European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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9 October 2013

European Commission puts health and safety at work on ice

The European Commission released a Communication on its deregulatory policy on 2 October 2013 announcing that all health and safety at work measures currently under discussion will be shelved until a new Commission takes office in 2014.

But these are big issues that affect the lives and health of millions of workers in Europe, like bringing in a directive on musculoskeletal disorders and improving EU laws to prevent work-induced cancers. The current Commission has also pressed the pause button on a draft directive to protect workers against tobacco smoke. It will be doing nothing to address trade union and employers’ organisations’ demands to implement the European Agreement on occupational health and safety in the hairdressing sector.

On top of that, the Refit programme has an action plan for 2013 and 2014 to simplify EU social laws, including key directives that underpin workers’ employment rights in Europe, like the Directives on information and consultation, temporary agency work, data protection, posted workers, as well as the Working Time Directive, with the stated aim of reducing the administrative and financial burden that these laws allegedly represent for small and medium-sized firms, but at the risk of rolling back minimum fundamental rights for many workers in Europe.

The Commission Communication was savaged by the European Trade Union Confederation, which in a press release said the ETUC was "appalled at the current lack of initiatives to establish or strengthen a level playing field for workers’ protection". “The internal market is only acceptable if implemented with strong social rules. The Commission’s refit programme is blocking all progress in that direction. We need social rights across the board for all EU workers. The social dimension of the EU with its indicators is not meeting this objective", said ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Segol.

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