Is European Social Affairs Commissioner, Hungary’s Lazlo Andor, really ready to go all out to bat for a new European health and safety at work (HSW) strategy? That is what the hundred-strong audience for his speech on 27 March at an ETUI conference on HSW might well have been asking themselves.
The Commissioner kicked into touch questions on the timing and content of the 2013-2020 European HSW strategy by referring back to the Commission’s forthcoming online consultation on the matter.
He restricted himself to focusing on the positive scoresheet of the previous strategy, aimed mainly at cutting work accidents by 25%. Job done, claimed Mr Andor, pointing to Eurostat statistics without even querying how far those figures may have been affected by the economic downturn of recent years.
When pressed on the Commission’s plans for the European HSW strategy, the Commissioner stressed that analyzing the outcomes of the 2007-2012 strategy took time, and dodged the issue of whether a document might be ready before the May 2014 European elections.
The Commissioner's intervention can only heighten trade union fears about the Commission’s stance on health and safety at work. The European Parliament and the Luxembourg Advisory Committee of representatives of governments, employers and trade unions in 27 Member States recently called on the Commission to adopt a new HSW strategy within a reasonable time.
These calls are clearly being overborne by the strong pressure which the Commissioner seems to be facing from some Member States who are ill-disposed to the Community HSW strategy.