This year’s gathering of trade union-related researchers took place in Lisbon and Sesimbra on 11 to 13 May. The eighth annual conference of the TURI network was organised by the ETUI in cooperation with its Portuguese members - the Centre for Social Studies (CES) of the University of Coimbra and the Instituto Ruben Rolo (IRR) - and with the kind support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Portugal and Montepio Geral – Associação Mutualista.
The state of the labour movement in the US and Europe and the efforts of trade unions to organise migrant workers and attract more young workers were the big themes of this year’s Transatlantic Social Dialogue meeting, organised by the European Trade Union Institute, Hans Böckler Stiftung and the Worker Institute of Cornell University.
Trade unions are mobilising to urge the European Union to take precautionary action on the use of glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide. Glyphosate is the main active ingredient of the well-known product RoundUp, manufactured by the US agrochemical and biotechnology giant Monsanto. Although glyphosate was classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March 2015, it is still used to control grass and weeds in fields, backyards and gardens.
On 8 March 2016 the European Commission launched a broad consultation on its project ‘European pillar of social rights’. Civil society has been invited to give its views on the minimum wage, rights to representation, health and safety, working time and many other matters related to the European Union’s social dimension. Is this initiative capable of making progress with Social Europe? Trade union and NGO officials, as well as researchers presented their first impressions on 9 May this year, at an ETUI monthly forum.
On 11 May the European Commission adopted a proposal for a revision of the Directive on the prevention of occupational cancers. The text proposes to adopt binding occupational exposure limits (OELs) for 13 substances. The previous directive only provided for three. The ETUI welcomes the fact that, after more than 10 years of procrastination, the European Commission has finally decided to strengthen its legislation against carcinogens in the workplace. It believes that the proposal does not go far enough, however.
Here are the most important developments at European and member state level from the April issue of the Collective Bargaining newsletter:
Despite several encouraging signs, the social and economic situation in the European Union remains unstable. With no sign of a change of course in the austerity policies that have been pursued over the past few years, there is little cause for optimism. These at least were the main conclusions drawn from the presentation of the Benchmarking Working Europe 2016 report, held in Brussels on 19 April.
The European Commission and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) have launched a two-year Europe-wide campaign under the banner 'Healthy Workplaces for All Ages'. The initiative, which is backed by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), focuses on the need to promote sustainable work and healthy ageing from the beginning of working life.
Every year on 28 April, the trade unions stage an event to condemn deaths caused by work. This year, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has chosen to focus on the need to adopt new health and safety laws at EU level. “Workers need better protection. New laws are needed now,” said Esther Lynch, the ETUC Confederal Secretary in charge of occupational health and safety issues.
The Belgian government is currently refining a draft reform of statutory working time that will favour an increase in flexible working. The government believes that this reform will respond to the wishes of many workers by allowing for a better balance between family and working life. Trade unions, however, fear that this flexibility will only work one way, serving first and foremost the needs and interests of business.
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