The Eurocadres blog

Social Europe, yes! But is the Pillar enough?

15.11.2017BlogGeneral

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On 17 November the European Pillar of Social Rights will be proclaimed. But is it enough as a response to call from trade unions for a more Social Europe?

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First question to ask is then "what is the pillar?"

The European Pillar of Social Rights is 20 principles divided in three areas: Equal opportunities and access to the labour market, Fair working conditions and Social protection and inclusion. It is a mix of legislation and recommendations, repeating content from EU documents. The idea is that it should be a driver for social progress and tied to is is also a scoreboard with data on social performance of the member states. 

The call from trade unions has been for upwards social convergence.

The call from trade unions has been for upwards social convergence. Making sure that all member states move towards more social progress, rather than arriving at an average level. Needless to say, nothing good would come out of countries where welfare etc works well to mount down their social models. 

For Eurocadres the aim was very clear. Our addition that we wanted to push for was including up- and re-skilling. We are living in an age with major labour market transformations, both from moving to a low-carbon, or even net positive, economy and of course digitalisation. Both these will make jobs disappear, and new ones to be created. That means that the transition from one job to another is really key to ensure that our society is as resilient as possible. 

Both social partners and governments have an important role in transition support

Both social partners and governments have an important role in transition support and in many member states, as well as on the European level, the cooperation could be improved. A major challenge however is to create clever links to already existing education and training systems. 

For example, it can be really difficult to go back to higher education studies when you are already established on the labour market. Mortage must be paid, kids must be dropped off at child care. Several of these challenges we discussed and adopted documents about a couple of weeks ago when we had our Congress. Higher education must be made more accessible for adults. 

The pillar underpins already existing rights. One right, linked to freedom of speech we are missing is whistleblower protection. The ETUC took up our proposal as part of their demands and proposals. Now we instead put our hope in a legislative proposal from the Commission during the spring.

But back to the first question. Is the pillar enough?

But back to the first question. Is the pillar enough? The short response is a firm no. It is indeed a very positive development that the Commission is trying to push a more social agenda, but it falls short of what is necessary. 

The main deficit is that it is merely principles, although there is some legislation linked to it. ETUC is calling for an action plan to be linked to it. This we can from Eurocadres side certainly agree with. The pillar must be followed by a real commitment.

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The author

Martin Jefflén
President of Eurocadres