Trade Unions welcome update of industrial strategy but call for more concrete actions for workers

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The European Commission published today an update of its New Industrial Strategy that was adopted in March 2020. The aim of this update is to better identify the challenges and lessons coming from the COVID19 crisis, to further accelerate the green and digital transition, to strengthen the resilience of EU’s single market and to improve the strategic autonomy of the European Union.

ETUC supports these objectives and welcomes the intention of the Commission to develop a comprehensive strategy to address these challenges. In reaction to the Communication, ETUC would like to insist on the following aspects:

  • First of all, ETUC is pleased to see that the Commission has taken on board trade unions recommendation to conduct a granular analysis to evaluate the impact of the pandemic on each industrial sector. We particularly welcome the in-depth analysis accompanying the communication on the steel industry. These analyses should be completed by a rigorous assessment of labour market developments and the corresponding skills needs. We hope that this work will lead to the development of sectoral roadmaps to facilitate a fair recovery and the just transition of industrial sectors towards a resilient, greener and more digital economy.
     
  • ETUC also welcomes the analysis conducted by the Commission to map Europe’s strategic dependencies and capacities. This mapping exercise will be particularly useful to help the EU gain more strategic autonomy in the future.
     
  • When it comes to the green transition, ETUC supports many of the Commission’s proposals (develop IPCEIs, establish a CBAM, support new markets for green products, develop new guidelines on environmental and social public procurements and to explore the possibility for Carbon Contracts for Differences). ETUC however encourages the Commission to further strengthen the link between the new Industrial Strategy and the Fit for 55 Package. We insist that the EU should not solely rely on the EU ETS to decarbonise its energy intensive industries. A climate-neutral industrial strategy and concrete sectoral decarbonisation strategies are therefore needed to complement this cap-and-trade approach.
     
  • As to the social dimension, ETUC regrets that the updated industrial strategy does not provide more details about the way to tackle the challenges ahead. The New Industrial Strategy mentions the European Pillar of Social Rights as its social compass but lacks concrete proposals to ensure quality jobs, good working conditions and sufficient support for workers in transition. It should also put more focus on the reduction of inequalities and on the upward convergence between regions and countries in the EU. The list of Key Performance Indicators proposed should better reflect these priorities.
     
  • While ETUC welcomes the creation of new Industrial Alliances, the Industrial Forum and the reference to social partners in the co-creation of transition pathways, we regret to see that social dialogue and collective bargaining do not have a more prominent place in the partnership approach proposed by the Commission. The Communication rightly points out that “for an inclusive transition, a well-functioning social dialogue will be key”, Trade Unions expect to see this statement translated into concrete proposals to strengthen their involvement and the role of social dialogue in each industrial sector and country.
     
  • With regard to international competition, ETUC appreciates the fact that the Commission tries to address unfair practices and uneven playing field in relation to foreign subsidies. We however insist that the new Industrial Strategy should also include trade mechanisms to prevent social and environmental dumping, which are also causing unfair competition distortion on the market.
     
  • Finally, ETUC asks for the Commission to put more emphasis on the particular role that the public sector plays in the development of EU industry – for example through public infrastructures, public training and education, public companies and social services. Effective taxation will in that regard also be crucial to ensure proper financing of public services and social protection systems.

Reacting to the updated Industrial Strategy, Isabelle Schömann, ETUC Confederal Secretary said:

“This update of the Industrial Strategy is welcome as it helps to better understand the impact of the pandemic on the different industries. It also helps to identify the challenges ahead and to have a clear idea of the EU strategic dependencies.”   

“The strategy proposes interesting ideas to strengthen EU’s single market, to increase our strategic autonomy and to tackle the green and digital transition. However, it still falls short when it comes to managing the social impacts of these changes. It should include more concrete proposals to ensure quality jobs, adequate training, good working conditions and sufficient support for workers in transition. It should also put more focus on training needs and on the reduction of inequalities between regions and countries.”

“The Communication rightly points out that for an inclusive transition, a well-functioning social dialogue will be key, Trade Unions expect to see this statement translated into concrete proposals to strengthen their involvement and the role of collective bargaining in each industrial sector and country.”

06.05.2021
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