This week (13.3.2018), Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, presented the eagerly awaited Social Fairness Package in Strasbourg. Apart from its core piece, the Commission Proposal for a European Labour Authority, the Package also includes a Proposal on Council recommendations on access to social security.
A new European Labour Authority
The responsibilities of the new EU-Labour Authority are definitely extensive: They range from information tasks, via support in case of cross-border work up to mediate and facilitate a solution in cases of cross-border disputes between national authorities or labour market disruptions. It is the purpose of the Authority to ensure that European legislation, which regulates cross-border employment, is applied correctly and that it can fairly and easily be enforced in all economic sectors.
Hence, the Authority shall assume information tasks on cross-border work: the proposed Regulation has the objective to inform companies which labour law shall be applied in case of cross-border work. Thus, Member States shall be supported in supplying this necessary information. Apart from that, the Authority shall provide assistance and mediation in case of cross-border conflicts between national authorities as well as in case of serious labour market disruptions: mentioned here is among other the option of joint inspections. This could in particular assist Federal States in Austria, which are affected by wage and social dumping.
On the other hand, cross-border mobility shall be facilitated for European employees: a platform will be provided, which they may use to gather information on job offers in other Member States. It seems as if the Commission would not only want to focus on the negative aspects of labour mobility, but also strengthen its positive sides: qualified European employees shall be given the opportunity of experiences abroad in another Member State. To achieve this, existing EU institutions and their responsibilities – above all the management of the EURES Coordination Office – shall be integrated into the new Labour Authority.
It is yet to be decided in which country the seat of the Authority will be. Commissioner Thyssen referred to the negotiation process between the Member States – Evelyn Regner, Head of Delegation of SPÖ MEPs in the European Parliament, is in favour of locating the Authority in Vienna. Wherever it will finally be located, the Authority will take up its work in as early as 2019; initially from Brussels. Until its ultimate extension in 2023, the Authority shall have a total of 140 employees and a budget of about 52 million euros. However, it will start with the more modest figure of 10 million.
The Commission also points towards the previous consultation, in which the Federal Chamber of Labour also participated with a statement. 8,809 contributions made within the scope of the consultation, 8,420 (95 %) came via the joint campaign by AK EUROPA, ÖGB Europabüro and ETUC, a large part from Austria. Austria is particularly affected by social dumping, in particular in the construction and transport sector. Checks of the Construction Workers' Holiday and Severance Pay Fund (BUAK) time and again identified serious shortcomings. “Hence, it is overdue that the EU supports the cross-border enforcement of EU law; in particular also joint checks and the improved exchange of information”, said Bernhard Achitz, General Secretary of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB).
Council conclusions in respect of social security
With regard to social security, the Commission has submitted a Proposal for a Council Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed. As the world of work evolves due to new lifestyles, business practices and digitisation, social protection systems constantly need to match new realities. Today, almost 40% of people employed are either in an atypical employment situation - meaning that they are not working under a full-time, open-ended contract - or self-employed. Such persons are not always well covered in terms of social security, lacking unemployment insurance or access to pension rights. Hence, the Proposal refers to social insurance systems with regard to unemployment, illness, parenthood, occupational accidents and occupational diseases, disability and age.
European Social Insurance Number
In the press conference on the day of the presentation, Commissioner Thyssen once again referred to the work of the Commission concerning a European Social Insurance Number. No concrete Proposal was made on this day; however, it was announced that it would be presented before the end of the year. The announced Proposal would have the objective to facilitate the cross-border transferability of claims and to enable identification in real time. This should not only enable improved checks but also make it easier for EU Citizens to stay in another country in case of illness.
Implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights
In its Communication, the Commission quotes that since November 2014, a total of 22 new legal acts from the Social Issues and Employment sector had been presented, of which 10 had already been adopted and 12 were waiting for the approval of the Council/European Parliament. The Commission also refers to the fact that social priorities had been taken into account in all sectors, among other in case of the investment offensive (so-called “Juncker Plan”), of the tax agenda as well as in respect of transport policy and drinking water quality. Finally, elements had been added to the European Semester process to assist the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Here, the evaluation of the performance in the sectors of employment and social issues, among other with the help of the new social policy scoreboard, which shall evaluate the trends and performances in EU Member States, will be included in the European Semester.