The meeting takes place at a time of serious concern about the future health of the European economies. In this context, the ETUC will be emphasising its opposition to current excessive wage moderation, and stressing the need to protect workers' spending power and promote good jobs and adequate social protection in efforts to counter recessionary risks.
The ETUC will deliver two strong messages in advance of the informal meeting of employment and social affairs ministers taking place on 31 January to 2 February:
- despite evidence in many areas that real wages are falling and inequalities growing, the EU's economic policy guidelines continue to urge wage restraint across the board, with no recognition that excessive wage moderation is unfair and unjustified, except for top earners (for which it is long overdue).
“Europe risks being perceived as a one-way street where the share of wages is always going down,” warned ETUC General Secretary John Monks. “We cannot allow that to happen.”
- although the EU has created 18 million new jobs over the last 10 years, the social partners' recent joint analysis of the labour market shows that too many of them entail poor quality or casual work, with little if any training provision, and with temporary contracts and involuntary part-time work on the increase. Member States are failing even to apply the existing EU social aquis, such as legislation on fixed-term contracts, to generate quality jobs. The ETUC wants to see secure contracts and stable employment relationships promoted by well designed labour laws and strong collective bargaining practice.
The ETUC further believes that current policies are not addressing the need to boost demand and restore confidence, and that in these circumstances Member States should not be barred from taking discretionary fiscal action, linked to structural reforms to increase growth potential.
The European trade union movement welcomes the fact that the EU has adopted a more balanced approach to the principle of flexicurity, and recognised the need to offer workers on temporary contracts more security. On the other hand, with regard to social protection, there is an excessive emphasis on avoiding the perceived risk of benefit systems acting as a disincentive to work, coupled with a failure to learn the valuable lesson from a number of the EU's most successful Member States that generous benefits are a key ingredient in managing structural change and creating an adaptable workforce.
Said John Monks: “The ETUC is deeply concerned about the threat of growing social inequalities in Europe: between rich and poor, men and women, and between workers with secure employment compared to those with precarious work and poverty wages. Vulnerable workers must not be made the victims of current global conditions.”