Following the presentation of the Commission proposal for a new Directive on transparent and predictable working conditions in the EU-Parliament's Committee on Employment and Social Af-fairs on 22nd February 2018, this week (15th May) a public hearing took place with representatives of the European social partners. The Commission proposal, which, based on the revision of the current Written Statement Directive, provides for stricter information requirements as well as some new minimum standards in labour law, was generally welcomed by the European Trade Union Confederation and several MEPs — in spite of an existing need for improvement.
Wiebke Warneck, Senior Legal Advisor of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), welcomed the Commission proposal as an important step towards the further implementation of the “European Pillar of Social Rights”. In particular, she regarded the planned extension of the scope of the directive to atypical and precarious employees important, as well as the deletion of the two-month deadline to submit the (minimum) information requirements by employers as progress. However, Warneck identified a significant need for improvement in respect of minimum labour law standards: For example, so-called zero-hour contracts had to be banned throughout the EU. She also recognised a need for improvement with regard to the liability issue concerning jobs in the platform economy. With regard to working hours, the establishment of a non-regression clause should help to prevent any deterioration. Warneck appealed to the policy makers to finalise the Directive as soon as possible; definitely before the end of the legislative period in May 2019.
In contrast, the present representatives of Business Europe and the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber regarded the proposal as going too far. Nils Trampe (Business Europe) criticised the lack of practical relevance: for example, the cancellation of the two-month information period after taking up a job would contradict the usual procedure to renegotiate contracts during the first working weeks. The Directive would predominantly concern European skilled workers, which is why the migration or outsourcing by companies with a high need for skilled workers might be on the cards. Rudolf Gleißner of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKÖ) recognised serious legal deficiencies in the Directive proposal: the provided for wide definition of worker at EU level would mean a massive intervention in national law, with inestimable consequences; for example, in the case when national and supranational definitions of worker “collide”.
On the part of MEPs - within the framework of the hearing - a majority of the speakers came out in favour of resharpening the Commission proposal. Agnes Jongerius (S&D) for example - looking at the criticism by the economic side - pointed out that the wide definition of the term worker in the Directive proposal would already be in accordance with the current jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Thomas Mann (EPP) demanded - within the meaning of the Pillar of Social Rights - to create a European “minimum corridor” for working conditions. He regarded dismissal protection as the most important point of the Directive. However, Enrique Calvet Chambon, EP rapporteur and member of the ALDE faction, also emphasised the difficulties in writing the EP opinion on the Directive, as there – in his point of view – there was a broad spectrum of positions.
Position of the Chamber of Labour
Just like the European Trade Union Confederation, the Chamber of Labour also welcomes the expansion of information requirements, the definition or worker, which also covers jobs, which so far have not been included in the Written Statement Directive, fewer exceptions from the scope of application as well as improved legal enforcement mechanisms.
Nevertheless from AK's point of view, the provided for level of protection for employees is overall not ambitious enough. For example, a maximum duration of a probationary period of six months is far too high. The minimum standard for free further training only refers to employers in respect of the obligatory sector of further training. And an entitlement to receive a reply to the request of another form of employment can hardly be regarded as a strong social right. In addition, the regulations for the minimum planning capability of work in its current form would restrict the admissibility of work on call - including so-called zero-hour contracts; however, it would implicitly legitimise these at European level. What is really needed is a general EU-wide ban of work on demand.