As the European Union shows readiness to implement an ambitious Recovery Plan, Europe must emerge from the COVID-19 outbreak avoiding massive unemployment, a recession and a rise in inequality and social exclusion, and build a socially fair and inclusive recovery.
Now that we are gradually coming out of the lockdowns, but at the same time experiencing a new rise of infections in many countries, we need to remain vigilant and to make sure that everybody is protected. Additionally, there is no certainty on when final agreement on the Recovery package will be reached between the EU institutions, and consequently on when the disbursement of the resources to Member States will take place.
There is a high risk that the tens of million workers who are suspended from work and benefitting from the various employment protection measures put in place by governments, will become unemployed if the gap between the emergency measures and the recovery plan payments are not bridged by appropriate support measures for workers and companies.
For this reason, the European Trade Union Confederation, representing 45 million workers in Europe, wants to draw your attention to the need for:
- All national and EU emergency measures, particularly those connected to employment protection and income compensation and SURE, continue for the necessary duration and until the full recovery of the economy and the stabilisation of jobs. This means for governments to consider such a prolongation to last until the moment the Recovery funding will be available and even further if necessary; and for the Commission to consider refinancing SURE next year.
- All existing shortcomings of the emergency measures, particularly in terms of adequacy and universality of coverage and access, are fully resolved. This means in particular that employment protection and income compensation measures are extended to cover all categories of workers, including precarious, non-standard and self-employed.
- Workers’ rights should be respected, in order for workers to take part to shaping responsible restructuring processes and maintain employment. Adequate support should be provided to workers in these times of hardship because of the economic downturn.
We ask you to consider these requests as a matter of urgency, in order to avoid an unemployment tragedy, from which Europe will not be able to recover.
A second element on which we would like to draw your attention is the lack of social and employment focus in the deal reached in Council on the Recovery Plan in July.
There are important aspects of the agreement reached that worry us, in particular:
- The cuts introduced by Council to the proposed Just Transition Fund, health measures, funding for research and innovation, and measures for solvency and restructuring support.
- The overall EU budget is not big enough to deliver ambitious green and digital transformation and adequate resources for cohesion, convergence and social priorities.
- There is not a clear link between the investments which are envisaged by the Plan, and the need to accompany the green and digital transformation of our economy with massive creation of quality jobs and a just transition that ensures that nobody is left behind.
- Any reference to the social dimension and the European Pillar of Social Rights, as well as to the involvement of Social Partners in the Recovery plans, has been eliminated.
We appreciate that the Commission, in the recently published Annual Sustainability Growth Strategy, has tried to recover many of these aspects, and has particularly recommended Member States to put in place a meaningful and substantial involvement of Social Partners in the design, implementation and monitoring of the national Recovery Plans, but all this will not succeed without the active commitment of governments, particularly from you Ministers.
For these reasons, we ask you to take the initiative, within your governments, to make sure that in the ongoing Trilogue at European level and in the national Plans the following elements are considered:
- Reinforcing social partners involvement, and the partnership principle, in the design, governance and implementation of MFF, Recovery Plan and national plans; making respect for social dialogue, collective bargaining and workplace democracy compulsory conditions for funding to companies.
- Reversing the cuts to the Just Transition Fund and make the 2050 and 2030 emissions targets binding conditions for funding, as climate action and digital transformation are urgent but need to create jobs and manage a socially just transition, especially in regions and sectors heavily dependent on fossil-fuel and high-emission industries and where digital innovation and networks are not developed.
- Using the recovery package, and the RRF in particular, to boost investments and create quality jobs in industrial value chains that are strategic to reach EU policy objectives (European Green Deal, Digital Strategy).
- Restoring the Solvency Support funding, which is crucial to address the restructuring processes companies have begun since the COVID outbreak, and reversing the cuts to all funds related to innovation, research and the reinforcement of public services and active labour market policies.
- Preserving social investment in the MFF, reinforcing the ESF+, restoring the European social model and social protection systems, fully implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights and the Agenda 2030 of the UN.
We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past, when anti-crisis and recovery measures completely neglected the social and employment dimension, so not addressing unemployment and precariousness, and instead generating massive inequalities, cut in wages and social protection and deterioration in working and living conditions.
We count on you to make the recovery sustainable and benefit working people this time.
Finally, we appeal to you to support the legislative and non-legislative initiatives the European Commission and the German Presidency have announced in the areas of employment and social rights.
In particular, we ask you to:
- Contribute to making sure that the Directive on Minimum Wages and Collective Bargaining and the Directive on Pay Transparency are published on time for the legislative process to start before the end of 2020.
- Support the Commission in pushing forward legislative and enforcement initiatives in the field of EU Frameworks for Minimum Income; Human Rights, Due Diligence and responsible business including in supply chains; review of the European Works Council directive and a new framework on workers’ information, consultation and participation; Seasonal and Mobile Workers; and the Action Plan for the Implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
We believe that Europe needs a People’s Recovery that does not go back to the past but to a socially fairer, greener and digital future. A future fit for working people who have been the heroes and the victims of covid-19.
We thank you very much for your attention and look forward to discuss and cooperate with you on these topics.