EU-level developments in industrial relations and working conditions - Q2 2014 (EurWORK topical update)

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18 Februar 2015

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Institutional developments

European Parliament adopts report on Tripartite Social Summit

On 15 April, MEPs adopted a report drafted by MEP Csaba Öry (EPP, HU) on the Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment (TSS).

The TSS was set up by Council Decision (in March 2003) to institutionalise the practice of high-level consultation between the EU institutions and the EU social partners. It is now recognised in Article 152 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) as an integral component of social dialogue at EU level.

Following the institutional change brought in by the Lisbon Treaty to create the function of President of the European Council, the 2003 Council Decision establishing the TSS needed to be revised. The overall policy framework also required revision, replacing the Lisbon Strategy with the Europe 2020 Strategy and specifying how the TSS contributes to overall governance.

The report was supported in the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EP EMPL) by the majority of its groups. However, MEPs voted against opening negotiations with the Council due to the lack of a final position from Council. The file is subject to parliamentary reservation in the UK and Germany, and the final act will only be ready in May 2015. The European Parliament also wanted to ensure that it participated in the summit represented by the Chair of the EP EMPL committee. This report has now been adopted in plenary.

Labour-related legislation

Main outcomes of the EPSCO Council meeting

In June, the Employment and Social Policy Council (EPSCO) held a policy debate on the European Semester 2014 in the field of employment and social policy. It approved the employment and social policy aspects of the country-specific recommendations.

The policy debate was steered by the following Presidency questions.

  • How can the reform agenda in the context of the EU Semester best combine short- and long-term concerns?
  • In which combination, sequence or priority can the reforms in various policy areas best contribute to a job-rich recovery, delivering on people’s expectations?
  • How can economic governance better integrate social and employment policies in order to better anticipate major problems and to tackle those collectively?
  • What further steps need to be taken so that the scoreboard can play a real role in enhancing coherence between economic and employment/ social policies?
  • How can a successful roll-out of the Youth Guarantee best be ensured?

Ministers endorse NRPs and employment performance monitor

In this context, the ministers endorsed an Employment Committee (EMCO) opinion on National Reform Programmes (NRPs) for 2014 and implementation of the 2013 country-specific recommendations. They also endorsed the key messages of an assessment of the 2014 package of Council recommendations on cross-cutting issues prepared by the Social Protection Committee (SPC), which identifies key social protection and inclusion issues and includes considerations on the EU Semester.

The ministers also endorsed the EMCO Employment performance monitor and benchmarks as well as a joint EMCO-SPC opinion (23 KB PDF) on the scoreboard of employment and social indicators.

The ministers also discussed the social dimension of the EU/EMU on the basis of a Presidency steering note, which posed questions regarding what policies are most appropriate to tackle the social challenges facing Member States due to the crisis, the role of social policies in reaching the EU headline target and if well-designed minimum income schemes can improve the functioning of the labour market.

Employment status

European Parliament endorses posting of workers agreement

On 16 April 2014, MEPs endorsed the agreement with Council on Posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services, drafted by MEP Danuta Jazlowiecka (EPP, PL).

The general objective was to improve the implementation and application of Directive 96/71/EC on the Posting of Workers. Directive 96/71 suffered from various legal, administrative and enforcement weaknesses that have led to the rise of abusive practices by many posting companies throughout Europe.

European Commission presents Enforcement Directive

Rulings by the European Court of Justice on various aspects of the posting of workers (Viking, Laval, Rüffert, European Commission versus Luxembourg, etc.) underlined the need for more legal clarity to combat social dumping. However, instead of revising Directive 96/71, the European Commission presented an Enforcement Directive. Its focus was on the prevention of abuses and circumvention, access to information, administrative cooperation, control measures, liability rules and cross-border enforcement of administrative fines and penalties.

Health and well-being at work

Communication on health systems

In its Communication on effective, accessible and resilient health systems, the European Commission lays out an EU agenda to ensure that Europe’s health systems are fit to face current challenges and pressures.

It highlights a number of initiatives the EU can develop to help Member States meet citizens’ expectations for high quality care. The focus is on methods and tools that will allow Member States to make their health systems more effective, accessible and resilient, in line with reform recommendations addressed to them as part of the European Semester. To implement these recommendations, Member States are also encouraged to make good use of European funding instruments such as Structural Funds. 

Green paper on mobile health

The European Commission also published a Green Paper on mobile health (mHealth). This document launched a public consultation scheduled to run until 2 July 2014. mHealth covers medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices – such as smartphones, tablets and other wireless devices. It includes lifestyle and well-being applications that connect to medical devices and sensors. It is an emerging part of e-health, where information and communication technologies are used to improve health products, services and processes.

EU Health Ministers meeting

The Informal Meeting of the EU Health Ministers in Athens on 28–29 April discussed the sustainability of health systems, e-health and health innovation. This included initiatives such as ePrescription and mHealth which may help improve the efficiency of health services.

Ministers also discussed migration and its implications for public health and health services, focusing particularly on how to better address the health needs of migrants. The discussion highlighted the positive aspects of enhanced cooperation between the EU Member States in response to a common public health challenge. On the second day of the meeting, discussions focused on the impact of the economic crisis on health and healthcare systems.

Social protection

European Parliament adopts report on mobile workers’ pension rights

ON 15 April 2014, the European Parliament adopted the report on Enhancing worker mobility by improving the acquisition and preservation of supplementary pension rights drafted by MEP Ria Oomen Ruijten (EPP, NL).

This report reflects the Parliament’s second-reading position on a European Commission proposal for a directive to ensure that workers who move from one Member State to another will not lose their supplementary pension rights. While statutory pension rights are already protected by EU legislation, there has been no equivalent protection for supplementary pension schemes, such as occupational pensions jointly or exclusively financed by employers.

With this second reading, the long history of this issue comes to an end. The first European Commission proposal was presented in 2005 and revised two years later. In 2007 the European Parliament gave the proposal its first reading, but lack of a unanimous vote blocked the legislation in Council. Only when the Lisbon Treaty came into force, allowing a qualified majority vote, were negotiations resumed. The legislation now needs to be formally approved by the Council of Ministers.

Equality and equal opportunities

Update on the principle of equal treatment

In 2008, the European Commission proposed an Equal Treatment Directive that would extend the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of age (as well as other characteristics) to social protection, healthcare, education and the provision of goods and services. Although the European Parliament adopted its position in 2009, the directive is still being considered in Council where the proposal needs unanimous support before it can be approved. During discussions in Council (November 2013), some Member States’ delegations expressed reservations about the need for the proposal, questioning the need to include social protection and education in its scope, and raising doubts about the legal certainty and practical impact of the Directive.

Workforce issues

EESC on youth employment

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) held a public hearing on the implementation of EU policies for youth employment, as a follow-up to an impact study that the EESC Labour Market Observatory (LMO) is currently conducting on this topic in six Member States (Austria, Croatia, Finland, Greece, Italy and Slovakia).

All participants agreed that the fight against youth unemployment is today’s most pressing challenge. The discussions addressed factors such as the need for economic growth, creating quality jobs, linking employment policies with industrial policy and support for companies (in particular small and medium-sized enterprises – SMEs) in creating jobs.

What is needed if the Youth Guarantee is to be to successfully implemented is to avoid overlapping measures and focus on a partnership approach that includes assessment of results. However, as all Member States are different, tailor-made approaches are necessary to address national labour market requirements and the needs of the young people in question.

Public hearing on Youth Employment Initiative

A public hearing organised by the European Parliament Budgets and EMPL committees was held on 1 April 2014 to review progress in establishing and implementing the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) in the eligible regions.

Michel Servoz (Director General DG EMPL) outlined the EU budgetary contribution, emphasising that implementing the Youth Guarantee requires sustained investment at national level. The EU will top up national spending on these schemes through the YEI and the ESF (European Social Fund).

Member States that suffer from high youth unemployment will benefit from support drawn from a special allocation of €3 billion to fight youth unemployment under the YEI. This money will be used to support young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) in regions where youth unemployment is above 25%. The funds must be matched by at least the same amount drawn from the ESF allocation of the Member States in question, and used to implement their Youth Guarantee programmes.

So far, 22 Member States have presented their implementation plans. Member States should also present their mid-term payment requests regularly. Pre-financing may only be released and funding reimbursed once the operational programmes are adopted. However, the European Investment Bank can provide bridging finance to ensure that the Member States can start implementation while waiting for the operational programmes to be approved.

The EC estimates that €17 billion rather than the original YEI budget of €6 billion will be made available under the YEI framework. This is mainly due to the national co-financing and additional national funding that some Member States such as Croatia and Poland have decided to make available for their schemes.

Further information

For further information, contact Christian Welz: cwe@eurofound.europa.eu

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    EU-level developments in industrial relations and working conditions - Q2 2014 (EurWORK topical update)

    This article presents some of the key developments and research findings on EU-level developments in industrial relations and working conditions during the second quarter of 2014. European Parliament decisions and debates, developments regarding health at work and e-health, and the Youth Employment Initiative are the main focus of this report.

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