Trade unions are shocked and concerned that the European Commission still has no official plans to make workplaces safer in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
An updated work programme published by the Commission today includes 43 new initiatives, including proposals ranging from airport charges to crypto assets and ‘better regulation’.
But the Commission has again omitted improvements to health and safety from the document, having already overlooked the issue in its political guidelines and original work programme.
Commenting on the EU Recovery Package, Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said:
“Europe is facing the worst recession since the 1930s following the worst pandemic for a hundred years, which risks massive unemployment and inequality.
“That’s why the ETUC welcomes the ambitious EU recovery strategy proposed by Ursula von der Leyen. Funds of up to €750 bn for recovery, on top of 1.1 trillion from the MFF, are what Europe needs.
Commenting on the results of new research published by the European Parliament, ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini said:
“Far from being divided between the frugal north and free spending south, this poll shows European citizens are united in wanting to see more solidarity between member states over the coronavirus crisis.
Commenting on the European Spring Package and Country Specific Recommendations, ETUC Confederal Secretary Liina Carr said
“The European Commission’s decisions not to enforce EU budgetary rules for member states, not to give fiscal guidance and not to open excessive deficit procedures are necessary and appropriate, especially but not only because of the current crisis.
“There must be no return to the catastrophic austerity measures taken after the financial crisis of 2008, not now, not after the crisis is over and not after a recovery.
Commenting on the adoption of the SURE Regulation by COREPER today, ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini said
“The ETUC welcomes the decision to adopt the EU job-saving scheme SURE, but regrets that it took one month for this process to be finalised due to the veto of a few member states which have put EU workers’ jobs and income at risk.
“Now we appeal to member states to speed up their decision-making to make the guarantees immediately available, and make SURE operational as soon as possible. 42 million workers on short-time work in Europe cannot wait longer.
Commenting on the decision of the European Commission not to put Covid-19 in the highest risk category of the Biological Agents Directive, ETUC Deputy General Secretary Per Hilmersson said:
"While the ETUC welcomes the fact that the Covid-19 virus will be included in the Biological Agents Directive, we regret that the decision today, if confirmed by the Commission, would mean that it will be classified as an agent belonging only in the second highest risk group.
Trade unions are calling on the European Commission to rethink its proposal not to place Covid-19 in the highest risk group of biological agents.
The Commission and member states’ experts in the so-called Technical Progress Committee will decide on Thursday whether Covid-19 should be categorised under the Biological Agents Directive, with potential consequences for workplace health and safety and public health.
Currently, the Commission insists Covid-19 does not meet the definition of agents in the highest of four risk categories:
The EU’s job-saving scheme will come too late to make a difference unless it is signed-off this week, trade unions are warning as new data shows 28% workers have lost their jobs temporarily or permanently due to the coronavirus crisis.
Over a month after the 100bn Euro SURE scheme was first proposed, the package should finally face its last hurdle at the European Council’s Coreper meeting of member state ambassadors on Wednesday.
Responding to the European Commission’s economic forecast for Spring 2020, ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini said:
“Today’s forecast confirms that Europe is facing the deepest recession in its history, which means the only logical response is to launch the most ambitious economic recovery plan.
“Europe must learn the lessons from 2008 by supporting public investment to create economic demand needed for renewed growth rather than pursuing further austerity that would kill the recovery.
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) welcomes today’s EU-Western Balkans Zagreb Summit going ahead. But despite the recent positive decision to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, a broader message on positive prospects of the future of the accession process for the Western Balkans is missing.
The Summit hopefully will strengthen political dialogue and socio-economic cooperation between the EU and the region and show solidarity and joint effort in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini today took part in today’s informal Council of Employment and Social Affairs Ministers (EPSCO) and asked
• Ministers to ensure that the proposed EU Recovery Plan features a strong social dimension and includes investment in jobs, higher wages, social protection, public services including health care and education and training.
Women make up well over half of the workforce in professions on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis, official EU data shows.
Over 50% of workers in six highly exposed categories of work - personal care, cleaning, health associates, health, teaching and personal service – are women.
ETUC condemns the arrest of leaders of our Turkish affiliate DISK today. We demand the immediate release of Arzu Cerkezoglu and Adnan Serdaroglu and other arrested trade union leaders, and without charge.
Some union leaders met at the headquarters of the Turkish trade union DİSK this morning to commemorate May Day. The police surrounded the building and arrested 20 leaders including General Secretary Arzu Çerkezoğlu and President Adnan Serdaroğlu using violence.
It is believed to be the third time the leaders have been arrested this year.
The ETUC is using Workers Memorial Day to appeal again to the European Commission to prioritize workplace health and safety in its plans for the next five years in light of the coronavirus crisis.
Trade unions first raised the alarm last September when occupational health and safety was omitted from Ursula von der Leyen’s political guidelines, pointing out that every year there are 4,000 fatal accidents at work and 120,000 people die of work-related cancer.
Commenting on the outcome of the European Council, ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini said:
“EU leaders have finally backed the urgently required emergency measures, but it’s very worrying that they will not be available before 1st June when workers, companies and public services are struggling now.
Photo: European Council
The ETUC is urging EU leaders meeting tomorrow to agree and implement without delay or conditions proposals to help workers, companies and public services hit by the coronavirus crisis
The European Council will consider on Thursday a 540bn support package that includes the SURE job and income protection scheme, and how to fund the economic recovery.
The ETUC is urging the European Commission to reconsider plans to abandon its pledge to introduce binding measures to boost equal and fair pay because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Binding pay transparency measures to close Europe’s 15% gender pay gap were one of just five pledges that Ursula von der Leyen vowed to deliver within 100 days of becoming Commission President.
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) appreciates the effort of the European Commission to propose a Roadmap towards lifting Covid19 containment measures, but criticises it for failing on basic principles and neglecting to acknowledge the practicalities of a return to work, insufficiently mentioning either health and safety at work or the need to apply strict ‘precautionary’ measures.
The ETUC asks the Commission to start an urgent and proper consultation with trade unions and employers to define a proper implementation of the Communication.
“The Eurogroup has finally taken some important steps to help protect working people, support companies, fund public services and stabilise the economy through this crisis in the short-term.
“The activation of the ESM, the EIB and particularly of SURE goes in the right direction. We now ask all 27 member states’ governments to adopt this and the other measures before Easter. With 15 million jobs already affected by the lockdown, workers and companies cannot wait longer.
Criticising the failure of the Eurogroup to give its support to the EU’s €500bn package of economic aid to deal with the economic impact of corona virus, and continuing divisions over Eurobonds and ‘conditionalities’ for ESM funding, ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini said:
European trade unions are calling on EU finance ministers to agree a 500bn Euro support package to deal with the economic consequences of the coronavirus which has already hit over 10 million workers.
Estimates collected by the ETUC show that unemployment has risen by at least 4 million since the crisis began, while more than 7 million workers are on short-time work schemes.
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) urges EU Finance Ministers and the Council meeting next week to approve the European Commission’s proposal for a €100 billion ‘SURE’ scheme to support short-term work and other measures to protect jobs and wages during the coronavirus crisis.
The ETUC calls on Member States to swiftly put at the disposal of the European Commission the necessary guarantees to make the scheme operational as soon as possible!