According to the Commission, the proposed European pillar of social rights is to “set out a number of essential principles to support well-functioning and fair labour markets and welfare systems within the euro area.” The Commission further writes that “the Pillar should become a reference framework to screen employment and social performance of participating Member States and to drive reforms at national level.”
A pillar on a wide variety of social challenges
The Commission proposes to focus the Pillar on three areas:
• a section on equal opportunities and access to the labour market will focus on aspects such as skills, secure labour contracts, work-life balance and active support for employment;
• a division on fair working conditions will circle around wages, occupational health and safety and social dialogue; and
• a section on adequate social protection will cover aspects related to social services, pensions, unemployment benefits, care and minimum income.
Open questions remain on the implementation side
According to CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger, the communication and its accompanying texts can be a positive step into the direction of a more social Europe. However, he also noted: “A final assessment of the Pillar initiative will depend on the nature of the concrete proposals on the creation and implementation of the Pillar which the Commission has announced for 2017. So far, a number of open questions remain.”
Indeed, a number of questions remain unanswered:
• How will the stated objectives be implemented in the Member States? According to CESI, hard legislation is needed wherever possible, but the communication is rather silent about this;
• Why should the Pillar only be mandatory for Eurozone countries, as suggested by the Commission? In CESI’s view, efforts are needed to ensure the participation of all EU Member States in order to ensure a real upward convergence of social standards in the entire EU; and
• How should the stated objectives be financed? According to CESI, a clear statement is needed to stress that well-resourced public services and substantial additional social investments are required to implement key objectives of the Pillar initiative.
Following an in-depth analysis of the communication and its accompanying documents, CESI will in the context of structured dialogue opportunities and a newly-launched consultation make sure to raise questions such as these with the Commission services.
N.B.: The Pillar communication and its accompanying documents can be accessed on the Commission’s webpage. Follow this link to access the abovementioned consultation. The Commission also set up a special webpage on the Pillar, which can be accessed here.