FEMM and SOC Commissions take a stand for better work-life balance, decent employment and social protection for all

At their meeting on September 6 in Brussels, CESI’s members’ commissions on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) and on Employment and Social Affairs (SOC) reviewed progress in negotiations on the European Commission’s proposals on work-life balance for parents and carers, on transparent and predictable working conditions, and on access to social protection for all. Under the chairmanship of the Presidents of the SOC and FEMM Commissions, Javier Jordán and Kirsten Lühmann from CESI’s Spanish and German member organisations CSIF and dbb, CESI’s affiliates voiced strong opinions and take-home messages in discussions with decision-makers from the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Austrian Council Presidency. Also on the agenda: The ineffectiveness of gender equality plans in companies across Europe and abuses of fixed-term work regimes in public services.

Responding to recent political discussions within the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, and based on a detailed position of CESI, the members engaged in a lively discussion on a (possible) exclusion of (certain) public sector workers from chapter III of the currently negotiated new EU directive of predictable and transparent working conditions with the European Parliament’s shadow rapporteur for the S&D group, MEP Javi Lopez.

Transparent and predictable working conditions: No flat-rate exclusion of public sector workers

CESI’s affiliates made clear that possible flat-rate exclusions of all civil servants and all workers employed in public emergency services, the armed forces, the police authorities as well as judges, prosecutors, investigators and other law enforcement services, as suggested by certain actors, is unacceptable.

If at all, exemptions should be carefully tied only to individual articles and apply only to personnel where this can clearly be justified, CESI’s members argued.

Access to social protection for all: Why no EU directive? 

In a discussion with Ana Carla Pereira, Head of Unit in charge of national social security systems at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, CESI’s members warmly welcomed the content of the European Commission’s recent proposal on access to social protection for all. As already stipulated in a previous position of CESI, they however questioned the likely effectiveness of the measure, which will be a Council recommendation and not a binding directive. CESI’s affiliates mentioned that a proposal for a binding directive would have been legally possible under the EU treaties, and expressed hopes that the Member State governments will nevertheless take the initiative seriously.

Work-life balance: Do not water down the European Commission’s proposal

With the Austrian Council Presidency as a guest speaker on the European Commission’s legislative proposal on work-life balance for parents and carers, CESI’s affiliates voiced strong concerns over moves by the Council of Ministers to try to water down various provisions of the European Commission’s original proposal in negotiations with the European Parliament. They emphasised that the provisions of the European Commission’s proposal were minimum measures required to bring about a more equal sharing of domestic responsibilities between women and men. Hollowing out the proposal would jeopardise progress for more gender equality in Europe, CESI’s members argued.

CESI’s FEMM and SOC Commissions also heard a presentation of Aristea Koukiadaki from the University of Manchester on temporary contracts, precarious employment, employees’ fundamental rights and EU employment law, and, under the leadership of CESI’s Spanish member trade union organisation FASGA, deliberated on the ineffectiveness of gender equality plans in companies across Europe. Both topics will be further examined at the next meeting, which will take place on March 7 2019.

Picture: CESI’s SOC and FEMM Commissions in session © CESI 2018