In a letter to Antonio Tajani, vice-president of the Industry Committee, and László Andor, the Social Affairs Commissioner, nine European employers’ associations oppose the adoption of European legislation on work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).
This legislative initiative is ‘neither necessary nor desirable’ in the view of the employers’ organisations, including BusinessEurope. In its letter dated 26 March, circulated ahead of a meeting of the Committee on the socio-economic impact of a potential MSD directive, Europe’s bosses repeat a familiar mantra: the directive would impose an unbearable administrative and financial burden upon companies, in particular SMEs and microenterprises.
Europe’s employers believe that legislation on MSD would cost businesses the trifling sum of 3.7 billion euro, 90 % of which would fall upon SMEs. These figures are taken from an impact study conducted by an external consultant, Matrix. However, it fails to mention the widely recognised fact that the human and economic cost of MSD is far higher than the alleged costs of better prevention. The European Commission recognises that MSD are the top cause of absenteeism (half of all absences of over three days) and permanent inability to work (60 %). According to some estimates, MSD account for a cost which is equivalent to between 2.6 and 3.8 % of Member States’ GNP.
A draft directive has been under preparation at the Commission for a number of years. Since 2000, the European Parliament has asked the Commission to present a proposed directive, but progress is very slow. After years of laborious discussions, and two consultations of the social partners, the Commission drew up an initial draft directive in January 2010. An official proposed directive should come out in June 2012, if the Commission does not cave in to pressure from the employers.The European survey on working conditions, conducted in 2010, reported that 46 % of European workers were complaining of backache, and 43 % had muscular pains in shoulders, neck and/or upper limbs.
Jacques Malchaire (Catholic University of Louvain)