On 27 and 28 November 2023, the Employment and Social Affairs Ministers met for the last EPSCO Council of the Spanish Presidency. On that occasion, the Council endorsed its conclusions on “More democracy at work and green collective bargaining for decent work and sustainable and inclusive growth”.
For Ceemet and its members, democracy at work and collective bargaining are fundamental issues but it is important to remind policymakers that they have to respect representative and autonomous sectoral social partners who are best placed to deal with emerging challenges, such as the ongoing digitalisation of the world of work and the transition to a greener economy.
In this regard, proposing, at EU level, a list of potential topics to be discussed by the social partners in order to advance green collective bargaining appears to be in contradiction with the autonomy of social partners and is, for Ceemet, too far reaching. The members of Ceemet are, in the majority of the Members States where they bargain, already dealing with topics linked to the green transition in the framework of the social dialogue and industrial relations systems at national level. Indeed, collective agreements are important tools to deal with the rapid transformation that the world of work is undergoing due to multiple structural factors including the green transition and its impact on jobs and skills, the creation of green job opportunities and in general of new employment opportunities.
Having said that, Ceemet appreciates that the Council refers to the need to respect the characteristics of domestic collective bargaining systems when promoting the development of green collective bargaining.
In its conclusions, the Council also calls on the need to reflect whether EU law developments regarding worker participation in companies, in particular transnational companies, are needed. Clearly, for Ceemet, the EU legislative framework is sufficiently developed and there is no need to add another layer of rules to prevent that companies that operate, for example, cross border do not circumvent or undermine workers participation rights. Overregulation hinders the competitiveness of companies and the focus should rather be on enforcing the existing legislation and not on proposing new initiatives.
We would, in that sense, rather support the Council’s conclusions which suggest the necessity to develop initiatives designed to raise more awareness of national and EU rules on workers’ right to information, consultation and participation as well as to promote the exchange of best practices.
Additionally, Ceemet welcomes the Council’s Conclusions on “Digitalisation in social security coordination, to facilitate the exercise of social security rights in the EU and alleviate administrative burden” which were approved on 28 November. Indeed, Ceemet recognizes the necessity of ensuring the implementation of existing and new digital and interoperable initiatives that facilitate and speed up administrative procedures and communication between Member States’ national administrations.
We also support the suggestions of the Council which invite Member States to finalize the implementation and full operationalisation of Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI) by 2024, to engage in the activities related to portable document A1 and the European Health Insurance Card. Ceemet agrees with the conclusion of the Council that it is vital that all social security processes, including cross-border processes are clear, transparent and streamlined for employers, employees and the administrations involved.
We also endorse the point of the Council regarding the opportunity to deploy the European Social Security Pass (ESSPASS) solution in all EU countries. Ceemet believes that the introduction of ESSPASS could facilitate legal certainty for workers and businesses, fair mobility and the effective protection, portability of social security rights, traceability, and enforcement of workers’ rights. At the same time, it will support fair competition and ensure a level-playing field for businesses.
Following the Trilogues on the fifth revision of Directive 2004/37/EC, the Presidency informed Ministers that the Council reached a provisional agreement with the Parliament on the update of this Directive. It was confirmed that COREPER will be able to validate this provision when it meets next week. While the outcome of the negotiations were not completely in line with the Ceemet position, there are elements of the deal which are acceptable to MET employers such as the addition of a transition period for the OEL on Lead and its inorganic compounds. However, it must be noted that what has been agreed has the potential to adversely affect our industries.