European Pillar of Social Rights Offers New Hope for Social Europe

Posted on December 16, 2016 at 10:52 AM

Esther Lynch:   - ETUC Confederal Secretary
Esther Lynch:
ETUC Confederal Secretary

The EU is slowly emerging from the worst economic crisis in its history.

One of major casualties of that crisis was the European Social Model, undermined and weakened by the official response to a meltdown in the financial system.

Fundamental social rights and public services have been sacrificed. But an EU focused only in the market will not maintain the support and trust of workers and citizens.

With a third of workers across the EU struggling to make ends meet, Europe urgently needs a new social pact.

We need more Social Europe.

We need a vision that is bold enough to redress the glaring imbalance in the current model, that restores the primacy of livelihoods and living standards in EU policy.

Essentially we need a vision that is capable of restoring the faith of millions of EU citizens that Europe can deliver a better future for them and their families.

To combat the retreat into protectionism and isolation we need a Social Europe that is built on high quality jobs and fairness in the workplace and across communities. But this requires a radical change of policy to substantially strengthen the social dimension of the European Union.

However it remains unclear if the EU Commission has yet grasped what millions of citizens already know to be true. 


Hope on the horizon? The European Pillar of Social Rights

The European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, has spoken of his wish for a Europe that is “Triple-A on social issues.”

As part of this strategy he has embarked on the development of a European Pillar of Social Rights

Earlier this year the Commission laid out its proposals under three key headings:

  • Equal opportunities and access to labour markets
  • Fair working conditions
  • Adequate and sustainable social protection 

However, the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI)  has looked closely at the proposals and concluded that while they contained some progressive recommendations the overall assessment was negative.

In the intervening months European trade unions have been actively working to influence and reshape the focus and content of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

Thus, in June 2016 the ETUC called on the Commission to return the social requirements first established in the EU treaties. We called for a new Europe based on:

  • Decent work and fairer economies;
  • Better wages and higher living standards,
  • More secure employment .

We demanded stronger enforcement of existing workers’ rights, in particular the guarantee of equal pay for workers regardless of the employment contract or their immigration status.

In addition, the ETUC called for more sensible and flexible fiscal rules that allow for investment in job creation, good social protection and strong public services. We have highlighted the fact that minimum standards are need to counter the rise of in-work poverty, of precarious work, indecent working conditions and labour market discrimination.

In short, the Commission needs to bring forward a programme for Decent Work and Quality Jobs.

Promoting decent work in Europe means ensuring that the EU and its Member States fully respect and promote ILO labour standards. The EU could do a lot more to ensure that member states secure effective observance of ILO Conventions and the Commission should use the Pillar of Social Rights to promote the ratification of labour standards across the union.

Trade union rights are a good example. We have called for the Pillar of Social Rights to reinforce social dialogue and collective bargaining.

This means recognition of the need to rebuild social dialogue and collective bargaining where it has been adversely affected by the policies of the EU/ Troika, in response to the crisis, or where it has become dysfunctional due to a lack of fundamental freedoms and rights, or the hostility of employers.


EU Parliament adds its voice to the call for Social Europe

The EU Parliament’s Employment Committee recently adopted a report (from Maria Joao Rodrigues) that calls for the EU to deliver improvements in the economic and social conditions, including labour rights and social security coverage for all new forms of work, such as online platforms.

The report also calls for the Commission to bring forward a framework directive on decent working conditions in all forms of employment.  

It highlights the fact that if we want make social rights real and enforceable, the Europe requires legislation, better economic policies and proper financing for public investment.

The momentum for change is gathering and you can add your voice to demands for a more social Europe here.


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