European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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14 November 2012

Ten EU Member States call European Social Dialogue into question


The European social partners in the hairdressing sector (UNI-Europa Hair & Beauty Care on the labour side and Coiffure EU on the employer side) have been working for a number of years to produce a draft text aimed at improving the working conditions of the approximately 1.5 million workers employed in the 400,000 hairdressing salons in the EU.

In April 2012 the two sides signed a framework agreement setting out a series of aims designed to improve occupational health and safety protection in the sector and dealing with the working environment, safety standards, staff training, and the harmonization of working conditions (in relation, for example, to the handling of cosmetic products, measures to prevent harm to the respiratory tract, etc.).

The social partners asked the European Commission to forward their agreement for decision by the Council, in accordance with the procedures enshrined in the Treaty, so as to make it binding in the EU member states. Yet before the Commission had taken any initiative whatsoever, ten governments announced that they would oppose any form of regulation in this area. ‘This is absolutely unprecedented’, commented Stefan Clauwaert ETUI's legal expert specializing in the social dialogue: "What is happening to the hairdressing sector agreement constitutes a dangerous precedent because it could lead to an unravelling of the whole social dialogue at European level. The Commission seems to go along with this game/opposition as it is indeed dragging to propose the directive while it has under the Lisbon Treaty like all other EU institutions (so including the EU Council) to promote the EU social dialogue (the new article 152 TFEU)".

In refusing to allow improvement of the working conditions of European hairdressers, the governments of the United Kingdom, Poland, The Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Estonia, Romania, Sweden, Croatia and Slovenia are indeed making the hairdressing agreement into a test case that will determine whether or not future development of the European social dialogue remains possible. Oliver Roethig, UNI Europa Regional Secretary, said, ‘We need to be very clear: we will defend our commitment for a stronger and healthier hairdressing sector against this unprecedented attack! The Dutch and British initiative is driven by the political will to undermine the EU’s social dimension. It is using the current crisis as a pretext to dismantle achievements that have been at the very core of the EU’s success and are so much needed in turning towards a new policy for growth, jobs and social inclusion. This attack by the Dutch government shows total disrespect for the work done by social partners! This must stop!”

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