The European Commission’s Country Reports – due to be issued today – are a test of its commitment to
- a fairer EMU (a key part of President Juncker’s programme);
- involving trade unions and employers in the economic semester process (a key part of the Commission’s relaunch of social dialogue in March 2015).
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and its national trade union members are actively involved in the semester process, and have submitted recommendations for the country reports of each member state.
“If President Juncker really wants a fairer Europe it has to be reflected in the Commission’s economic policy guidance,” said Veronica Nilsson, Deputy General Secretary of the ETUC. “We expect country reports that acknowledge the need for a pay increase, to tackle insecure contracts, rising inequality and the lack of investment, especially in skills.”
Country reports must this year take account of the need for policies to
Boost jobs by
- tackling long-term and youth unemployment in particular
- investing new money in skills and more effective employment services
Promote quality jobs and decent wages through
- stable and reliable working contracts
- rising minimum wage towards 60% of average (median) wage
- revitalised collective bargaining
Create more social fairness by
- poverty reduction through universal social transfers
- fairer and sustainable pension systems and involvement of social partners in reforms
- flexibility in deficit rules for social investment, including for dealing with the influx of refugees
- more progressive taxation
In relation to specific country reports, the European Commission should
-Emphasise the need to increase wages through restored collective bargaining and a higher minimum wage;
-Address the high level of precarious work (especially the abuse of fixed-term contracts and high level of involuntary part-time work) and encourage more stable and secure working contracts;
-Call for a comprehensive plan to boost employment;
-Recommend the relaunch of social investments in labour intensive sectors.
-Call for a “skills offensive”;
-Acknowledge that 1.3 million new open-ended contracts are at risk without growth;
-Recommend reform to move 4 million workers into more reliable and stable contracts;
-Promote new policies to assist the long-term and disincentivised unemployed.
-Acknowledge that 3 million workers on the minimum wage present a risk of deskilling;
-Recognise that the rise in low-paid jobs, and the gender pay gap, risk an increase in pensioners in poverty;
-Propose substantial extra public investment, especially in infrastructures and skills;
-Evaluate the impact of refugees on public finances and the labour market.
-Call for action to improve living standards for 2.8 million people living in extreme poverty and 6.2 million living in relative poverty;
-Demand an end to abusive fixed-term working contracts and the use of civil law contracts for work;
-Propose that wage increases should match the rise in productivity (labour productivity has increased 20% more than wages).
-Call for a move from temporary to more permanent contracts (1 in 4 workers has a temporary contact and temporary agency workers increased by 32% in 5 years);
-End systemic late payment of wages: almost 25,000 workers have not been paid for more than three months, a problem involving over 7,000 employers.
-Call for a progressive increase in Europe’s lowest minimum wage (which at €180 is just 42% of the average wage) towards 60% of the average (median) wage.
-Facilitate collective bargaining to increase wages for the benefit of the Bulgarian economy.