Will the pillar of social rights survive the storm?
Last Tuesday (8 March) the pillar of social rights left the European Commission’s shipyard on the smallest boat in the institution’s fleet – a communication. Before we can test its strength, it has set sail off the coast until 31 December of this year. Until then there will be rough seas to traverse to assess if the pillar can reach its destination and be well positioned to improve the social emergency faced by the EU.
The issue is not about the pillar’s material; it is built with interesting elements for us, such as adequate minimum income, wage, pension and unemployment benefits, access to services, long-term care, child care, as well as the narrative around fundamental rights.
The question is: will it survive the reality of the European political sea?
The first test came on the same day that the pillar was launched in the shape of the Labour Mobility Package, and specifically the rules on the posting of workers to other Member States. The pillar stresses that “all employment shall be fairly remunerated, enabling a decent standard of living”. So what will it mean for the 1.9 million posted workers in the EU? Unfortunately the proposed changes to the rules on the posting of workers fail to guarantee this right; the Secretary-General of the European Trade Union Confederation highlighted this by stating that “President Juncker promised equal pay for equal work and has delivered it with a significant loophole”.
The rest of the Labour Mobility Package and the coordination of social security between Member States are sure to create additional waves. The pillar states that there should be adequate and sustainable social protection. However, the recent UK-EU renegotiations pose a threat to the payment of in-work benefits to EU citizens posted to work in the UK. My guess is that it has created a dangerous precedent for other Member States to follow suit.
The social pillar is far from perfect – this is why Social Platform will continue to offer guidance to the Commission. We want the pillar to reach its destination, and for us this includes ensuring equal pay for equal work, equal treatment between national and EU citizens in accessing social security benefits and understanding that strong social policies go hand-in-hand with economic policies.
Pierre Baussand, Director