Challenges to collective agreements: Time to act now to safeguard social Europe!

Brussels, 23 October 2008

The EP underlines that economic freedoms, such as the freedom to provide services, are not superior to fundamental rights, such as the right of trade unions to take collective action. Furthermore, it emphasises in particular the right of the social partners to ensure non-discrimination, equal treatment, and the improvement of living and working conditions of workers. The EP therefore calls on the Commission to prepare the necessary legislative proposals which would assist in preventing conflicting interpretation in the future. A partial review of the Posted Workers Directive could be envisaged, after thorough analysis of its current impact in Member States.

The EP also calls for a re-assertion in primary law of the balance between fundamental rights and economic freedoms, in order to help avoiding a race to lower social standards. In particular, the exercise of fundamental rights as recognised by the Member States and the Charter of Fundamental Rights should not be put at risk.

Says John Monks, ETUC General Secretary: ‘This vote shows clearly that the EP has succeeded in finding a compromise that allows for safeguarding the European Social Model and for protecting the industrial relation systems in the Member States, and I thank all those Members of the EP that understood the importance of this issue for the future of Europe and worked hard to get this report adopted. Fair competition between companies and respect for collective bargaining is an interest and concern that all trade unions share in Europe, be it in the ‘old’ or the ‘new’ Member States. I particularly welcome the fact that the EP is looking at ways to re-establish an adequate balance between fundamental social rights and economic freedoms. The ETUC renews its call to the EU institutions to give serious and urgent consideration to the adoption of a social progress protocol to be attached to the EU treaties.

For more detailed information, see the Draft report on challenges to collective agreements in the EU (172Kb PDF).