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January 2007 : LO's visions for Europe

07. Feb. 2007 | By testmanden

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LO’s visions for a Europecharacterised

by more welfare and social responsibility

 

Adopted by LO's Executive Committee on 19 January 2007

 

On 25 March 2007, the EU is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. Denmarkhas been a member since 1973. There are many good reasons for congratulating the EU. Europeinvented the nation state and the welfare state. Throughout the past 50 years, the EU has developed a mutually binding cooperation with an increasing number of nation states in Europe. And, by peaceful means and dialogue, the EU has created more cooperation and democracy in its locality than in any other place in the world. The EU is a model of cooperation which is spreading to other regions of the world (the ASEAN, Mercursur, The African Union, The Arab League).

Europe also invented the trade union organisations. It is no coincidence that Europehas shorter working days, longer holidays, greater social responsibility and less inequality than in other parts of the world. It is also no coincidence, that the EU and its MemberStatesare, by far, the greatest contributors to development aid for poor countries. The social market economy in the EU should, in LO’s view, form a role model for the development of the global market.

But the EU must also be developed further from the inside, with the emphasis on growth, welfare, equal opportunities and social responsibility. LO continues to try to influence the decision-making processes in the EU with Nordic and trade union traditions that will strengthen workers’- and members' interests. LO works for a more open and democratic EU with less distance to the decision-making process, and where mutual trust and trustworthiness thrive. The Nordic countries have ample opportunity for influencing the development of the EU in the direction of increased cooperation and mutual trust at the workplace level which would help promote workers' independent participation and innovative contributions. The concept of “flexicurity” is a good example of the interest which the Danish labour market model has stirred in the EU. LO would like to see a European Union which can support the Member States’ efforts to ensure everyone good and equal opportunities and to protect weak and vulnerable groups. 

The EU has come a long way down this road. However, the fact cannot be concealed that the EU is currently experiencing a “reflection period” which might turn into a crisis if the politicians, trade unions and citizens do not get together to find new ways of moving ahead.

In June 2006, The European Council encouraged the European leaders to adopt a political declaration which establishes Europe's values and ambitions and which confirms their pledge to live up to these values and ambitions. This is to take place on the 50th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome on 25 March 2007. InJune 2007, the European Council is to discuss a report from the German Presidency on the status of the discussions of the Constitutional Treaty. This report is to form the basis for decisions on how to continue the reform process in the EU.

In LO’s view, the Constitutional Treaty is a proposal which, to a very large extent, takes into consideration the wishes of the citizens and the trade union organisations to develop a more efficient and social Europe. LO would therefore prefer that the Constitutional Treaty be ratified in accordance with the national procedures. Meanwhile, LO recognises that the referendums held in Franceand Hollandmight necessitate considering other possibilities.

LO finds, that in its declaration on Europe’s values and ambitions on the Anniversary on 25 March 2007, the European Council should focus on issues that concern the citizens in a forward-looking way. The European Council should, not least, focus clearly on the EU- and Member States’ ambitions for a sustainable development, full employment, welfare and consumer protection in The Single Market and the citizens’ concern about the possible consequences of globalisation.

If the EU is to win greater support for a closer cooperation with the workers, it must also respect fundamental workers' rights and social- and labour market policy ambitions and this is to be emphasised in the declaration. The trade union movement at the relevant level should also be involved actively in the wording of the declaration.

Regardless of what the German Presidency suggests on the possibilities of reform in 2007 following consultations among the Member States, including a possible renegotiation of the Constitutional Treaty, the EU and its MemberStatesought to have high ambitions in the above areas.

During the EU's pause for thought, LO has carried out a number of activities with a view to finding out what LO's members think about the importance of the EU. LO has held a number of meetings for focus groups with the participation of shop stewards and rank-and-filers, and LO has held a mini-seminar during which the affiliated unions and the cartels presented and discussed their views. There was a surprisingly positive attitude among the focus groups towards the importance of the EU as a guarantor for social values and rights in The Single Market in an increasingly open global economy. LO has therefore been inspired by this work to compile its visions for the future of Europewith more welfare and social responsibility.

 

The EU and its MemberStatesmust be based on the respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equal opportunities, the state governed by law, an equal distribution of the economic benefits and the respect for human rights. In the social field, the values can be described as full employment, welfare and justice.

The mutual values are to be backed by a social market economy, solidarity and cohesion. An active interplay between the economic policy, the employment policy and the social- and labour market policies is the precondition for growth and welfare with full employment. The social dimension of the EU and the MemberStatesshould be seen as an investment into more and better jobs.

The Growth- and Stability Pact is to ensure a sensible balance between the regard for stability on the one hand and the regard for growth and employment on the other hand. In order to promote the financing of the welfare development, the EU also needs to address the question of European minimum corporate tax rates and the problem of the multinationals' speculations by transferring their costs to the country with the lowest tax rates.

The EU and its member states must respect and ensure the observation of the fundamental economic and social rights mentioned in the EU-Charter on fundamental rights which was adopted on the summit in Nice on 7 December 2000. This is not least the case for the fundamental trade union rights such as the right of negotiation and the right to industrial action, including strikes, in accordance with EU law as well as national legislation and practice . The fundamental trade union rights should positively and unequivocally include the access to transnational secondary action if the main industrial conflict is legal in the state in question. The EU should consider specific and binding initiatives which may ensure the social responsibility of the multinationals and their observation of fundamental rights.

Each within their respective powers, the EU and its Member States must promote an economic and social development characterised by full employment, access to education and training for all, equal opportunities, good working conditions, health and safety at the workplaces and a high level of welfare.

Within their specific skills’ areas, the EU and MemberStatesare to develop high-quality public services, including social welfare benefits and efforts to reach vulnerable groups.

LO hereby encourages The European Council to discuss how the EU can support the efforts of the Member States to promote welfare while fully respecting the national identities and the Member States’ rights to decide how their services of general interest are to be defined, organised and financed. LO sees it as a possibility to establish a convention with the participation of the social partners which is given the task of adopting a solemn declaration stating which welfare benefits all EU-citizens ought to be entitled to.

High quality public services of general interest are a precondition for the quality of life of citizens and workers. LO therefore encourages the Commission to present proposals in accordance with the Treaty which support the efforts of the Member States to ensure the quality of the services of general interest without weakening the EU-rules on competition.

The EU should continue to supplement the efforts of the Member States by adopting minimum directives on working conditions at an increasingly higher level in accordance with the Treaty. The minimum directives should be aimed at counteracting unfair competition and social dumping across borders. The EU’s minimum directives should respect the different national traditions in the collective agreement area. We encourage the Commission to consider appropriate improvements of the EU’s current minimum directives, including those on gender equality, information, consultation and co-determination in transnational companies and health and safety at work. In addition to this, the EU ought to adopt the proposed directive of the Commission on the protection of temporary agency workers so that they are ensured the same protection and the same level of social security as the permanent workers. The Commission also ought to present proposals on the protection on atypical employment, for instance on free lancers who are not ensured equal treatment at present. The EU-Commission should likewise, as quickly as possible, present a proposal on data protection. In November 2006, the EU-Commission issued a paper, which is an introduction to a debate on a future European system of industrial relations. In addition to this, the Commission will, in 2007, present a proposal for a voluntary system for making transnational agreements binding by the social partners. LO Supports the development of a labour law dimension and social security in Europebut underlines that the Commission must respect the national traditions of the Member States, including national collective agreement systems and jurisdiction for pointing out national representatives for European committees and bodies. Finally, we encourage the EU-Commission to increase its efforts to ensure a more uniform and equal implementation of the EU’s directives while fully respecting the national traditions in the area of collective bargaining. 

The EU’s policy on greater cohesion, including the means of the Structural Funds, are to support the strategies on growth and employment (the Lisbon aims) and should be targeted for the most vulnerable groups in the poorest regions.

The EU and its MemberStatesshould increase the budgets for research and development so that they, as a minimum, meet the Barcelonacriterion of using 3 % of GDP on research and development and 1 % of GDP on public research. It is also necessary to invest massively in training and education in order to ensure lifelong learning and more training - not least for those who are poorly skilled.

We need increased cooperation between European educational institutions and the possibilities of exchanging students and apprentices should be promoted.

The EU is to promote the free movement of workers across borders and shall ensure the coordination of the national social security systems so that migrant workers can safely take on work in another EU Member State.

Employers posting workers temporarily in another EU Member State are to observe the regulation and collective agreements of the host country in accordance with EU-directive 96/71 and the EU’s conventions on choice of law that apply. The directive on the posting of workers should be improved so that the MemberStatesand the social partners are ensured the necessary opportunities and obligations for a better enforcement of the rights of posted workers.

The EU needs a joint policy on migrant workers and legal migration from third countries and a joint policy on the prevention of illegal immigration. LO encourages the Danish government to support the development of such a policy even though it is among the Danish opt-outs.

An efficient social dialogue and cooperation between the social partners and the authorities are preconditions for establishing the balance between security and flexibility which is to ensure Europe’s welfare and competitiveness.

The EU and its MemberStatesshould therefore actively promote social dialogue and trade union organisation at all relevant levels while fully respecting the autonomy of the social partners as well as the different national traditions. Trade union organisation is not least important in the public sector as a number of countries are inter alia prohibiting police and military staff from unionising.  The social partners should exchange experiences across borders which might help strengthen unionisation.

The European social dialogue and the sector dialogue have created positive results in the form of European agreements. LO therefore encourages the social partners at the European level to seriously consider how to ensure that European agreements have more impact and how disputes on their interpretation are settled.

The EU’s guidelines on the economic policy and employment (the Lisbonstrategy) should, in a more targeted way, coordinate and promote the Member States’ efforts to ensure a high level of competitiveness, equal opportunities, full employment, better jobs, lifelong learning, social cohesion, innovation and an active labour market policy. We encourage the MemberStatesand the social partners to strengthen their efforts to ensuring the efficient implementation of the strategy.

 

The EU’s global role

  • The EU and its MemberStatesmust actively promote the European values and ambitions in global contexts and international institutions.
  • The EU must work to ensure the establishment of democracy, constitutional states and a world order which is based on cooperation, agreements and dialogue.
  • The EU and Member States are to ensure that the ILO’s fundamental conventions on the freedom of association, collective bargaining, child labour, forced labour, equal opportunities and non-discrimination are observed.This is particularly important in connection with the conclusion of trade agreements with individual countries or groups of countries – especially in relation to China.
  • The EU and its MemberStatessupport the OECD’s guidelines for multinational companies.
  • The EU and its MemberStatessupport the dissemination of the ILO-initiative on “decent work” which is to promote the efforts to establish fair and decent working conditions for men and women around the world through legislation and agreements at the national and international level.
  • The EU and its Member States have the opportunity to influence international organisations and institutions such as the UN, WTO, IMF, the World Bank, OSCE and in connection with bilateral agreements, the European neighbourhood policy and in the G8.
  • An important part of the European social aims is the combating of poverty. The Member States must, at the national level or though the EU, in accordance with the UN’s Millennium aims, give at least 0.7% of their GDP for development aid for the world’s poorest countries in 2015, including, not least, Sub-Saharan countries in Africa.
  • LO encourages the Commission to present an action plan and a strategy with proposals on how the EU and the Member States can promote the shared European values and ambitions more efficiently in a global context, including the protection of investments, competition law and social and environmental values.

LO hopes that these practical visions might serve as a source of inspiration for the decisions which will be taken in the coming months and years on the future of Europe.

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