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Europe and the fight against the precariousness of European workers

Renew Europe

The adoption of the report drafted by the French MEP and Vice-President of the Renew Europe group, Sylvie Brunet (MoDem), "on the reduction of inequalities, with particular attention to in-work poverty" by the European Parliament on 10 February, as well as the ongoing examination of the proposal for a directive on adequate minimum wages is a real step forward for all European workers.

The current crisis is increasing the precariousness of European workers:

Already before the health and social crisis that we have been experiencing for more than a year, the share of European workers exposed to the risk of poverty was 9.4% in 2018, a level almost one point higher than ten years ago. This is an unacceptable reality that is likely to be further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. Indeed, recent EUROSTAT studies unfortunately show that the European Union had almost 2 million more unemployed between February and November 2020 (14 and 16 million respectively).

How can we ensure that each European country, with its specificities, has a decent minimum wage?

The proposal for a directive sent to us by the Commission and on which we are starting to work in the European Parliament, provides for the establishment of a framework making a minimum wage of a decent level compulsory in all EU Member States. It is this legislation which, once adopted, will require each Member State to have a decent minimum wage.

Parliamentary work will soon begin on the basis of this text to set, for example, stable and clear criteria for determining minimum wages. This means, however, that the directive will not impose a specific amount for this minimum wage in all countries but criteria that must be met as a minimum (e.g. a criterion of a percentage of the gross median wage). There are also proposals in the text to strengthen collective bargaining, especially where it is currently insufficient. This is another lever to encourage the establishment of decent minimum wages.

How to ensure better upward social convergence in times of crisis?

It is imperative to continue working on the fundamental texts, including the effective implementation of the European Social Rights Framework adopted in 2017, in order to achieve greater upward social convergence despite this period of unprecedented health, economic and social crisis.

In this respect, we will examine with great attention the Action Plan that the European Commission presented.

With the aim of making the Pillar a reality, we are working in the Committee on Employment on the implementation of this European framework for a decent minimum wage in each Member State of the Union, but also on the revision and improvement of the texts coordinating social security schemes for mobile workers in Europe, on the implementation of a Child Guarantee, and on the working conditions of workers on digital platforms.

In addition, the Social Summit to be held on 7 May in Oporto should send a clear political signal in favour of strengthening the social dimension of our Union.

Are specific measures envisaged for atypical workers?

Several European texts have begun to put in place protective measures for so-called atypical workers. Thus both the European Social Rights Pillar voted in 2017 and the Directive on transparent and predictable working conditions in the EU or the Council Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed provide for adequate rights and social protection for all types of workers, including atypical workers, self-employed workers, workers on digital platforms or domestic workers...

An own-initiative report I am working on regarding the working conditions of workers on digital platforms is also being examined and should prepare a future European legislative text at the end of the year.

All such workers must enjoy better working conditions and an adequate level of protection in the event of illness, occupational accidents or access to training.

What measures for women's wages?

The average pay gap between men and women is 16% across the EU as a whole. The European Institute for Gender Equality showed in a report in 2019 that this gap has barely decreased over the past decade. A directive on pay transparency in European countries is therefore planned and will be issued shortly.

This future pay transparency would be binding with, in particular, an obligation for companies with at least 250 employees to make information on the gender pay gap available to the public.

The establishment of a European framework for a minimum wage in all EU countries will also make it possible to raise the wages of women, who are often concentrated in poorly paid but essential jobs, as the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted.

How can we prevent further social dumping?

The more we build a strong social Europe tending towards greater convergence of social standards, the better we will fight against inevitable social dumping as long as there are so many differences between EU Member States.

We need to find a common pillar of social rights for decent working conditions, forgetting that policies in this area are still mainly the responsibility of the Member States.

The mobility of workers in the EU is crucial for the development of the European single market. And this mobility can only exist with better social convergence. We are working on this in the European Parliament.