The current approach of driving down wages, decentralizing collective bargaining systems and restricting trade union and workers’ rights to tackle the economic and financial crisis has failed according to the findings in the new ETUI/ETUC ‘Benchmarking working Europe’ report launched on Monday 13 March in Brussels. The report advocates an economic re-orientation towards a wage-led growth model and a new wage policy based on appropriate minimum wages, all-encompassing collective bargaining systems and strong trade unions.
Despite some improvements of labour market indicators at EU level, high unemployment remains a big problem and new jobs have an increasingly temporary character. Big regional disparities in youth unemployment and new challenges to integrate refugees into the labour market are two other issues highlighted in the second chapter of this year’s Benchmarking working Europe report launched by the ETUI and ETUC on 13 March.
Economic forecasts for Europe are looking a little more optimistic, but the measures put in place by the EU to tackle stagnant economic growth and huge European unemployment (deregulatory structural reforms, the Juncker investment plan and the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing) are not satisfactory. This is the conclusion of the first chapter of the joint ETUI/ETUC’s annual analysis of the state of ‘working Europe’ which will be officially launched on Monday 13 March in Brussels.
The annual conference that unites legal experts from the ETUC’s member organisations, NETLEX, took place on 22 and 23 February in Brussels. This year’s topic was the role of labour law in shaping the future world of work. The presentations ranged from core labour law topics, such as the meaning of the terms ‘employee’ and ‘worker’, to envisioning how labour law should respond to robots and rapid developments in artificial intelligence.
Should online labor platforms have minimum wages? What should they be? How should they be enforced? Should workers on the same platform in different countries have different minimum wages? Are different minimum wage schemes needed for different kinds of platforms?
In Europe and elsewhere, the sacrosanct gross domestic product (GDP) continues to be the main yardstick for measuring economic performance. Yet the concept of “the well-being of its peoples” has in fact been a feature of the European Treaty since the very foundation of the European Economic Community. How can the well-being paradigm replace the growth paradigm? At an ETUI Monthly Forum on 23 February, the Austrian economist Georg Feigl presented a tool that could refocus European and national economic policies.
Here are the most important developments at European and member state level from the February issue of the Collective Bargaining newsletter:
On 28 February, the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs voted in favour of various amendments to the European Commission’s proposal for a directive amending Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work.
The Bertelsmann Stiftung has given most EU Member States poor marks in combating inequality. The reforms needed to improve access to high-quality education and training for all, particularly people with an immigrant background, are insufficient. ‘EU member states still have a long way to go before achieving a “social triple-A rating”,’ the German organisation states in a recent report.
The National Bank of Belgium (NBB) reports significant growth in employment in 2016 which it attributes to measures taken by the centre-right government. This view is not shared by the trade unions, whose two representatives on the Council of Regency, one of the bank’s governing bodies, have refused to sign the report, published on 10 February.