Social partners at odds on flexicurity and wages
By Sophie Petitjean | Tuesday 17 July 2012
Three months after the presentation of the employment package, trade unions and employers have finalised their positions on the proposals (see
Europolitics 4408). Both recognise that this initiative – presented in April 2012 to tackle unemployment over the medium term – marks a step in the right direction but they disagree over flexicurity, wages and traineeships.
BUSINESSEUROPE SEEKS MORE FLEXICURITY
The employers’ federation, BusinessEurope, sets out its position in a letter sent to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on 16 July.
It states that the Commission should have emphasised more clearly that flexicurity principles are valid and necessary and should have analysed the contribution of all industries to job creation rather than focusing on three key sectors. BusinessEurope sees a need to stimulate private investment in the green economy and information and communication technologies. It also notes that the potential for creating jobs in health care, the third sector identified by the Commission, should be considered cautiously where funding depends on the public sector (faced with tight budgets).
BusinessEurope then rejects the European Commission’s proposals to ensure decent and viable salaries. “BusinessEurope is against EU imposition of standards on minimum wages. Pay policy like this is explicitly outside the EU’s competences as defined by the TFEU. The decision of whether to introduce a minimum wage is and should remain a member state competence,” states the organisation. It considers that wage negotiations should take place as close as possible to company level so as to take productivity into account. It also defends greater wage flexibility based on wage moderation where necessary.
The employers’ organisation shows little enthusiasm toward the idea of a quality framework for traineeships, planned for late 2012. It argues that too many obligations and administrative procedures will discourage companies from taking on trainees and that the introduction of minimum criteria for traineeships should not come from the European level.
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) sees positive developments in the employment package, but has doubts about the measures’ capacity to produce a job-rich recovery in the absence of a shift in the EU’s policy orientation. “If the EU collectively continues the policy of austerity, many of the package’s more positive proposals will remain only that. […] Labour market policies will not compensate for macroeconomic policy mistakes and the employment package will not operate in a vacuum nor, on its own, create the necessary conditions to foster job creation,” reads a resolution adopted by the ETUC at its Executive Committee meeting, on 5-6 June. The unions applaud the positive points in the package, including the attention given to the following issues: reinforcing social dialogue in EU governance; encouraging labour demand; tackling chronic youth unemployment; addressing labour market segmentation; identifying sectors with potential for job creation (green economy, health, ITC); investing in workers and skills; and renewing efforts to remove obstacles to free movement of workers.
The trade union organisation regrets, though, that the communication does not address obstacles to the mobility of third-country migrant workers. It also regrets that the Commission focuses on flexicurity in the context of and in response to the crisis and that it sees wages as an instrument of competitive adjustment.