7 September 2023

Achieving a competitive and social industry in a stronger Europe

On Thursday 7 September 2023, the employers of the Metal, Engineering and Technology-based (MET) industries, Ceemet, presented its views for the next European mandate entitled “For a more competitive industry in a stronger Europe: a Ceemet perspective”.

MET employers presented a blueprint on how to achieve an internationally competitive and social industry in Europe. The document identified concrete actions, via its 35 key requests for European policymakers, as well as providing a wealth of good practice examples.

The actions are laid out under four crucial headings:

1. Move towards totally frictionless labour mobility in the Internal Market

One of the most important ways companies have to add value to the products they produce is via the frictionless labour mobility of their employees. In this context, deepening the single market to ensure the effective free movement of workers and services is crucial to companies profitability. Ceemet highlights multiple ways to simplify these activities, a crucial way being by the facilitation of digitalisation in EU labour mobility.

2. Adopt fit for purpose regulation in full respect of the EU Treaties

Fit for purpose regulation should be created to achieve an aim: when it comes to Ceemet’s remit, the protection of workers or the protection of the environment. However, too much regulation, which is not in respect of the EU Treaties, can reduce competitiveness, investment and generally slow the whole economy. Therefore, the EU must remain within its competence when legislating, it must also ensure the full respect of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. Furthermore, it is necessary to reduce administrative burden on companies and respect the differences of national labour markets. Legislators must be conscious of the adverse impact of gold plating on business and allow flexibility in the adaptation of companies to challenges. Legislators should create industrial policy to strengthen long-term competitiveness and productivity, while avoiding legislative packages which run counter to this goal.

3. Provide a highly skilled workforce

The MET industries are facing the double and increasingly aggravated challenge of labour and skills shortages. Whereas skills shortages and high vacancy rates have been an issue for the MET industries for many years, labour shortages are more of a recent phenomenon. Among many other solutions outlined in the document, some of the ways to tackle these problems are to ensure we have the right skills for the labour market and that we have adequate labour activation measures. Furthermore, we must ensure we are developing the skills to face the green and digital transitions, promoting STEM and soft skills, making Vocational Education and Training a first choice and, crucially, facilitating the upskilling and reskilling of workers.

4. Give social partners a key role

Representative and autonomous social partners are best positioned to discuss and agree on how to represent their workers and companies. Therefore, it only makes sense that we must leave adequate room for manoeuvre to social partners to develop these discussions and agreements. We must also allow for deviation from EU legislation by collective agreements and ensure the effective consultation of social partners, while guaranteeing their autonomy and supporting capacity building.

This document proposes to current and future policymakers to put the focus back on the fundamentals of the EU: the four freedoms, economic cooperation and competitiveness. It is crucial that the new European Commissioners and MEPs work side by side with the social partners and sectoral organisations to ensure that EU legislation forwards the aim of achieving a competitive and social industry in a stronger Europe.

Ceemet will be looking to discuss in more detail these proposals with all policymakers and candidates for the forthcoming elections.