Employment and workers’ rights
European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) MEPS consider that good work, workers’ rights and better work-life balance should be the driving concepts of EU employment policy.
Deregulatory policies and tax cuts for big businesses are devastating for workers: in the name of competition and flexibility, wages are lowered and workers' rights are stripped back. The GUE/NGL is against all measures that increase precarity. We also defend the rights of migrant workers, who are among the lowest-paid workers in the world and are frequently at risk of exploitation, violence, and abuse. To combat the skyrocketing levels of youth unemployment, we must break away from the austerity model. If we want sustainable jobs for Europe's young people, the group has consistently called for adequate funding for the Youth Guarantee scheme.
The Group's battle for a more socially-minded Europe got underway rapidly after the June 2009 elections when it condemned a massive blackmailing campaign against workers at an Osram plant in Alsace in north-east France. Employees at this plant were forced to give up 12.5% of their salaries and when they objected to this, the management reacted by dismissing 108 staff members, later offering to withdraw the dismissals provided that production was reduced in the main Osram facility in Berlin.
Week Of Protest & Solidarity
The GUE/NGL Group supported the European-wide "Week of Protest & Solidarity" in June 2010 and joined with political parties, trade unions, social movements and activists in protests across Europe to highlight opposition to attacks on wages, pensions, living standards and public services. The group said a collective response and show of solidarity in the face of these attacks was needed to counteract attempts to divide workers and to give working people the confidence to fight back against policies that are forcing them to pay for the crisis.
The GUE/NGL Group supported the campaign against the liberalization of postal services by participating in a demonstration organised by trade unions and postal workers from across Europe. The Group considers that the decision to abolish postal service monopolies by 2011 runs counter to the interests of European citizens and favours the profit interests of private enterprises. It called for a comprehensive, cost-effective and high quality universal service.
Road Transport Workers
The Parliament voted against a report (Bauer) on working time for road transport workers and the Group welcomed this rejection saying that the exclusion of self-employed drivers from the legislation would have effectively introduced an 86-hour working week into the sector merely to facilitate the profit margins of big business. As well as the safety implications, social dumping and employment deregulation would have been encouraged through the proliferation of bogus "self-employed" contracts.
GUE/NGL MEPs sent a letter of support and solidarity to European dockworkers on the occasion of the strike called by the International Dockworkers' Council on November 23 2011. The letter stated: "We defend the public interest and the rights of the workers in the ports of Europe. We oppose the selling of port infrastructure, constructed with public funds, to international economic groups and speculators that Governments of various European countries are prompting for."
The GUE/NGL reiterated its opposition to the 2006 Services Directive during a debate on a progress report on its implementation. The GUE/NGL is against the Services Directive because its core is underpinned by EU liberal market freedoms whereby the idea of freedom for companies is prioritised over trade union or social freedoms. Anti-union rulings that have been handed down in recent years are not mentioned in this report despite the fact that they have completely changed labour market policy and weakened workers' rights.
With youth unemployment rising throughout the EU, the Group repeatedly called for a different policy that allows young people access to the labour market. The concern is not simply the sheer numbers of unemployed young people in Europe, but the way this is developing. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of unemployed young people rose by 26.5%, according to the International Labour Organisation. It is this development that requires urgent measures, for we are not only cutting off an entire generation from the labour market – we are cutting off an entire generation from a future worth living. If we allow our young people to feel completely useless, it is no wonder that young people are turning away from the EU because they have no reasonable prospect of work or life opportunities. What we need is offensive measures: namely, the phasing out of austerity that is stifling Europe’s economy, a targeted growth policy, a strengthening of domestic purchasing power, and public investments in education, research and alternative energies. Youth unemployment cannot be reconciled with the nonsense about wanting to increase the retirement age to 70. We need a different policy that allows young people access to the labour market.
The group considers that the European Union must stop being synonymous with a factory producing millions of young people who are unemployed, homeless, without training or a future and the Youth Guarantee Scheme should be supported and implemented immediately. The scheme should not be used as a kind of social cure for unemployment, but as a tool of European cooperation to provide a future for young people. Sacrificing younger generations today will amplify Europe's decline in the future. The future European youth guarantee should be accompanied by new rights, especially rights to education and lifelong learning and second-chance schools as well as the right to organize, the right to European and universal social protection, the right to a European minimum wage equivalent to a European median salary, right to social security work at work, combining work, training, activities or business traineeships. A European guarantee for young people should be created and financed by a fund dedicated to the future of young Europeans, not by a redeployment of existing funds.
Wage & Retirement Setting Mechanisms
In a debate on proposed policy on wages and retirement ages, the Group voiced its opposition to increasing Commission interference in national policies. It considers that wage policy is not the business of the EU. On the part of the Commission, this proposal is at complete odds with the idea of the European Union. The EU was never intended to be about competition in wages and social dumping. This Commission policy talked about the inflexibility of wages, which is to be reduced. It stated that wages should reflect market conditions. This interferes with free collective bargaining and reduces the much talked-about autonomy of the social partners and the social dialogue to absurdity. The Group called on the Parliament to ensure that the autonomous collective agreement policy is retained, to protect social dialogue and to prevent any further dismantling of social security.
Despite the introduction of legislation, and national, EU and international guidelines, the problem of wage discrimination is getting worse. Women receive 16.4% less than men in the EU, and the wage gap is increasing. The Group agreed with the main thrust of a report seeking to tackle the issue saying that one of the best aspects of the report is the fact that it advocates sanctions for employers that do not comply with the principle of equal pay. Only by applying sanctions that are more expensive for the employers than getting rid of wage discrimination can they be deterred from this illegal practice. Austerity policies will not help to realise the right to equal pay, as they destroy jobs and reduce wages, thereby putting enormous pressure on workers to accept low wages; rather, they will merely side line, trivialise and destroy equal pay altogether.
Posted Workers Directive
The group stressed that in Europe there is a top-tier of workers who are well paid in line with the principle of 'equal pay for equal work', and then there is a kind of subclass of slaves and labourers who are forced, for scandalously low wages, to move to another EU member state, only to be betrayed again by another minimum wage system that does not render them better off. The report presented to the parliament was more concerned with protecting the companies that send workers abroad than the workers themselves. The group considers that workers must receive wages they are entitled to by law and collective bargaining and that clear criteria for companies and posted workers are required.
Transnational Collective Bargaining
With the increase in trans-nationalisation of management of groups of companies, the group agreed that an optional legal framework was required for transnational collective bargaining. It considers that some legal certainty is needed for the future. We have to be sure that these kinds of agreements cannot be impinged on at national level, particularly in terms of working hours and wages.