Important votes are coming up in the European Parliament and we will be calling for your active involvement. On 18 October, Parliament’s Employment Committee will vote on amendments to the Transparency and Predictable Working Conditions Directive proposed in December last year. If adopted this directive will improve the situation for workers in precarious jobs. It would give all workers in the EU the right to complete information on pay and conditions and clear limits to flexible working schedules like zero-hour contracts. However, some MEPs and governments are trying to prevent that the directive will apply in is entirety to all civil servants or other public service workers in the army and police, for example. Others seek to exclude such groups, including emergency services, from certain articles that cover training and probation periods. EPSU argues that there is no justification for such exclusions. Collective bargaining offers a flexible mechanism to consider adaptation if needed. With the ETUC, national trade union centres and others we are working to convince MEPs on our position.
On 23 October, another vote will take place, this time on the amendments to the Drinking Water Directive. It is the opportunity to bring the inclusion of the human right to water in EU legislation a step closer. By doing this the Parliament will honour the Right2Water – the first ever successful European Citizen’s Initiative. EPSU and allies in the European Water Movement seek support for the strongest possible positions of the Parliament. And other votes are scheduled in the coming weeks that are important for workers – on protection for whistleblowers and on the European Labour Authority. It should go without saying that positive outcomes on these issues shortly before the European elections in May 2019 would underline that the EU can deliver progress on workers’ rights. It would also show to many countries in the EU Neighbourhood that the EU is about social progress and would take the wind out of the sails of the euro-sceptics. But it is not only the Parliament that is relevant here, the European Council also has a role.
The Austrian government, a coalition that includes euro-sceptics, currently holds the European Presidency and is slowing down the work in the Council. Their game is to prevent the Council from adopting common positions this year. This increases the risk that there will not be enough time under the Romanian Presidency next year to finalise key legislation. And with a new Parliament and a new Commission after May next year, work would have to start anew. Some proposals might even fall.
This would certainly suit the employers who have opposed the setting up of a European Labour Authority, for example. They are effectively becoming allies of the extreme-right and euro-sceptics. The employers can show that this is not the case by working with the ETUC to find solutions.
More positive is that the employers and the ETUC have agreed a new social dialogue work programme. It includes a focus on psycho-social risks and how to prevent them. The employers and the unions will further address the impact of digitalisation on work organisation, working conditions, skills, family and professional life and more. This should result in an autonomous agreement. We will consult affiliated organisations and address it at the EPSU Executive Committee on 6-7 November. This meeting will also deal with the EPSU Congress and the work that has been done in the Standing Committees. The work that has been done, including in the social dialogue, is impressive and has engaged many of you. With the European elections coming up, let’s make what we do together more visible to help make Europe a better place for workers, for our families and for our communities.