directive on transfers of undertakings and on a Directive aimed at safeguarding the supplementary pension rights of workers moving within the EU.

The meeting of the Labour and Social Affairs Council of Ministers held under the UK Presidency on 3-4 June 1998 in Luxembourg was primarily dedicated to the National Action Plans (NAP s) for employment produced by the Member States in response to the 1998 Employment Guidelines (EU9805107N). The Council held two consecutive debates on the NAPs, the first on 3 June involving only the Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs, and the second at a joint session on 4 June 1998 with the Education Council of Ministers. In the course of the debate, Ministers were invited to discuss their NAPs in relation to the four "pillars" of employability, entrepreneurship, adaptability and equal opportunities. There was a broad consensus that basic educational provision needs to be improved to meet the needs of labour markets. Efforts are to be focused on those who have left school without any marketable qualifications, and a greater emphasis is to be placed on lifelong learning. Many delegations emphasised the importance of involving the social partners in labour market policy. "Mainstreaming" was approved as the most effective approach to achieving greater equality of opportunity. These discussions were held in preparation for the Cardiff European Council meeting later in the month, where the NAPs were to be assessed.

The Council reached political agreement on the Directive on safeguarding the supplementary pension rights of employed and self-employed workers moving within the European Union (EU9710156N). The Directive is seen as contributing to the achievement of full freedom of movement between the Member States. Formal adoption should follow at a forthcoming Council meeting.

Political agreement was also reached on a Regulation extending to civil servants Regulations 1408/71 and 574/72 on the application of social security schemes for individuals moving between Member States. This is particularly important in relation to civil servants' special occupational pension schemes. Again, formal adoption should follow at a forthcoming Council meeting.

Social affairs Ministers also reached political agreement, subject to the lifting of a parliamentary scrutiny reservation by the German delegation, on the Directive amending Directive 77/187/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the safeguarding of employees' rights in the event of transfers of undertakings, businesses or parts of undertakings or businesses (EU9703115N). These changes are to take into account, among other developments, the case law of the European Court of Justice. Under the new Directive, in the event of a transfer of undertakings, employees can be made redundant solely for economic, technical or organisational reasons, or if a Member State has agreed to make exceptions for specific categories of workers. National laws may allow employers and workers' representatives to alter employment conditions so as to help a business survive. The principle of retaining workers' rights does not apply to occupational benefits such as retirement or invalidity pensions, which are not part of the Member States' statutory social security schemes.

No agreement was reached on the draft Directive on the involvement of employees in the European Company (EU9805108N). According to the Presidency, progress had been made and a number of principles agreed, but it was not yet possible to find a solution to all outstanding issues. The Committee of Permanent Representatives was instructed to continue work on the draft with the objective of reaching early agreement, and this dossier is to be taken forward by the Austrian Presidency of the second half of 1998.

Finally, Commissioner Pádraig Flynn informed Ministers about: the development of the social dialogue at European level: theSocial Action Programme1998-2000 (EU9805104F); and a draft ILO Declarationon the fundamental principles and rights at work (which was adopted at the ILO Conference later in the month).

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