ETUC presents trade union demands to Portuguese Presidency

In late June 2007, a delegation from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) met with the Portuguese Prime Minister to present its trade union memorandum of demands for the next six months. In the document, ETUC raises a number of outstanding questions left unanswered by the EU summit and presents demands that are focused on issues relating to the Intergovernmental Conference, the Lisbon Strategy and the European social model.

Demands presented to presidency

At the start of each new EU presidency, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) presents a trade union memorandum (137kb PDF) of demands for the duration of the Presidency. The memorandum identifies the most important challenges facing the incoming EU leadership and defines a list of priorities for action in the social and economic fields.

On 29 June 2007, ETUC presented the memorandum to the Portuguese Presidency. The demands are mainly focused on the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), the Lisbon Strategy and the European social model. ETUC also highlights issues such as sustainable development, the social dimension of the internal market and external relations. In addition, ETUC has declared its intention to monitor the Presidency’s progress during the next six-month period.

Intergovernmental Conference

The first challenge facing the incoming Presidency is to convene an IGC in order to finalise negotiations on the new Treaty on the European Union. ETUC calls on the incoming Presidency to involve the social partners closely in these negotiations. With regard to the content of the treaty, the trade union confederation makes the following requests:

Lisbon Strategy

ETUC urges the new Presidency to continue the debate on the European social model. In this context, the debate on flexicurity and the review of the European Employment Strategy are of particular importance. ETUC criticises the fact that, so far, the debate has been limited to increasing external flexibility and to ways of compensating for such an increase. The trade unions believe that a more balanced approach would be desirable. According to ETUC, it is important to strengthen industrial relations systems at European and national levels in order to improve flexicurity. The confederation proposes, for example, to pay more attention to improving adaptability through internal flexibility and to make this an acceptable dimension of flexicurity.

The Portuguese Presidency is also responsible for preparing a new three-year cycle of integrated guidelines within the context of the Lisbon Strategy (EU0004241F). ETUC is aware of the risk of narrowing the employment guidelines to the single dimension of flexicurity and thus asks the Presidency to maintain a broad approach to this task. Accordingly, the 2008–2010 recommendations should maintain those proposals that reflect a basic choice in favour of upgrading skills and productivity instead of lowering wages and negatively affecting working conditions. In addition, new guidelines and targets should focus on the need to reduce the number of the working poor, to promote decent wages and to reduce gender pay gaps. The guidelines should also strengthen the existing targets on reintegrating unemployed adults into the labour market after six months of inactivity, instead of 12.

To ensure that the flexibility discussion avoids the danger of ‘bad job traps’, ETUC urges the presidency to promote job quality and proposes carrying out an in-depth study on the state of job quality in Europe. According to the confederation, particular attention needs to be paid to the increase in new forms of contractual arrangements and work practices leading to precarious work and excessive flexibility options, such as on-call contracts, bogus self-employment, involuntary part-time work and zero-hour contracts.

Social Europe

The memorandum also draws attention to other issues such as gender equality and equal pay as ways to improve labour market performance.

Pointing to the growing influence of aggressive financial players that are changing the balance in companies’ governance, ETUC stresses the need to safeguard workers’ rights. It underlines the importance of an obligatory European right of employee representation in companies’ supervisory boards.

With regard to the legislative proposals that are still pending, ETUC requests the Portuguese Presidency to push forward the revision of Directive 2003/88/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time (EU0612019I) and to adopt the Temporary Agency Work Directive (EU0204205F). Furthermore, it underlines the need to carry out the long-awaited revision of Council Directive 94/45/EC on the establishment of a European works council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees.

Volker Telljohann and Maite Tapia, Institute for Labour Foundation, Bologna

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