CESI welcomes this week’s social proposals of the European Commission

This week, the European Commission put flesh to its employment, social affairs and gender equality agenda, submitting proposals to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, to reduce gender pay gaps, to improve on the rights and opportunites of the disabled, to strengthen effective active support to employment, and to prolong the ‘escape clause’ of the Stability and Growth Pact.

Secretary General Klaus Heeger, the proposed measures are a significant step into the right direction for workers in Europe. The European Parliament, the Council and, above all, national governments and social partners must now take the proposed measures forward.

The proposals and decisions issued by the European Commission on Wednesday and Thursday this week include:

• An action plan for an effective implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and its 20 principles at the EU level and in the Member States.
• A proposal for an EU directive on pay transparency, to help reduce gender pay gaps, which will now be negotiated and adopted by the EU’s two co-legislators, the European Parliament and the Council
• A new EU strategy for the rights on persons with disabilities, which outlines scope of EU measures to support equal rights and opportunities for the less abled, also in occupational matters.
• A recommendation on effective active support to employment, which includes guidance on how to use EU funds to support national active labour market policies and the role of national social partners therein.
• A plan to maintain the so-called ‘escape clause’ of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) also in 2022, which has been applied already since 2020 in order to make it easier for Member States to indebt themselves by investing in jobs and financing the economy’s recovery from the Covid crisis without being penalised for a breach of the public budgetary deficit rules under the Stability and Growth Pact.

In a first reaction CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger said:

“The action plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights includes a series of useful headline targets to achieve for a more social fairness by 2030. It will be key that Member States take real and effective ‘owernship’ of the Pillar and act in line with it. The EU has limited competences, and at some point it is the Member States that need to do their homework and prioritise decent work and social protection.”

“The proposal on pay transparency is long awaited and overdue, given the large gender wage and pension gaps especially in the private sector. A directive, once adopted, can be a powerful tool. The European Parliament and the Council need to strike a balance between effective pay transparency for as many workers as possible – while also considering bureaucracy concerns of micro enterprises. Here, social partners need to work with governments to provide practical reference frameworks, templates and digital solutions to keep pay transparency manageable.”

“Access to healthcare, lifelong learning, leisure and also employment remains difficult for many disabled persons. We welcome very much the Euroepan Commission’s new disability strategy, with further efforts to lay out possible actions and measures to support active inclusion in the Member States. We appreciate in particular envisaged initiatives to making job selection, recruitment, employment and retention processes more disability-inclusive.”

“A recommendation for active support to employment is coming at the right moment. Although recommendations are usually little considered by the Member States, this one may attract attention because it explains how EU funds can be deployed for more effective support to employment by the Member States. This might be an additional incentive. And I believe that also social partners and trade unions must play a more prominent role in the future in supporting active labour market policies.”

“Maintaining the escape clause of the Stability and Growth Pact is an important political sign towards Member States to invest in resilience. Already before the Covid crisis, we have called to invest in particular in public services in order to make them performant also in times of crisis, which regularly arrive, albeit in different forms and natures. The Stability and Growth Pact must target keeping public debts at a minimum, but it should not prevent necessary investments in key areas that allow the state to function and societies to become fairer.”

Klaus Heeger also underlined the need to carefully assess and, in case of approval, promote and support the different tools and proposals: “The Pillar can only have concrete impacts on citizens and workers if we all seize and use it – politically, financially, legally. And this we will do in the coming years, with the support of our members.”