10 Building Blocks

1. Get started

Workers cannot wait any longer. It’s time to stop talking and start doing. The European Pillar of Social Rights needs support by EU National Governments. We need the EU and its Member States to stand up to employer backlash and to support the Pillar and the proposed package of legislative initiatives.

2. Action Plan to deliver the rights

The EPSR needs an ‘Action Plan’ for implementation including concrete actions and commitments for enforcing each of the 20 principles and rights: this has to include a road map on how the rights will be achieved.

3. Investment to make the rights real

Mobilising existing EU funds, and the EU’s new 7 year budget, to help fund implementation of the EPSR. Public Services must be given sufficient means to allow effective access to social housing, health care and essential services as foreseen in the European Pillar of Social Rights.

4. EU Laws for enforcing the rights

It is a priority to fix the social problems facing working people and their unions including rising inequalities, high unemployment, low wages, precarious jobs  that undermine their ability to benefit from EU employment rights.

What is the ETUC calling for?

  1. Recognising the right to effective enforcement by bringing forward measures to enable workers and their trade unions to enforce rights.
  2. A Directive on protection for non-standard workers to safeguard against casualisation, zero-hour type contracts and insecure work.
  3. A Directive on online platforms should ensure that people working digitally are workers, are covered by labour and social legislation, and protected as workers in other sectors: receiving a minimum wage and access to social protection.
  4. A Directive on a minimum floor of rights for self-employed workers to include the right to organise and to collective bargaining, the right to decent remuneration, the right to social security, the right to education and training and the right to safe and healthy working conditions.
  5. Workers’ dignity and data need protection.  A Directive on privacy at work should protect workers from overly invasive digital monitoring, protect the data of workers in an employment relationship, regulate the use of artificial intelligence and other practices that may endanger the dignity and health and safety of people at work.
  6. Revision of the Equal Pay Directive to include workplace equality plans and pay audits, sanctions and deterrents for employers not abiding with the rules to finally achieve equal pay for women.
  7. The new Directive on work-life balance should be agreed and put into practice quickly to improve family-related leave including  payment  and flexible working arrangements.
  8. Urgent measures are needed on exposure to diesel, reprotoxins and nanotechnologies to promote health and safety at work.
  9. Equal pay for equal work through an effective revision of the Posting of Workers Directive, and adequate measures to fight fraud and abuses in particular through letterbox-type practices.
  10. The EU needs to put in place whistleblower protection. Workers who expose wrongdoing are often given little or no protection and are often subject to retaliation.

5. Active support from all EU bodies

We want all EU institutions to respect, support and ensure achievement of the EPSR – including for example the European Court of Justice and the European Central Bank.

6. Better EU economic policy

The EU’s annual economic policy-making ‘semester’ has done serious harm to jobs, workers and the economy through its attacks on public spending and collective bargining. Annual economic policy recommendations have undermined workers’ rights and economic recovery.

The Juncker Commission has tried to shift this economic-policy making process away from pure austerity, to at least considering issues relating to skills and the worst inequalities.

The principles contained in the European Pillar of Social Rights need to be implemented through this annual economic policy-making ‘semester’ (as well as through other means like EU law and EU budget). In fact the ‘semester’ should become an economic and social semester which takes working people’s rights and well-being as seriously as it does fiscal imbalances.

There would be no point having a European Pillar of Social Rights if it were not put into practice through economic policy recommendations. Trade unions expect the 2018 ‘country specific recommendations’ to start to do so.

The European Commission is trying to get trade unions and employers more involved in the ‘semester’ process at national level, and the ETUC is working to help trade unions to get more engaged. This is one essential way to make the ‘semester’ a social and economic policy-making cycle.

Fair Pay – this needs to be broadened to encompass collective bargaining for fair pay and conditions at work.

7. Social Progress in the EU treaty

In EU law, economic freedoms take precedence over social rights. This is a result of case law in the European Court of Justice.

So it has become more difficult for trade unions in Europe to defend workers against unfair competition on wages and working conditions, to fight for equal treatment for migrant and local workers, and to take action to improve living and working conditions for workers across Europe.
The ETUC proposes to add a Social Protocol to the European Treaties. Such a Protocol would clarify the relation between social rights and economic freedoms. A Protocol has to be attached to the European Treaties to be binding at the highest level and to influence decisions of the European Court.
The Social Protocol should:

  1. confirm that the single market is not an end in itself, but is to achieve social progress for the peoples of the Union;
  2. clarify that economic freedoms and competition rules cannot have priority over fundamental social rights and social progress, and that in the event of conflict, social rights take precedence;
  3. clarify that economic freedoms cannot be interpreted as granting the right to exercise them to evade or get round national social and employment laws and practices, or for the purposes of unfair competition on wages and working conditions.

8. Support trade unions & Social Dialogue

Social dialogue between employers and trade unions is at the heart of decent and successful economies. It is essential at national and EU level.

At EU level it has led to important agreements enshrined in EU law such as parental leavepart-time work and fixed-term contracts.

In more recent years problems arose over putting agreements on Hairdressers and Central Government Administrations into EU law. The European Commission should assist social dialogue agreements to become EU law, not obstruct it.

The EU should promote and support social dialogue in all EU countries, and the European Commission should support ‘capacity building’ to ensure there are effective employer and trade union organisations capable of negotiating and implementing agreements.

Legal frameworks should exist in all EU countries to enable social dialogue between employers and trade unions at sectoral and national level.

9. Collective bargaining: fair pay & work conditions

EU must encourage and support collective bargaining and the role of trade unions. This means

  • Stopping interference from EU institutions that undermines collective bargaining and minimum wage systems;
  • Increasing the number of workers and sectors covered by collective agreements including non-standard work
  • Financial support for capacity building for collective bargaining particularly for sectoral and national bargaining and legal frameworks for delivering strong collective bargaining;
  • Ensuring that public procurement rules promote the right to collective bargaining and privilege tenders from companies that respect collective bargaining;
  • Action for increasing minimum wages and strengthening minimum wage systems, where they exist.
  • Closing gender pay gaps, fighting unfair minimum wages for young workers, and addressing other unfair wage discrimination and social dumping by guaranteeing equal pay for equal work.

10. A Just Transition

Establishing a Just Transition Fund for managing climate change and moving towards a green, low-carbon economy, and to manage digitalisation and automation in a sustainable manner: based on job creation, protection of workers’ rights, skills updating and social protection.
No worker should be left behind by decarbonisation or digitalisation, but instead there should be a just or fair and properly-managed transition.